TT Marxiana is a project to reconstruct a set of pre-revolutionary fonts that were used in the layout of the “Niva” magazine, published by the St. Petersburg publishing house A.F. Marx. In our project, we decided to focus on a specific set of fonts that were used in the preparation and printing of the “Niva” magazine in 1887, namely its Antiqua and Italic, Grotesque and Elzevir.
As part of the TT Marxiana project, we sought to adhere to strict historicity and maintain maximum proximity to the paper source. We tried to avoid any “modernization” of fonts, unless of course we consider this to be kerning work, the introduction of OpenType features and creation of manual hinting. As a result, with the TT Marxiana font family, a modern designer gets a full-fledged and functional set of different fonts, which allows using modern methods and using modern software to create, for example, a magazine in a design typical of the late 19th century.
The TT Marxiana project started in the late summer of 2018 and from the very beginning went beyond the traditional projects of TypeType because of the importance of preserving the historical identity. Since up to this point, we had never before reconstructed the font from historical paper sources and with such a level of elaboration and attention to detail, it took us two years to implement this project. You can read more about all stages of the project in our blog, and here we will briefly talk about the result.
As it turned out, drawing a font following the scanned pages of a century-old magazine is a very difficult task. In fact, such a font reconstruction very much resembles archaeological excavations or solving a complex cipher, and all these efforts are needed only in order to finally understand what steps need to be taken so that the resulting font is not just an antiqua, but the specific and accurate antiqua from “Niva” magazine.
In addition, due to the specifics of printing, same characters in the old magazine setting looked completely different, which greatly complicated the task. In one place, there was less ink than needed, and the letter in the reference was not well-printed and thin, in some other place there was more ink and the letter had flooded. An important task was to preserve and convey this feeling of typographic printing, but at the same time it was important to identify the common logic and character of the dot gains so that the font would form a harmonious, single, but at the same time lively picture.
Since the “Niva” magazine was historically published in Russian, the magazine had no shortage of references for the reconstruction of Cyrillic characters, but there were not many Latin letters in the magazine at all. In addition, the paper source lacked a part of punctuation, diacritics, there were no currency signs nor ligatures at all — we developed all these characters based on font catalogs of the 19–20 centuries, trying to reflect characteristic details from the main character composition to the max. So, for example, the Germandbls character, which is not in the original “Niva” set, we first found in one of the font catalogs, but still significantly redesigned it.
We decided that in such a voluminous project, only graphic similarities with the original source are not enough and we came up with a feature that can be used to exchange modern Russian spelling for pre-revolutionary spelling. When this feature is turned on, yat and yer appear in the necessary places (i, ѣ, b, ѳ and ѵ), the endings of the words change, and so appears a complete sensation of the historical text. This feature works in all fonts of the TT Marxiana font family.
TT Marxiana Antiqua is a scotch style serif, the drawing of which carefully preserved some of the artifacts obtained by printing, namely dot gain, a slight deformation of the letters and other visual nuances. TT Marxiana Antiqua has an interesting stylistic set that imitates the old setting and in which some of the signs are made with deliberate sticking or roughness. Using this set will provide an opportunity to further simulate the setting of that great time.
TT Marxiana Grotesque is a rather thick and bold old grotesk. Its drawing also maximally preserved the defects obtained during printing and characteristic of its paper reference. In addition to pre-revolutionary spelling, TT Marxiana Grotesque has a decorative set with an inversion. This is a set of uppercase characters, numbers and punctuation, which allows you to type inverse headers, i.e. print white on black. As a result of using this set, you get the text against black bars — this way of displaying was very characteristic for print advertising at the turn of the century. In addition, about 30 decorative indicator stubs were drawn for this set: arrows, hands, clubs, etc.
TT Marxiana Elzevir is a title or header font and is a compilation of monastic Elzevir that were actively used in the “Niva” magazine for all its prints. Unlike the antiqua, TT Marxiana Elzevir has sharper forms, and the influence of deformations from typographic printing is not as noticeable in the forms of its signs. This is primarily due to the specifics of its drawing and the fact that it was usually used as a heading font and was printed in large sizes. The height of the lowercase and uppercase characters of Elsevier is the same as the heights of the antiqua, but the font is more contrasting and lighter, it has a lot of white and, unlike the antiqua and the grotesque, there are a lot of sharp corners. An exclusive feature of the TT Marxiana Elzevir is an alternative set of uppercase characters with swash.
TT Marxiana Antiqua consist of 625 glyphs each and and it has 23 OpenType features, such as: aalt, ccmp, locl, subs, sinf, sups, numr, dnom, frac, ordn, lnum, pnum, tnum, onum, salt, calt, liga, ss01, ss02, ss03, ss04, ss05, case.
TT Marxiana Antiqua Italic consist of 586 glyphs each and and it has 22 OpenType features, such as: aalt, ccmp, locl, subs, sinf, sups, numr, dnom, frac, ordn, lnum, pnum, tnum, onum, salt, calt, liga, ss01, ss02, ss03, ss04, case.
TT Marxiana Grotesque consists of 708 glyphs and it has 22 OT features, such as: aalt, ccmp, locl, subs, sinf, sups, numr, dnom, frac, ordn, lnum, pnum, tnum, onum, salt, calt, liga, ss01, ss02, ss03, ss04, case.
TT Marxiana Elzevir consists of 780 glyphs and it has 21 OT features, such as: aalt, ccmp, locl, ordn, frac, tnum, onum, lnum, pnum, calt, ss01, ss02, ss03, ss04, ss05, ss06, salt, c2sc, smcp, case, liga.
TT Marxiana language support: Acehnese, Afar, Albanian, Alsatian, Aragonese, Asu, Aymara, Banjar, Basque, Belarusian (cyr), Bemba, Bena, Betawi, Bislama, Boholano, Bosnian (cyr), Breton, Bulgarian (cyr), Catalan, Cebuano, Chamorro, Chiga, Cornish, Corsican, Cree, Danish, Dutch, Embu, English, Erzya, Estonian, Faroese, Fijian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Friulian, Gaelic, Galician, German, Gusii, Haitian Creole, Hiri Motu, Hungarian, Icelandic, Ilocano, Indonesian, Interlingua, Irish, Italian, Javanese, Judaeo-Spanish, Kabuverdianu, Kalenjin, Karachay-Balkar (cyr), Kashubian, Khasi, Khvarshi, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Kongo, Kumyk, Ladin, Leonese, Luganda, Luo, Luxembourgish, Luyia, Macedonian, Machame, Makhuwa-Meetto, Makonde, Malagasy, Malay, Manx, Mauritian Creole, Minangkabau, Montenegrin (cyr), Mordvin-moksha, Morisyen, Nauruan, Ndebele, Nias, Nogai, Norwegian, Nyankole, Occitan, Oromo, Palauan, Polish, Portuguese, Rheto-Romance, Rohingya, Romansh, Rombo, Rundi, Russian, Rusyn, Rwa, Samburu, Sango, Sangu, Scots, Sena, Serbian (cyr), Seychellois Creole, Shambala, Shona, Soga, Somali, Sotho, Spanish, Sundanese, Swahili, Swazi, Swedish, Swiss German, Tagalog, Taita, Tetum, Tok Pisin, Tsonga, Tswana, Ukrainian, Uyghur, Valencian, Volapük, Võro, Vunjo, Walloon, Xhosa, Zulu.