De Vinne

i am a graphic design student in winnipeg manitoba and in desperate need for some help! i am working on a research project on the de vinne typeface and cannot find much at all.. i am finding alot about theodore de vinne but unfortunately that doesn’t help me much considering it was gustav f. schroder who invented it. any knowledge on the topic would be greatly appreciated

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Theodore Low DeVinne, in fact, designed the DeVinney typeface in the early 1900’s.
Whoever Gustav F. Schroder is, he DID NOT invent the Devinne typeface, but most likely must have copied DeVinne’s face for photocomposition. There is a good showing of Devinne’s faces in the 1925 Barnhard Bros. & Spindler catalog. The faces are DeVinne, Devinne Bold, Devinne Condensed, DeVinne Extra Compressed, Devinne Recut. A good reference on these and other faces of the early 1900’s is “Plain Printing Types” By Theodore Low DeVinne, A.M. Published by Oswald Publishing Company, New York, 1914.
“The A.T.A. (Advertising Typographers Association of America) Type Comparison Book,” by Frank Merriman, 1965, published by the A.T.A. shows DeVinne Outline and DeVinne Outline Italic. Devinne had as many or more variations in its day than the Cheltenham and Caslon series.

Corx on above: second line “DeVinne” not “DeVinney”

See Mac McGrew’s _American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century_ (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Books, 1993), which is pretty definitive. On pp. 118-121 (of the Second Edition), McGrew discusses these faces. He (and indeed DeVinne himself) is (are) quite clear that the faces were not designed by DeVinne but simply named in his honor. According to McGrew, DeVinne attributed the design to Nicholas J. Werner of the Central Type Foundry (St. Louis), but Werner corrected this, attributing it to his partner, Schroeder.

McGrew’s volume really is essential.

David M. MacMillan

Again, in my orthopaedic shoes, “I stand corrected.”


I searched several volumes around the house here and McGrew’s has the most comprehensive profile about the typeface. Just for fun, I pulled the patent on the face that was filed with the USPTO in 1893, and there is some interesting data. (go to and type in “Schroeder 1893” and you’ll see it in the list).

Apparently Schroeder was residing in Mill Valley, California at the time (just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin Country from San Francisco) at the time. He specifically notes the medium weight, and long ascenders and descenders as being specific characteristics of the font. The patent application has his original drawing of the face as part of it. He notes that there is irregular form to simulate pen drawn characters, and notes that he does not follow a specific baseline to try to achieve the same effect.

Reading the patent carefully, we see that he likely assigned the patent to a partner or employers, one V. J. A. Rey of San Francisco California. (you might follow this thread to see if Rey was employed by a specific foundry…) Also, you might want to search on the names of the witnesses. Often, co-workers or colleagues were used as witnesses due to having some related professional knowledge.

You may want to contact the San Francisco Public Library to see if any of these men were mentioned in the local business directories in the time period mentioned in the patent.

Good Luck, sounds like a fun project.


One more thing, Schroeder was granted two patents in that year! I gave you the face description on the first, but the DeVinne face appears to be the second patent. Change your search terms to “1893 Schroeder Type Font” and you will only see the two faces that were patented. While I made an error in my initial description, it actually turns out to be useful in that you now know that Schroeder patented two faces that year, one decorative hand written style face and the other which we know as DeVinne.

Much of the info remains correct between the two (residence in Mill Valley, assignment to Rey, etc…) but the description of the face and unique characteristics differs. The description of the face is extensive, describing individual characteristics of many letters.

No name is given for the font in the application, indicating that the name came later and was probably assigned by the foundry for use in marketing rather than assigned by Schroeder.



A little more sifting turned up this: an obituary in the San Francisco Call newspaper.

Apparently Rey was a partner in the firm of Britton and Rey, San Francisco Lithographers, having inherited the position, the firm being originated by Britton and Rey around 1852. Britton came for the gold rush of 1849 and stayed in the mining camps until 1852, and then subsequently moved to San Francisco where he met Rey (V. J. A.’s father) and formed the printing firm. The firm is described in this 1901 obituary as being one of the most stable business concerns on the west coast, which is saying something given the period and the fact that the firm was now approaching 50 years old.

V. J. A. Rey, in addition to being a partner in the lithography firm of Britton and Rey was also a city council member in the town of Belvedere, and a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

OK, a little more and then I should focus on work for the day instead of this interesting project.

Britton and Rey was a very well known firm. In 1852 (their first year) they published detailed maps of San Francisco, and in subsequent years, maps of surrounding areas. Much of their work is archived in the Stanford University Library. Other well known maps include their 1887 map of San Francisco.

The Pacific Stock Exchange opened on June 4th, 1875, and given their expertise in Lithography, it is probable that they printed many of the stock certificates traded on the exchange here in San Francisco, including mining concerns like the Comstock Lode in Nevada, and the mines in the town of Bodie, CA.

Given the assignment of the patent to Rey at the time of application, it is highly probable that Schroeder was an employee of the firm of Britton and Rey. Even today, most patents are applied for and jointly held by employees and their employers, with the employer funding the patent process. Patents on the typefaces were granted for 7 years, indicating that the face would have come into the public domain in 1900. It appears to have been copied much earlier than that however, probably shortly after the patent was published by the USPTO.

How it ended up in St. Louis at the Central Type Foundry from its origin in Mill Valley, CA is something of a mystery. Also, Mr. Werner’s reference to Mr. Schroeder as his partner is also something of a mystery. If Werner was employed in St. Louis at Central, and Schroeder was employed in Mill Valley at Britton and Rey, then it is unlikely they could have been business partners, and the reference to Mr. Schroeder as his partner is purposefully oblique.

There is a possibility that Schroeder may have been an employee of Central, working in California at a Central owned branch foundry there, and designed the face for Rey on commission, and therefore assigned the rights to Rey as part of the contract work.

Often, type founding companies located individual foundries in major cities to cast type for local businesses rather than shipping lead type over large distances. At one time San Francisco had local foundries for ATF, Monotype, and others.

All of this is conjecture, and would need to be proven out by your research. Check to see if Central had a branch foundry in San Francisco, and see if you can find employee registries for Britton and Rey and Central for the period from company archives in local libraries in California and Missouri. Look for business directories as well to see if Central had a branch in the bay area.

OK, enough on this, I’m off to work.


I don’t have the research at hand to back this up and my book is at home. But Mr. Rey or a descendant could also be one of the principles of Palmer & Rey, the largest type foundry in SF founded in 1882. It became part of ATF in the early 1900s.

Actually, this isn’t my project (“nbuckle” posted the original query), but it is interesting.
There are two Palmer and Rey specimen books online at (1884 and 1887) and one at Google Books (1892), but these are too early to show “DeVinne”.

However, plugging “central type foundry st. louis” into Google Books gives hits on two recent books, available in “limited preview” form, which reference DeVinne (typeface). One is Robert Mullen’s _Recasting a Craft: St. Louis Typefounders Respond to Industrialization_.
The other is Irene Tichenor’s _No Art without Craft: The Life of Theodore Low DeVinne, Printer_. By chance, some of the pages in the Google “Limited Preview” are relevant to this study.

The other place I’d look is Saxe and Johnston’s new edition of Loy’s essays on typefounders, published by Oak Knoll as _Nineteenth Century American Designers and Engravers of Type_. (I don’t have this, yet, to check, though.)

David M. MacMillan

A little more sifting (this is addictive) in the USPTO archive on google shows that Gustave Schroeder patented 4 type faces, under patents D22104, D376169, D21119, and D22263. His first patent was D21119, submitted while living in St. Louis, MO in 1891 and was assigned to Barnhart Bros and Spindler Foundry. This is useful in that it shows that he was located immediately prior to coming to California in St. Louis, and thus probably knew Werner from his time working at Barnhart. Then, the two faces for Britton and Rey in San Francisco, followed by an 1898 patent (D276169) which was assigned to American Type Foundry (ATF) while living in San Francisco (having relocated from Mill Valley, CA).

One can probably trace his employment history by tracing his patent history to some degree. It would be worthwhile to print out the 4 patents and then match the faces to faces in the Mac McGrew book to build a history of him as a designer. It would appear that this is largely an American type designer about which no significant history/biography has been written, yet he appears to have worked for some of the major houses and designed and patented four type faces.



Good tip David.

I will do a little research when I get home. I couldn’t resist Loy’s book. I found a wood type font I have but had not identified yet in his book. I will look in Steve Sax’s 20th Century Type Foundries also to see if Rey is one and the same person.

The book “Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs” ISB 1-884718-06-X (Oak Knoll Press, 1994) on page 208 gives a history of Palmer and Rey Foundry in San Francisco. It appears that V.J.A. Rey was in fact the partner in this firm, having bought in to the foundry in 1882. Given the dates, it is probable that the face was designed for Palmer and Rey Foundry rather than the Britton and Rey Lithographers. Interesting that he held positions with both a printing firm and a foundry, but not totally unexpected.

Palmer and Rey was joined with ATF in 1892, probably near the time the patents were granted on the two faces in the middle of Schroeder’s design career. The fact that they were assigned to Rey rather than ATF is likely due to the submission dates in 1891, with the assignment made at the time of application. Schroeder likely stayed with the firm through the transition to in 1892 given his assignment to ATF of the face in 1898. I’ve attached an image of his last face assigned to ATF. Does anyone recognize it right off the bat?

image: D29481.png


On page 98 of “Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs” it profiles Central Type Foundry of St. Louis and notes that they too were joined to ATF in 1892. Given that, the reference to Schroeder as his partner in the design by Werner is much clearer. Also, it would appear that Central and ATF would have had rights to the face during the patent period having become one company. The patent dates probably explain why Linotype didn’t intro the font until 1902, since the patent expired around 1900.


you were right. The Book by William E. Loy has an extensive biography of Schroeder starting on page 73. The face above is ATF’s “McCullagh”.

Guess there isn’t any undiscovered stuff here, but a good set of sources for our student in Canada.

NBuckle, see if your library can obtain a copy of the recently printed Loy Book from Oak Knoll Press. ISBN # is 978-1-58456-261-0.

I have a few cases of a font labled as “Devinne” which I acquired in 1964 from a shop which had been closed since 1936. It’s a bold font - and is pretty dirty and worn, but it matches samples I have seen in various catalogs over the years. I have a variety of smaller sizes and would be happy to set some lines and pull some proofs of it if you’d like.

I could also photograph the type itself if you wanted a photo of “the real thing”….

I also recall a building or a street named for Theodore Devinne in downtown Manhattan - near Washington Square Park, I believe….

- Alan

Here’s an image of the face as shown in the original patent application.

In thinking about this, Loy’s bio of Schroeder isn’t exactly linear and may contain a minor inaccuracy.

Nbuckle, in your list of references, I’d list the 4 patents in addition to the 3 oak knolll press books. Note the slight inconsistency between the narrative in the Loy book and the dates of the patents. Loy describes DeVinne as a Central/ATF 1893 face, but the patent submission date from Mill Valley, CA in 1891 may indicate that the face shown below if in fact is the final DeVinne form originated not at Central in 1893 but at Pacific in 1891.

The inconsistency may be related to actual release/production dates and the involvement of Werner. Perhaps Schroeder developed the original form, and then Werner re-drew it at Central and released it as DeVinne from Central (by 1892 actually ATF, but probably routinely referred to as Central) but gave credit for the original form to Schroeder. Since Schroeder was at Pacific and not Central in 1893, even though they were both ATF by then, the Loy reference is probably technically incorrect as shown on page 74 of the book.

image: D22263.png


One more thing, read the bio of Werner on page 108 of Loy’s book. There is considerable discussion of the DeVinne face.

In re-reading McGrew’s narrative, 3rd paragraph, it says that “Werner was instructed to draw and cut the proposed face…” at Central, indicating that he probably made minor adjustments to the Schroeder design to meet the needs of the customer. One probably can’t do an accurate history of the DeVinne face without giving credit to both men, to Schroeder for the design, and to Werner for the form we use today…

The face was probably nameless until a new face was requested by the De Vinne press. De Vinne press requested a plainer display face than was then in use from Central, and the face was suggested to them by Mr. J. A. St. John. The De Vinne press made suggested changes to the design, and these were probably implemented by Werner with the punches subsequently cut based on Werner’s drawings. St. John then named the face after the initial customer, a fairly common practice (think Pabst Old Style and Glamour…)

This is assuming I’m reading the McGrew narrative correctly.