History of Lettering lettering

Stonemasons marks and Adrian Frutiger

Being a former stonemason I was pleased to come across this set of illustrations in Frutiger’s masterpiece Signs and Symbols, a book I recommend unreservedly to anyone with an interest in the alphabet/scripts/lettering. (My edition is the 1989 single volume, published by Studio Editions, ISBN 1-85170-401-9.)

These marks are from Strasbourg Cathedral and date from a period between 1200 and 1700, with the top row being the earliest. Frutiger (who designed Univers) observes ‘the origin and development of stonemasons’ signs are closely associated with the social circumstances of the Middle Ages’.

Once masons were being paid, rather than working for the greater glory of God, they needed to mark the stone they had dressed to ensure payment.

[Click on image to enlarge.]

3 replies on “Stonemasons marks and Adrian Frutiger”

Nice. Cutting my ‘mark’ into the stone is always the very last thing I do – partly because its my way of signing a piece, and partly to tell myself that “that’s it, it’s done”, “leave the bloody thing alone!” I’m sure as a former stone carver yourself you must have experienced that frustrating tendency to fuss and faff over minute details that no one will ever see or even notice, my mark therefore always has the last word.

It’s also a nod to the future eh? Our stone will far outlive us and generations to come – sort of immortality, if you are at all into the ego trip!

Yep, the immortality is something to get grips with, in that in some form or another it will be around for a very long time, but I often sign my pieces on the underside of a sculpture – not always, but quite often it seem out of place to include it in the overall design. However, not a piece leaves my banker without receiving my mark somewhere, it just wouldn’t be right.

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