Postcard #27. Trajan’s Column

Greg from London requested ”Trajan’s Column” which is a sculptural monument to the Emperor Trajan which declares his triumphs to the people of Rome. For a typographer, the most important thing about this column is not the column itself, resplendent with carvings of great deeds done, but more the typographic inscription at the base of the column.

So perfect was this stone carving, that most Roman typography we effectively use in books and on computers these days, is based on drawings done by typographers such as Claude Garamond, Frederick Goudy, and Nicolas Jenson of the inscription as the base of the column.

Calligrapher James Clough gave us a fantastic exercise whilst we were studying in Rome. He gave us copies of the Trajan inscription and asked us to trace the letterforms. We all devised very unique typefaces, all based on the same letterforms. It demonstrated to me very clearly how interpretations of this inscription could vary wildly, depending on the hand of the artist drawing it.

For the postcard I decided to have a go at carving my own type and I am ashamed to say, the results are terrible. I have a renewed respect for the original type carvers in Rome, especially the carvers who worked on Trajan’s column, for the type is indeed quite beautiful.

Trajan's Column

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