The Ghastling is an anthology of gothic horror stories that pays homage to the penny dreadfuls of yesteryear.
The design in issue No 5 explores typefaces and ornamentation sourced from the years 1900–1901, capturing a post-William Morris world that had just begun to reflect his work, albeit in a mass-produced fashion that was anathema to the Arts and Crafts movement he helped to found. Chunky black text faces akin to the styles found in medieval chapbooks were en vogue at the time, and the Victorian baton was being handed to Edwardian kings.
Several typefaces from the era that had never been digitized were revived for this issue. Ghastling Old Style Italic is based on the Post Oldstyle Italic released by the American Type Foundry in c. 1901 and popularized in the Saturday Evening Post. This typeface was an amalgamation of two other faces devised on a similar plan: Plymouth, and Blanchard. These were modern adaptations of the chapbook style made popular by the works of William Morris, and was characterized by a crudeness of form and a boldness in line weight.
These styles were highly criticized at the time. Noted in A Treatise on Title-Pages by Theodore Low De Vinne: “These types are noticeable for their studied carelessness of shape, for wide fitting, and for a general disregard of the canons of propriety that have prevailed among punch-cutters for the last four hundred years […] It seems specially appropriate for any book intended to please the illiterate and credulous.”
The Bibliographical Society’s News Sheet issued this decree in 1899: “Every one who cared for William Morris must regret the extent to which his name and work are being used in the matter of printing. Tasteless imitations of his types and ornaments threaten us on every side, and no one seems able to start a new press or get some new type without taking Mr. Morris’s name in vain.”
These revived typefaces are true “ghosts” that have been given new life in modern context, nearly a century since they’ve last been used. Although they were vilified at the time, in the context of being vulgar imitations of meticulous craft, we can appreciate them now with a hundred years’ worth of distance and cultural perspective.