I revived Jan van Krimpen’s second typeface Romanée using scans, archival materials, and guesswork. This single-style typeface currently covers upper & lowercase, some diacritics, two stylistic alternates, basic punctuation, and numerals. Undergraduate thesis advised by Karen Cheng with input from David Jonathan Ross.

Scans

My main source was the 16-point in Limited Editions Club’s Homer Odyssey, designed by Van Krimpen himself in 1930 and printed at Enschedé, the major Dutch printing house and type foundry that employed him. The 14-point that appears in the typeface’s specimen in The Fleuron vol.7 also served as a cross reference.

Scan of the 16-point in Odyssey (enlarged 2400%).

Hi-res photo of the 14-point in The Fleuron; note the dramatic difference in letter design and spacing in comparison to the 16-point. Courtesy of the Letterform Archive.

Archival materials

I was also fortunate to get in touch with the North Holland Archive, which absorbed the Enschedé archive that held most of the Van Krimpen materials. I received not only drawings but also smoke proofs, which tremendously helped me deduce the intention and process behind his design decisions.

Lowercase drawing at what I believe to be the designer’s initial stage. Courtesy of the North Holland Archive.

Likely the smoke proof of 16-point. Courtesy of the North Holland Archive.

My turn

Perhaps like many existing revival type design projects, I had to not only reconcile differences between sources but also interpret design features in a way that is honest to our time and medium. To this end, I designed some alternate, tamer letterforms as default and put the original, more ornate ones in a stylistic set.

Stylistic Set 1 (ss01, bottom) activates the original, more chancery-inspired forms of R, Q, and the question mark. The default Q is actually borrowed from Romanée’s wonderfully upright italic.

Running text. The long ascenders and descenders strongly echo the original brief: to design a book face that maintains its charm even with generous leading.

Closing

In addition to Karen and David, I must also thank Jason Deweintz of the Greenboathouse Press, who crucially helped my material gathering process; and Holger Königsdorfer, who generously shared his thoughts in reviving Romanée at KABK. Christian Schwartz and Fred Smeijers also gave me invaluable insight and encouragement.

I would like to end by quoting an anecdote about Van Krimpen’s death from The Aesthetic World of Jan van Krimpen (1995):

[On October 20, 1958, Van Krimpen’s] chaffeur drove him to the Klokhuisplein [Enschedé facilities] after lunch at home and stopped in front of Enschedé and Sons. The Chaffeur told Van Krimpen about his child’s mysterious illness—the doctors said they did not know what it was. Van Krimpen replied: “Of course they know what it is, but they don’t want to tell you.” With that the chauffeur heard him draw breath, and when he turned to look Van Krimpen had crumpled to the floor. He was carried into the House of Enschedé, under the magnificent stone bearing the inscription he had designed for the company’s 250th anniversary. He was already dead.