Petronius typeface


By J.H. Moesman, digitized by Autobahn.

The Utrecht surrealist J.H. Moesman(1909-1988) is not only known for a small, high-quality catalog of paintings, drawings and essays on modern art, he also made aself-designed font: the Petronius.

Moesman, who was also a gifted calligrapher, liked written letters more than printed letters. The Petronius has the look of a calligraphic letter. For the design of Petronius – the name is a tribute to Gaius PetroniusArbiter, a Roman author who lived in the 1st century AD and to whom the picaresque novel Satyricon is  attributed – Moesman studied The Golden typeof William Morris (1834-1896) . Morris based his letter on a printed Renaissance letter by the of Italian Nicolas Jenson (ca.1420-1480). For the Petronius Moesman made a roman, italic, and a narrow one and a set of initials.

The Petronius, as said according to recently emerged information from printer and typographer Bavo van Rossum, has never been put into production, and therefore a lead type was never made. Those who go to antiquarian bookshops can find a type specimen: the book “On angel feet” from 1975, in very limited editions published by Brumes Blondes. Publisher Laurens van Krevelen was not only kind to lend us a mint copy of the booklet, but also to bring us into contact with the heirs Moesman and arrange an exclusive license for use of the letter by the Utrecht Poet Guild (UPG). From that moment it went fast: the type specimen was scanned at high quality by the Utrecht University.

We faced the problem that even the highest-quality scan of the type specimen ‘On angel feet “still leaves too much room for interpretation, because the typespecimen is printed on open structured paper. There are now five copies of the typespecimen in our possession. We overlayed the scans so we got the most accurate interpretation of the letterform. And even this was too much guessing. But luckily there was a cleaner version of the type specimen provided by Bavo van Rossum. Digitizing therefore comes largely down to restoring the typeface.