September 26, 2005

Caratteri Nebiolo


This page is about one of Nebiolo's last specimen books entitled Caratteri Nebiolo. Written in Italian, it was examined in depth by the folks at Canada Type who provided the text and analysis for this page. They are diligently digitizing a lot of the Nebiolo collection. Since it is an expensive book, we hope that in this way, type historians and others may benefit.

Physical layout

The book is hardbound with a dark blue cover. The words CARATTERI NEBIOLO are embossed in gold Augustea capitals on the front cover. Nothing on the back cover. The book is dated 1947, but this date is strange, because it shows some types that most digital foundries claim were designed by Aldo Novarese in 1955, so I'm inclined to think the 1947 date was left over from previous editions of the book, and the correct date may have been 1956 or 1957. No author credits are given. Location is Torino, published by Nebiolo. The book has about 330 pages, including some blanks at the beginning.


Con il nuovo campionario generale, la Nebiolo presenta alla clientela la produzione di caratteri, fregi e filetti della sua fonderia. Il campionario comprendre, oltre a molte serie gia note e consacrate dal favore sempre crescente della clientela, tutte le nuove serie che la Nebiolo ha create sotto l'impulso della sua tradizionale tendenza a mettere a disposizione delle arti grafiche materiale sempre nuevo e sempre pirispondente alle esigenze artistiche. Questo impegno, che la Nebiolo confida di avere assolto sinora, essa rinnova per l'avvenire.

Roughly translated: With this new general collection of specimens, Nebiolo presents to customers the collection of characters, symbols and rules (borders) of its foundry. This collection of samples contains, other than the many series already known and increasingly favoured by customers, all the new series that Nebiolo has created with its traditional tendency to always make available new works of graphical material and answer more to artistic requirements. This engagement (tradition), which Nebiolo is confident to have upheld until now, is now being renewed for the future.


The book is all about type and symbol and border specimens. About 70% of these types were never digitized! The types shown in the book, without any designer credits, are:

  • Aldino (a Bodoni-like thing with many styles. Aldino is a strange name for a modern)
  • Americana (Canada Type Pendulum)
  • Atalanta (seems like a variation on Goudy's Copperplate, but many characters are quite different)
  • Athenaeum (great type, digitized by Agfa in the mid-1990s). Designed in 1945 by A. Butti in regular, corsoiva, and neretta weights.
  • Augustea (the open style was done by Letraset in the 1980s, but the solid Designed in 1951 by A. Butti and Aldo Novarese in regular and filettato weights. weight was never digitized).
  • Bari (very interesting script, never digitized)
  • Barnum (interesting bold condensed art nouveau, in the fashion of Linotype Macbeth, but with very soft endings... I don't think this was ever digitized)
  • Bastone (an ugly wide caps-only grotesk, never digitized)
  • Bodonia (a family of 6 styles. Scotch Roman-like newspaper type, nothing to do with any real Bodoni. Strange naming again. Never digitized). klinspor says that there are 8 weights, all from before 1935.
  • Cairoli (interesting sans face in 5 weights. Look like the kind of thing one would get from mixing Akzidenz with Microgramma. Never digitized). One possible design date is 1928.
  • Cesare de Cesto (a kind of 'money' font, but with Caesarean shading. I think this one either insprired some knockoffs or was itself a knockoff. This sort of style is seen in a lot of catalogs from the mid-20th century. A lot of digitizations reflect this.)
  • Cigogna (interesting script of 2 weights. Looks like the kind of thing that would have been done by a German, rather than an Italian. Never digitized). An A. Butti design.
  • Cigno (very interesting script with odd breaks in its inner curves. Never digitized). Well, this 1954 design by Aldo Novarese was finally digitized by Canada Type as Swanson.
  • Donatello (elegant script. Never digitized). A pre-1935 face from Wagner&Schmidt.
  • Egiziano (a big Egyptian family, digitized by a few foundries under different names. Looks like the Dennis Ortiz-Lopez digitizations covers the whole range Nebiolo had).
  • Egizio (Font Bureau Belizio). The five-style Egizio family by Aldo Novarese is dated 1956-1958.
  • Etrusco (Grotesk caps in two weights. Quite the generic face. Never digitized). Five styles are reported by Klingspor later.
  • Fluidum (very nice script in two weights. The bold was digitized by Agfa in the early 1990s. Normal weight never digitized). Both weights were made by A. Butti and Aldo Novarese in 1951.
  • Fontanesi (Very ornamental set of caps. An American take on this was digitized by Font Mesa under the name Maverick's Luck). A 1954 design by Aldo Novarese.
  • G. B. Bodoni (Looks like an authentic Bodoni, with many styles and weights. Of all the Bodoni digitizations, nobody has credited the Nebiolo one as their source. So I guess this particular version was never digitized). One of the eight styles dates from 1917. The others are all from around then, and certainly before 1935.
  • Gigante (interesting 'softened' take on Block Gothic. I don't think this was digitized). Dates from before 1935.
  • Gotico (3 different blackletter types. Very standard-looking fraktur, likely adapted from the Germans. Definitely not originals here.)
  • Hastile (interesting 1970s-looking rectangular sans with a very high contrast, two weights. Never digitized). Both weights due to A. Butti, 1942.
  • Inglesi (standard English script modeled after the 16th century masters. Digitized and knocked off many times over)
  • Inglesi allungati (an extremely condesed serif type with high contrast. Looks like something Georg Trump might have done, something like Amati. Never digitized.)
  • Iniziali Gotiche (ornamented blackletter caps, similar or identical to a lot of digitized stuff out there, like Scriptorium stuff)
  • Landi (Now this is very interesting. This is a Futura with prominent slab serifs! Same idea as Lubalin Graph, except Lubalin slabbed his Avant Garde which is another Futura really. Many weights and styles. True italics, not obliques like Futura. Never digitized). Several styles (such as Landi echo, 1939) by A. Butti, and others (like Landi Linear, 1943) by A. Novarese.
  • Londra (another 16th century English script). Done before 1935.
  • Macchina da scrivere (a typewriter font, 30 years before Courier)
  • Microgramma (digitized by everybody). By A. Butti, 1952.
  • Monza (nice gothic of controlled width, in two weights. Never digitized. Lots of digitized stuff has many of its elements though)
  • Narciso (a wide sans serif in two weights. Very nice actually. Never digitized). By Wagner&Schmidt, before 1935.
  • Neon (Canada Type Gala). By G. da Milano, 1935.
  • Nilo (Dark slab serif font. Never digitized.)
  • Normandia (High-contrast very fat 'money' type, with italics and outlined version. Also comes in a very narrow version. This is the sort of thing that ended up being the standard issue of every film type outfit, though there are some things in this type that make me think it was never entirely knocked off, so never digitized). Four styles by Butti and Novarese, 1944-1949.
  • Orlando (Thin wooden/western font with long serifs. Appropriated many times over by almost every film house later. Digitized under many names). Dates from before 1935.
  • Paganini (very delicate take on Baskerville, in roman and italic. Never digitized). Six styles. The original by A. Butti and R. Bertieri is from before 1935. The Paganini Filettata by A. Butti is from 1948.
  • Piacenza (bold grotesk with very high x-height. Nice. Never digitized). Dates from before 1935.
  • Quirinus (the bold weight was digitized by Agfa in the eary 1990s. Regular weight and its italic were never digitized.) A 1939 design in three styles by A. Butti.
  • Rafaello (This and the Romano types listed below seem to be different variations on the same theme. Serif text types with many weights and styles. I don't think these were ever digitized, but there is a lot of stuff that looks like this in photo type. Les Usherwood's work in particular is strikingly similar to this kind of type)
  • Resolut (A fat stencil script. This was definitely knocked off by many film type outfits, but I don't think it was ever digitized). A font by H. Brünnel, 1937.
  • Ramano Antico (see Rafaello above)
  • Romano Moderno (more Bodoni-esque stuff)
  • Romano (see Rafaello above)
  • Rondine (Canada Type Bella Donna). A 1948 design by A. Butti.
  • Scritto a lapis (Canada Type Diva). Dated 1905.
  • Scritto Verticale (fantastic upright handwriting script to be digitized soon)
  • Semplicità (an interesting Italian take on Futura, with many weights and styles. Never digitized). Three styles, one of which is by A. Butti, 1933.
  • Siena (art nouveau face, been digitized at least twice over in freeware. I think Nick Curtis and Dieter Steffmann have done it under different names)
  • Splendor (another 'money' type, with horizontal striping. Lots of this kind of thing in digital)
  • Veltro (interesting connected handwriting script, also more like a German design than an Italin one. Never digitized.) By G. da Milano, 1931 and 1934. A recent digitization by URW++.


The rest of the showings are borders and symbols, arrows, stars, stuff like that. It's a very well designed book, very consise and pretty. Most of the pages are black-only, but the section breaks are 4-colour print. By all records, this is the very last catalog ever produced by Nebiolo, though in the book itself it is indicated that it came in two identical 'measurement' editions: a didot one and a pica one.

Copyright © 2005 Luc Devroye
School of Computer Science
McGill University
Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6