Before the 20th century, as good as all new typographical fonts were hand-carved by specialised professional engravers. Very few non-specialists dared to attempt more than overall recommendations for the design of new fonts.

The development of the pantograph, which made it possible to transfer large-scale templates to small type matrices, allowed far more creative leeway for the type foundries. Now, artists without any skill as engravers could draw new typefaces, which could then be transferred with ease. The result was an explosion of creative and innovative fonts. Many of the new fonts were faddish, and failed to survive, but some have passed the test of time.

Many casual, but attractive, calligraphic fonts were likewise created with the advent of the pantograph. Unfortunately, calligraphy tends to lose the very spontaneity that makes it attractive, when it is organised into a regular and uniform font. Only a few calligraphic typefaces have established themselves as durable.

Among these is Mistral, created by the French artist Roger Excoffon for the Fonderie Olive in 1955. It is a lively, unpretentious font, full of vigour and character. Used in moderation, it can be surprisingly effective as an attention-getter. With electronic typefonts, it can be typeset in any size required, naturally - but it works best in mid-range type sizes, where it most closely approximates the longhand handwriting that it emulates.

Mis"tral (?), n. [F., fr. Provenssal.]

A violent and cold northwest wind experienced in the Mediterranean provinces of France, etc.

 

© Webster 1913.

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