Pop Shakespeare’s typography

If you’ve been spending any time on social media recently, you’re likely to have come across Pop Sonnets, a new Tumblr that provides, in their words, “Old twists on new tunes, every Thursday.” Here, for instance, is their deft rewriting of Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 hit, “I Will Survive“:   If you know Gaynor’s song, you’ll appreciate the adaptation of the song’s chorus and verse structure to the sonnet’s characteristic use of the final turn. If you know your Shakespeare, you’ll also appreciate the echoes of Pop Sonnet’s couplet with that of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18:

Guyot’s speciman sheet

If you’re a type designer (or a type caster, to be more appropriate to the early modern period), how do you show people examples of your wares? You use a specimen sheet: On this sheet, we see a matched set of roman and italic typefaces, each in three sizes. The roman (from largest to smallest, and from top to bottom) is in canon, double pica, and pica; the italic (zig-zagging from right to left to middle) is in double pica, great primer, and pica. (I’ll show some details below; you can also zoom in on the image in Luna.) What makes this specimen sheet particularly interesting is that it’s one of the earliest extant printed sheets, we know the type caster who made these typefaces, and it’s the earliest known sheet with English associations.