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Can no longer recall where I found this image. As a clue, I titled the file 'sembera', which may be the name of the designer. The háčeks suggest to me that it may be Czech or Slavic. Would greatly appreciate more information, especially would like to know if there is a digital version of this font available!


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Hi Erica,

This is probably not a proper typeface, but a piece of lettering. Jan Šembera was a Czechoslovak graphic artist and the author of Písmo (“Writing”). This book about lettering was published in several editions, at least from 1923 to 1939. I don’t know for sure if this alphabet is by Šembera and if it was included in his Písmo, but other pages from the book suggest that it’s likely, see below.

I’m not aware of a digitization. You might like Kolo by LetterPerfect, Samira by CastleType, or Maria Theresia from the Walden Font Co. These are all caps only. Negrita has a lowercase with similar painterly qualities, but it’s much bolder.

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That is a fantastic and comprehensive answer, Florian! Thank you so much for lending your expertise. I'll investigate the typefaces you've recommended.
You’re welcome!
Follow-up: of those, only Kolo comes close—especially the 'alternates' variant—but lacks some of my favorite features, most notably the stylization of the M and B. I may attempt to convert/construct a version of the typeface on my own, including the lower case and numeral glyphs.

I looked again, and guess what: in 2021, Jeff Levine made a digitization of this alphabet. Well, of the caps, at least. His font is named Fancy Show Card JNL. Bummer that he didn’t detail the source, and just mentions “some online scans from an old lettering book”. Also, no full set of Czech/Slovak diacritics, which hopefully isn’t an issue for you, but a bit sad considering the source.


Good catch, Florian! I didn't know about Jan Šembera. My guess was Petzendorfer.


Well that's rather interesting! Many thanks for your diligence, Florian. Levine's digitization lacks some of the elegance of the original in that it's weightier and more condensed, and also in some other details (e.g. the ampersand, W and M). Obviously, it would suffice in a pinch, but I'm disinclined to donate my money to an essentially uncredited project—and I still would prefer a more faithful (and complete) version. Again, I can't thank you enough!


And another update: I might have wronged Jeff Levine. This alphabet design was also shown in other lettering books, without lowercase and diacritics, in a slightly bolder rendition. I still would have appreciated mentioning the exact source, but at least two of the books where this alphabet is included don’t mention any meaningful information, like artist, editor, or date. His Fancy Show Card JNL is largely faithful to those showings.

Here’s a page from either issue X or XV of Muster-Alphabete verschiedener Schriftarten (date and author unknown, see previous issues published by Richard Bauer, Leipzig):


Patricia M shares a scan of a page where it’s shown as Moderne Block, from 50 Alphabete für Techniker und Fachschulen No. 118 (again, date and author unknown, erroneously credited to Eric-Jean Müller by Devroye).


Moderne Block, scan by Patricia M (CC BY-SA)


I don’t know where the design originated and if Jan Šembera’s version (if he is indeed the creator of the alphabet as shown in the original post) came first or not.

Wow, above and beyond redux! Thanks once more, Florian. I'd like to believe that the supposed Sembera is the original, as it remains the version I find most appealing and elegant.