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The Origin of the Serif

The Origin of the Serif

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Edward M. Catich's seminal work tracing the serifs in the Roman alphabet to the brushstrokes used to lay them out ahead of being carved in stone. Drawing from his early sign painting experience, and extensive studies of Roman inscriptions, Catich developed his original and persuasive thesis which is set out in the pages of this beautifully illustrated book.


The original was published in 1968, with this second edition edited by Mary W. Gilroy, curator of the Catich Gallery, and published in 1991. From this edition:

"Here you will find a new approach to the history, lineage, and development of our alphabet, a detailed explanation of letter cutting in stone, the manner in which the brush differs from all other writing tools, and the role it played in the shaping of our classic Roman alphabet, with a wealth of other information pertinent to the graphic arts, including an account of the early twentieth century Chicago sign writing and its relation to Imperial Roman epigraphy".


From the original 1968 edition.

"Origin of the Serif is a work of genius." — Philip Hofer, Harvard Univeristy

"...a piece of great fortune that Father Catich should have been the one to make this study (of the Trajan characters)." — W.A. Dwiggins

"I have an enormous respect for Father Catich." — Stanley Morison


  • 215 x 280 mm (8.5 x 11 in)
  • Hardcover, 310 pages
  • 1.4 kg (49 oz)
  • ISBN: 0-9629740-0-5
  • Published 1991 (this edition, first edition 1968)

Note for EU Customers

This book is shipped from the UK. If your country charges a local value added tax on books then you will be required to pay this locally, in addition to any administrative charges from the delivery company.

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