Elegant letters

Some of the most beautiful and distinctive scripts from the 19th to mid-20th century have been collected for new book Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design’s Golden Age by American graphic designers Steven Heller and Louise Fili.

A range of sources from Britain, Italy, France, Germany and the USA have been studied closely in order to compile the book, from children’s books and magazines to wrapping paper and sheet music.


Heller says, ‘All type has different appeal – emotional, formal, for example – and often this is rooted as much in fashion as it is in the so-called tenets of typography.’

‘Some people like it for elegance – which is why it is used for wedding invitations. Some think it a vestige of pre-typewriter times, when penmanship was supreme, and it was strictly taught as a method of business communications. And some, simply like the loose or rough quality of some scripts – the DIY aesthetic,’ he adds.

For almost 30 years Heller and Fili have been patiently collecting documents over the years, and have now released the most exceptional of the bunch.


After the two published their thoughts on Scripts in the designer booklet series ‘Un Sedicesimo’, the decision was taken to publish their own compilation.

‘Scripts’ can be seen as a travelogue of typography that Heller and Fili have collected. Bright, bold, elegant type adorns each page, and helps us to appreciate just how much influence and power script has had over the years.


Heller has revealed the subject for his next project, which is sure to be another beautiful collection – stencils. And even then, the man is not finished. Drop shadow will be next on his agenda, so we can await with bated breath what Heller will find for us.

‘Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design’s Golden Age’ by Steven Heller and Louise Fili will be published by Thames and Hudson on 16 May.

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