Nontraditional Invitations

Very briefly today, I’d like to draw a big distinction where some may see very little. That is in recognizing that type (specifically printed type) is a relative newcomer to the world of stationery, and therefore alien, nontraditional, unnatural, generally perceived as lowbrow, etc. when used in the medium of wedding announcements. One who was in the market for a set of wedding invitations in, say, 1913, would generally go to a stationer rather than a printer. Stationers are traditionally engravers or calligraphers. Contrast this with job printers, who occupy the lowest wrung of the graphic arts. (Letterpress printing did not carry the cachet it now enjoys.) Therefore, even though the below samples are typeset essentially identically in what I would consider a traditional composition, their use of types that depart from the engraving and calligraphic traditions make them nontraditional. That’s not to say that nontraditional invitations can’t be successful – to the contrary – here are a few that succeed and perhaps even outshine their more traditionally true counterparts.


Below, my favorite Caslon, Williams Caslon, sets the standard invitation text. Swashes are activated via OpenType.



Above, the tasty Avebury fills the traditional role of blackletter in the making of formal announcements. Below for contrast are two typefaces designed to represent the traditional medium. Poetica captures the steady hand of the calligrapher, and Mariage, the templated blackletter taken from samples of hand-engraved stationery.



I think my parents’ invitation was printed in a metal version of the above, a sensible, no frills blackletter, in gold ink. Using Type picks back up here on Thursday.

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