The Full Wiki

Slab serif: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In typography, a slab serif (also called mechanistic, square serif or Egyptian) typeface is a type of serif typeface characterized by thick, block-like serifs. Serif terminals may be either blunt and angular (Rockwell), or rounded (Courier). Slab serif typefaces generally have no bracket (feature connecting the strokes to the serifs). Some consider slab serifs to be a subset of modern serif typefaces.

Because of their bold appearance, they are most commonly used in large headlines and advertisements but are seldom used in body text. The exception is those that are monospaced, because of their usage in typewriters, but that is declining as electronic publishing becomes more common. Another recent exception is the typeface designed for The Guardian newspaper in the UK which is an Egyptian used through the paper as body text.



A sample of the typeface Egyptienne, a slab serif face based on the Clarendon model.
A sample of the typeface Rockwell, a slab serif face based on the neo-grotesque model.
A sample of the typeface Courier, a slab serif face based on strike-on typewriting faces.

As printed material began to branch out from the familiar realm of books, new typefaces were needed for use in advertising, posters, and flyers. Slab serif printing type was first commercially introduced by Vincent Figgins under the name Antique, with copies of specimen dated 1815 and 1817.[1]

Following Napoleon's Egyptian campaign and dissemination of images and descriptions via publications like Description de l'Égypte (1809) an intense cultural fascination with all things Egyptian followed. Suites of contemporary parlor furniture were produced resembling furniture found in tombs. Multicolored woodblock printed wallpaper could make a dining room in Edinburgh or Chicago feel like Luxor. While there was no relationship between Egyptian writing systems and slab serif types, either shrewd marketing or honest confusion led to slab serifs often being called Egyptians, and many early ones are named for the subject: Cairo, Karnak, and Memphis. The common metonym "Egyptian" is derived from a craze for Egyptian artifacts in Europe and North America in the early nineteenth century, which led typefounders producing Slab Serifs after Figgins' work to call their designs Egyptian.[2] However, the term Egyptian had previously been used to describe sans-serif types in England, so the term 'Antique' was used by British and American typefounders. The term Egyptian was adopted by French and German foundries, where it became Egyptienne.

Sub-classifications of slab-serif

There are three subgroups of slab serif typefaces:


Clarendon model

Clarendon typefaces, unlike other slab serifs, actually have some bracketing and some contrast in size in the actual serif. Examples include Clarendon and Egyptienne.

Neo-grotesque model

The most common slab serif typefaces, Neo-grotesque have no bracketing and evenly weighted stems and serifs. The letterforms are similar to neo-grotesque or realist sans-serif fonts. Examples include Rockwell and Memphis.

Italienne model

In the Italienne model, the serifs are even heavier than the stems, forging a dramatic, attention-drawing effect. Some Italienne slab serifs, such as Playbill, have a characteristic Western appearance, likely as a result of their frequent use in western-era posters.

Typewriter typefaces

Typewriter slab serif typefaces are named for their use in strike-on typewriting. These faces originated in monospaced format with fixed-width, meaning that every character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space. This feature is necessitated by the nature of the typewriter apparatus. Examples include Courier and Courier New (both Neo-grotesque model) and Prestige Elite (Clarendon model).

See also


  1. ^ James Mosley, The Nymph and the Grot: the revival of the sanserif letter, London: Friends of the St Bride Printing Library, 1999
  2. ^ Carter, E., Day. B, Meggs P.: “Typographic Design: Form and Communication, Third Edition”, page 35. John Wiley & Sons, 2002.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address