Romulus designs by Jan van Krimpen
ROMULUS DESIGNS BY JAN VAN KRIMPEN
Jan van Krimpen (1892-1958) is one of the most important type designers and typographers to have emerged from the Netherlands. Through donations, loans and acquisitions the Museum Meermanno has amassed the Van Krimpen archive comprising 315 items, including designs for publishers’ vignettes, stamps, tombstones, galley proofs (including those from unpublished books), letters, lectures and type designs. When in 1975 the museum acquired the designs for the typeface Romulus for 35,000 Guilders (16,000 Euros), the annual report stated: ‘It can now be said that, with a few exceptions of minor importance, an entire collection of designs by this world-famous type designer has been preserved for the Netherlands.’
Van Krimpen, who had been employed at the Enschedé printing office since 1925, designed the Romulus face between 1931 and 1937. ‘The idea was’, he wrote later, ‘to create a complete type family, consisting of, to begin with, roman, sloped roman, semi-bold and semi-bold condensed, at least four weights of sans serif, a script type and a set of Greek characters.’ Altogether it comprised a plan, according to Van Krimpen, ‘more ambitious than has been undertaken in the history of the type production ever before or since.’
Van Krimpen had wanted to name this type family Epiphania, but his teacher, the British typographer Stanley Morison, thought the name ‘too difficult for the average printer’. At the Monotype Corporation, where production of the typeface began jointly with Enschedé, the new typeface was initially called Van Krimpen face, but Van Krimpen was having none of that. Various other names were discussed, until the American typographer Beatrice Warde solved the problem in 1939. It should be Romulus, she wrote to Van Krimpen, because ‘if he was not a good roman: who was?’ (According to legend Romulus was the founder of Rome.)
The type designs are drawn on large panels which show how incredibly precisely Van Krimpen worked. Nothing whatever has been deleted.