TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Mon Sep 16 23:20:45 EDT 2019

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LUC DEVROYE


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Charles Wright

The UK number plate font that came into effect in 2001 is called Charles Wright. It can be bought here from Magnum UK (Alex Duncan) for about 100 dollars in two versions, Charles Wright 2001 Mandatory, and Charles Wright 2001 Regular. The new number plate style is based on a font originally designed in 1935 by Charles Wright but with modifications to character shapes and width to improve readability. If you want a similar free font, consider UKNumberPlate by Gareth Attrill. Another free font was made by Keith Bates at K-Type in 2004, called Mandatory. Keith writes: "I've tried to ease the congestion in the middle of W and M by adding Gill-esque points, and thinned the tail of the Q - a slight improvement." Both the free and the commercial fonts are unofficial.

In 2016, Keith Bates made a set of fonts called Charles Wright. He explains: Some have assumed that the typeface was named after the original designer, but it's actually the name of the company that developed it for die stamping vehicle plates. According To Yasmin Webb at Barnet Local Studies and Archives, Charles Wright senior was born in London in 1842 and founded his sheet metal pressing plant in 1867 at Clerkenwell, initially making Crimean war medals, and later producing seals, dies and embossing presses. He set up home in Mill Hill, married in 1870 and had twin girls, Annie and Christina born in 1870, and a son also called Charles born in 1874. Business flourished and when the factory proved too noisy for an inner city location in 1900, Charles Wright Ltd moved to new premises at Thorn Bank, Edgware. By the 1920s the company was also known as Wright & Son, Charles junior having evidently joined the family business, and was producing huge numbers of medals for soldiers from World War 1, an article from The Record News on 19th June 1923 boasts an output of 35,000 medals a day. By 1935, the Wright company would have been a logical choice for pressing vehicle number plates. It's unlikely that Charles junior himself would have designed the idiosyncratic sans serif, the task is more likely to have fallen to a company draughtsmen at a time when drawing office jobs accorded little prestige and individual innovations went uncredited. And since the business was wound up in the early 1970s, it's doubtful we'll ever know who masterminded the company's legacy, the typeface that still bears its name. The current lettering is sometimes referred to as Charles Wright 2001. At the turn of the century, the numbers and letters were condensed from 57mm wide to 50mm in order to make room for an optional European symbol or national flag. The 2001 style became compulsory and a growing trade in fancy, often illegible, registration plates was eliminated. Bates has three typefaces for platemakers: For vehicle platemakers, three additional fonts are included which only contain uppercase letters, numerals and basic punctuation, and which are not kerned: Charles Wright Motorcycle is a version of the slightly lighter, smaller lettering on motorcycle plates for character heights of 64mm and widths of 44mm. Charles Wright 1935 is a version of the original wider lettering, still used on the plates of older vehicles, for character widths of 57mm and heights of 79mm. Charles Wright Bold Caps contains unkerned uppercase letters and numerals in the standard 2001 style for character heights of 79mm and widths of 50mm.

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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html