The engraver’s sans serif—strikingly similar to drafting alphabets of the early 1900s—has been one of the most widely used stationer’s lettering styles since about 1900. Its open, simple forms offer legibility at very small sizes. While there are digital fonts based on this style (such as Burin Sans™ and Sackers Gothic,™ among others), few offer the range of styles and weights possible, with the versatility designers perhaps expect from digital type families. Sweet Sans fills that void.
The family is based on antique engraver’s lettering templates called “masterplates.” Professional stationers use a pantograph to manually transfer letters from these masterplates to a piece of copper or steel that is then etched to serve as a plate or die. This demanding technique is rare today given that most engravers now use a photographic process to make plates, where just about any font will do. But the lettering styles engravers popularized during the first half of the twentieth century—especially the engraver’s sans—are still quite familiar and appealing.
Referencing various masterplates—which typically offer the alphabet, figures, an ampersand, and little else—Mark van Bronkhorst has drawn a comprehensive toolkit of nine weights, each offering upper- and lowercase forms, small caps, true italics, arbitrary fractions, and various figure sets designed to harmonize with text, small caps, and all-caps. The fonts are available as basic, “Standard” character sets, and as “Pro” character sets offering a variety of typographic features and full support for Western and Central European languages.
Though rich in history, Sweet Sans is made for contemporary use. It is a handsome and functional tribute to the spirit of unsung craftsmanship.