- The first Industrial Revolution led to a boom in the production and sale of manufactured goods in Europe. A consequent boom in advertising created demand for new advertising typefaces that could stand out in a world suddenly crowded with advertisements.
- London type founders responded to the surge in advertising by taking high-contrast modern types to a new extreme. They produced the “fat face”; type with vertical stems more than half as thick as they were tall. The origin of these types cannot be credited with certainty. Robert Thorne, proprietor of the Fann St. Foundry, is often credited as the creator of the fat face that popularized the style. Thorne’s fat face was appropriately named “Elephant” and appeared around 1810, the same year as a similar design from Bower & Bacon. In 1820 Thorne sold his business, the Fann Street Foundry, to William Thorowgood. Thorowgood's name was associated with the fat face over a century later when Elephant was reissued as “Thorowgood” by Stephenson Blake.
- Sybarite is James Puckett’s interpretation of the fat face type that appears in the 1829 specimen of Alonzo W. Kinsley’s Franklin Letter Foundry. Kinsley’s was a very short-lived and unprofitable business. It opened in 1825 (some sources say 1829) and ended in 1832 upon Kinsley’s death. An 1828 advertisement in The American Masonick Record claims that “An artist of the highest celebrity is engaged in casting new founts of letter.” But it seems unlikely that much new type was cast at Kinsley’s foundry. David Bruce, Jr. wrote that the Kinsley matrices were purchased from Richard Starr and George Bruce. Bruce may have been the artist mentioned, he was employed as superintendent in the Franklin Letter Foundry where he took up punchcutting.
- Kinsley’s Double-English Roman was the model for most of Sybarite. Sybarite has a companion italic with generous pothook serifs that sweep into and out of the letters. As with the roman, Kinsley’s italic provided a baseline for the Sybarite italic, but the many letters were drawn fresh. Swash capital forms found in Kinsely’s specimen were implemented in Sybarite with the same wide-ranging language support as their unadorned brethren.
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- Typefaces look best when proportioned for the sizes at which they will be used. As type gets larger strokes should be lighter, spacing tighter, and hairlines thinner. Metal fonts were crafted for a single size. But digital fonts can be scaled to any size, allowing display faces to render text unreadable and text faces to be swollen into ungainly brutes. This problem is most obvious in high-contrast modern faces where hairline serifs can turn into slabs when scaled too large or disappear when scaled too small. To address this problem digital type designers craft optical weights; fonts suited for a specific size range.
The Sybarite type family is a fat face with matching italics in four optical weights. Small for sizes below fourteen points, medium for sixteen to twenty-four points, large for twenty-four to sixty points, and huge for sixty points. Naturally there is some overlap in these ranges based on the preference of the end user. And designers can use a heavier font to knock out text or a lighter font when working with uncoated papers that have a strong inclination to ink gain.
- Sybarite has a companion italic with generous pothook serifs that sweep into and out of the letters. As with the roman, Kinsley’s italic provided a baseline for the Sybarite italic, but the many letters were drawn fresh. Swash capital forms found in Kinsely’s specimen were implemented in Sybarite with the same wide-ranging language support as their unadorned brethren.