Stanley Morison, the great persuader, typographer & designer -- by Nicholas Fabian.
The great persuader, typographer & designer
Stanley Morison

by Nicholas Fabian

Stanley Morison was born on May 6, 1889 in Wanstead, Essex, England. After his father, a travelling salesman, abandoned the family, young Morison quit school and began work as an office clerk. With his constant visits to the King's Library at the British Museum, Morison became, for his age, an astonishingly well educated young man. His big break came in 1913 when he acquired an editorial assistant's job with Gerard Mynell, the publisher of Imprint magazine. In 1914 he was jailed for the duration of World War I for being a conscientious objector.

At the War's end in 1918, Morison became the supervisor of design work at Mynell's Pelican Press where he remained for two years. He joined the Cloister Press in 1921, and was one of the founding members of the Fleuron Society (1922). He was also the editor (from 1925-1930) of The Fleuron, a typographical Journal which he started with Oliver Simon in 1923. Volumes 1-4 of the Journal were printed by the Curwen Press, and volumes 5, 6 and 7 were produced by Cambridge University Press, with the last issue (no.7) published in 1930. The scholarly intellectual content, design, and suberb quality printing of The Fleuron was, and remains to this day, a landmark for typographical excellence.

In 1923, he became the typographical adviser to the Monotype Corporation as well as to Cambridge University Press. In 1929, Morison became a staff member of The Times where he designed Times (New) Roman¹ which was introduced on October 3, 1932. From 1935 to 1952, he edited the history of The Times and for three years from 1945-1947, The Times Literary Supplement. Morison also published extensively on typography and calligraphy, including such superb articles as "Four Centuries of fine print", London 1924, "The calligraphy of Ludovico degli Arrighi", Paris 1929, "The English newspaper, 1622-1932", Cambridge 1932, and many other exquisitely well researched papers. From 1961 to his death at age 78 on October 11, 1967, he served as a member of the editorial board of the Encylopaedia Britannica.

Stanley Morison had a dynamic personality and was a great communicator. The material and historical research of his presentations to his clients were always impeccable and overwhelmingly convincing. He was self educated and highly travelled and with his great charismatic zeal, was a dominant intellectual in any social circle.

Morison's historical influence on typography and type design in the English-speaking world was then, and continues to be to this day, monumental. His comprehension of 'systems level typographical abstraction' was unquestionably superb, and he pursued and implemented his typographical design ideas with unfailing rigour. Morison used his great persuasive powers to convince the financial elite of society with his own points of view. Stanley Morison was arguably one of the intellectual icons of typography and type design of the 20th century.

¹ The production of the finished mechanical artwork for the new typeface was delegated to Victor Lardent who was a skilled draughtsman employed by the Time's publicity department.

Reference types reviewed and considered for the "The Times" newspaper were Bell, Ionic, Excelsior, Corona, Ideal, Baskerville, Perpetua and Plantin.

A historical curiosity.

Morison cut
Text fragment (200% enlarged) from Collected Essays, by Robert Bridges, 1931. Set in Monotype Blado Italic, with special characters cut by Stanley Morison. An exotic typographic experiment by Morison mixing highly debated phonetics and punch cutting.

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