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Holloway’s Travelling Theatre

Contributed by Greg Yerbury on Feb 21st, 2020. Artwork published in
circa 1898
Holloway’s Travelling Theatre 1
Photo: Greg Yerbury. License: All Rights Reserved.

This is an advertising poster for Holloway, a British travelling theatre company, when it set up in the small town of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. By rule of thumb, it measures around 36 inches (if not slightly more) by 12 inches.

According to the owner of the poster it was probably printed in the 1890s. Years in which November 21st fell on a Monday include 1881, 1887, 1898, and 1910. 1887 or 1898 seem to be the most likely dates. The Tewkesbury Historical Society has some info on the printer, William North. In 1871 he bought the business that had been set up by James Bennett in 1810 and continued by Isaac Jenner. North died in 1907, and one R.A. Newman took over the business in 1921.

Florian Hardwig comments on the fonts in use:

The broadside shows the eclectic mix of typefaces that is so typical for the Victorian era, with different styles for each line, center-aligned and interspersed with rules. Many of the fonts are tricky to identify beyond the general genre, and even when it’s possible to find a match in a specimen or reference book, 19th century typefaces often didn’t have proper trade names yet, and were rather identified by the generic designation and a number. To further complicate things, the larger lines are likely printed from wood type, which was typically local made, and is not as well documented as (metal) foundry type.

“Holloway’s” is set in caps from a bold condensed slab with bracketed serifs. Walter H. McKay’s Egyptienne (1955) is a 20th century revival of this style. Note that the first O was taken from a different font with horizontal stress. “Great Number One” shows a lighter bracketed slab of lower contrast, see Clarendon/Ionic. The typeface used for “Pavilion of Varieties” is pretty distinctive. The bold italic with flared stems is unidentified, though. “Near ‘The White Bear’” uses an extended Fat Face. Barbara Lind’s Madrone (1990) is a digital revival in the same ballpark. The light grotesque used for “Bredon Road, Tewkesbury” is similar to Caslon’s Condensed Sans-Serif No. 4, or Stephenson Blake’s No. 10 (Reed’s Condensed Grotesque No. 2). See Knockout No. 28 for a contemporary stand-in.

The heavy slab for “Great Attraction …” – underneath the row of stars and framed by two manicules – may be a descendant of Figgins’ Antique, the first slab serif types ever made. The lines with the dates (“On Monday Evening …”) use a roman with strong contrast, vertical stress, and bracketed serifs, see Modern/Scotch.

“Colleen Bawn” is a condensed roman with angled serifs in C and E, compare to Old Style No. 1 or Century Oldstyle. The bold sans (“Or, the Brides of Garryowen” etc.) appears to be Miller & Richard’s Grotesque No. 4, see Sans-Serifs & Grotesques.

“Wreck Ashore” is set in a wood type version of French Antique, possibly Stephenson Blake’s No. 3. Later on, in the 1930s, the Sheffield foundry revived this style as Playbill. See also their French Antique No. 2 which is distinguished by a rounder C.

For “Poor Jo”, North chose a wide bracketed slab serif. Caslon’s Ionic Expanded comes close.

“Faith, Hope & Charity” is an extracondensed slab with unbracketed serifs (see Antique Condensed), mixing caps with smaller caps. In 1995, Jim Parkinson made a digital interpretation based on similar American wood types.

“A Life’s Revenge” appears to be a version of a face that was first cast sometime between 1881–84 and sold under the name Rubens. It also appears further below, in a smaller size and with its distinctive descenders on A R n etc.

Despite its striking features, the typeface used for “The Ranks” is not identified. It’s a Latin (i.e. it has triangular serifs) with mid-stem spurs and ball terminals. With its extending strokes, it recalls Algerian. The closest contemporary font I’m aware of is Livery Stable, Michael Hagemann’s revival of an unnamed 19th century typeface. [It’s Latin Ornamented, see comments.]

This run-down is concluded by a “Laughable Farce” and a bold Egyptian with considerable stroke contrast. Among digital fonts, David Berlow’s Giza (1994) is a good substitute.

Holloway’s Travelling Theatre 2
Photo: Greg Yerbury. License: All Rights Reserved.
Holloway’s Travelling Theatre 3
Photo: Greg Yerbury. License: All Rights Reserved.
Holloway’s Travelling Theatre 4
Photo: Greg Yerbury. License: All Rights Reserved.





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2 Comments on “Holloway’s Travelling Theatre”

  1. I have to observe, some of the small text looks like a Scotch ancestor of Century Roman/Expanded. I’ve been noticing typefaces of this kind—weathered Scotch/Moderns—everywhere ever since one was prominently used for the titles and closing credits of The Lighthouse last year.

  2. Greg has tracked down the Latin with the mid-stem spurs that is used for “The Ranks”. It’s shown as Latin Ornamented in the 1897 catalog of Day & Collins, a wood type manufacturer in Fann Street, London. The same face or a very similar one – although without lowercase – is also depicted on p68 of a Caslon catalog from the turn of the century, together with a related bolder variant in two widths, named Atlas Ornamented.

    Well done!

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