Theodore Low De Vinne -- by Nicholas Fabian.
The great scholar-printer-designer
Theodore Low De Vinne: Scholar, printer & designer

by Nicholas Fabian

Theodore Low De Vinne was born in 1828, in Stamford, Connecticut. He learned the printing trade at the Newburgh Gazette, and in 1850 started as a journeyman in a printing shop in New York City. By 1858, he had become a partner in the company and later, in 1877, he took over the business and renamed it the "T. L. De Vinne & Co".

De Vinne became known for his scholarly pursuits in the graphic arts as well as for the great design and typography of his Press, the superb quality printing of wood engravings, "The Century" magazine he published, his pioneering work with S.D. Warren on the manufacturing of coated papers, and for his writings on the subject of the history and practice of printing. A series of four works entitled "Practical Typography" covered type, composition, design of title-pages, and book composition, and in 1876 he published "The Invention of Printing", a major historical work. In 1894, De Vinne collaborated with Linn Boyd Benton in the design of a new typeface, "Century Roman", to produce a more robust image for his publication, "The Century" magazine. From 1908 on, the company was known as the "De Vinne Press", and was considered to be the finest printing establishment in the United States. De Vinne produced superb quality work not only for fine limited editions, but also on huge commercial runs, such as the "Century Dictionary". He was one of the founding members of the Grolier Club as well as the International Typothetae Society.

Theodore Low De Vinne Portrait of Theodore Low De Vinne.

Without any doubt, Theodore Low De Vinne was the greatest American scholar-printer-designer of the 19th century. In the age of over-used decorations, his style was of great simplicity, sometimes touching on the borderline of severity. He died in 1914.

Several type foundries, including the Amsterdam Type Foundry, American Type Founders, Central Type Foundry, and F. W. Goudy had produced type to honour the great scholar-printer-designer. One DeVinne was cut by Gustav Schroeder in 1894 for Central Typefoundry, another by Goudy in 1898 named DeVinne Roman, others are Mergenthaler Linotype De Vinne, De Vinne No. 11, De Vinne Condensed, De Vinne Shaded, De Vinne Outline, De Vinne Outline Italic, De Vinne Recut, and De Vinne Ornamental. (A digital version of "DeVinne" is available from Bitstream.)

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