Type Anatomy: Mary Gerber

Roaming about the Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections department of the library, I was exposed to beautiful, artistic fonts – both handwritten and printed. I was particularly intrigued by Mary Martin Rebow’s handwritten letter to her fiancé. Dated Oct. 25, 1771, the letter is reaching its 246th year in existence soon. I admire the intricate lettering Rebow must have patiently depicted all those years ago when writing to her beloved fiancé, Isaac Rebow.

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Photo of the letter written by Mary Martin Rebow on Oct. 25, 1771.

In Thinking With Type, author Ellen Lupton describes the artistic elements behind fonts, and how each of these elements can vary highly in significance and meaning. In the nineteenth century, typeface stemmed from one of three different categories – humanist, transitional or modern. Rebow’s handwritten calligraphy resembles humanist, or old style letterform, as Lupton defines this category is defined as, “closely conntect to calligraphy and the movement of the hand” (46). The curves of each letter appear effortless in translation from handheld pen to paper. Although nearly flawless, the minor imperfections make for originality and authenticity in Rebow’s unique and personal calligraphic/cursive combination, just as letters to loved ones should be.

The loops which elongate from the ascenders above letters appear consistent amongst two of the same letters, but each loop differs between different letters. I particularly like her elaborate loops on the letter “D” throughout. Spaces between each line on the paper are perfectly even; the only element that disrupts the space are the loops that extend above the cap height of each letter, and the narrow loops that fall below the descenders of letters such as “F” and “Y,” for instance.

I admire Rebow’s handwritten letter, as it allows space for personal renditions in her own handwriting and ultimately makes the piece more special and unique.

About Mary Gerber

Hello! My name is Mary and I am from Seattle, Washington. I am currently living in Pullman as a senior at Washington State University. I am studying Communication with an emphasis on Public Relations, and I am minoring in Digital Technology & Culture.
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