Typography is a progressing matter.
The evolution of typefaces is made with constant small steps.
Each generation of designers and engineers contributes to this long dialogue over shapes and the relation between them.
The past is part of the future, since reading and writing are based on conventions. Some of these conventions are more elementary; the uppercase T is two lines, one horizontal the other vertical which are centred. Other conventions are more flexible and open new possibilities.
The type design is based on the underlying technology. For example, a font who was designed for letterpress has to be translated into a digital font. It is not possible to just transfer it from one technique to another.
An important source are old specimen books from the 19th century. These publications were made by the font publishers for print shops to decide which fonts to order and to use in their work. Over the years I have collected a small compilation of these books and some interesting printed matter; here are some of my favorites.
Linotype Faces, printed by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, Brooklyn, New York, 1930..
Linotype Faces, printed by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, Brooklyn, New York, 1930.
Binder of Rochester Monotype Composition Company, ca 1950.
American Specimen Book of Type Styles, American Type Founders Company, 1912.
Old newspapters can be an rich source, Berner Zeitung, 1982.
Histoire de l'imprimerie par l'image: Esthetique du livre, Volume 3, Henri Jonquieres, 1929.