About the Type

The rebirth of Stillson.

Christmas, 2002 / No. 9

Taddle Creek does not believe in self-congratulatory, reflective editor’s notes, even on such occasions as its fifth anniversary, which this number of the magazine happens to mark. Instead, this space will be turned over to a discussion on the all-too-ignored topic of typography. While the magazine also does not believe in redesigns, many readers will note that, as of this issue, Taddle Creek is employing a new display typeface (the type used for headlines and on the cover). While Bernhard Modern, the magazine’s former display type, has served the magazine well these past five years, it was never a typeface the magazine was entirely happy with, having been originally chosen for reasons far too dull to discuss here. No disrespect is meant to Bernhard Modern. Designed in 1937 by Lucien Bernhard for American Type Founders, it remains a typeface’s typeface if ever there was one. It simply was never the best type for the job in this particular case.

After an exhausting and frustrating search, the perfect Taddle Creek typeface was discovered: Stillson. First introduced to the printing trade in 1899 by the renowned Chicago type foundry Barnhart Brothers & Spindler, the typeface’s design was patented by R. L. Stillson in 1900. The design of Stillson is typical of many display typefaces produced near the end of the nineteenth century. Exaggerated forms, such as the high crossbars of the “E” and “F” and the tall vertical stroke of the “G,” mixed with the short vertex of the “M,” produce a distinctive typeface that was deemed ideal for Taddle Creek. It also complements nicely the magazine’s body font, Garamond 3, originally produced under the direction of C. H. Griffith at the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in 1926, and was one of the most popular text faces used in North America for most of the twentieth century.)

Unfortunately, after searching high and low, it was discovered that Stillson had died along with the age of moveable type, never having been digitized into font form, as was necessary given the modern layout techniques the magazine is forced to employ. Enter Rod McDonald, type designer and typographer extraordinaire. Rod managed to track down sample sheets of the original Stillson through the Robertson Davies Library at the University of Toronto’s Massey College, and oversaw its recreation for the digital age as TC Stillson. (The majority of the actual recreation was carried out by Rod’s assistant, Renée Alleyn, currently a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design.) TC Stillson made its first public appearance on October 23, 2002, on the Taddle Creek Information Superhighway Location on the Internetwork (what some apparently refer to as a “Web site”) and sees print for the first time with this issue of the magazine. Rod also designed the magazine’s new endnote, seen at the close of this article.

Rod has designed type for the range of Canadian periodicals, including Chatelaine, Applied Arts, and Canadian Business, the latter of which the magazine is told is Canada’s premier business magazine. Cartier Book, his reworking of Cartier, Canada’s first typeface, was chosen for inclusion in the Monotype Classics Library of typefaces. His most recent work, prior to this issue, was a series of custom typefaces for the July redesign of Maclean’s, apparently a magazine of some note outside of literary circles.

While Taddle Creek does not believe in self-congratulation, it does believe in bragging: it is believed that TC Stillson is the first typeface to be designed especially for a Canadian literary magazine. However, no research whatsoever was put into discovering whether this statement is true.

The magazine hopes you enjoy its fifth anniversary issue—now available coast to coast on finer newsstands everywhere and, for some reason, a store that sells strange glass balls to tourists.