MICROSTILE

The article 2001: A Space Odyssey by Dave Addey is a thorough introduction to the typography of Stanley Kubrick. At some point it raises the question some of the text was set in Microgramma (Aldo Novarese, 1952 for the Nebiolo foundry) or in Eurostile (also Novarese, but in 1962). I don’t mean to second guess the article, I was just curious to see if I could find out. Work on the movie started in 1964 and was released in 1968, so it easily could have been both.

I’ve always remembered the type on the screens in the Discovery One spaceship to be Microgramma rather than the later Eurostile. But a visit to the traveling Kubrick exhibition provided an unexpected opportunity to see the type closer and dig a little deeper. On display were several sheets with what appeared to be white dry transfer lettering. Underneath is a solid color. I could not tell whether these were actually used to provide the type for the screens in the movie, or whether they were design mockups.

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Flat bits

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The flat bits in the diagonals in the M in COM and the V in SURVEY are typical for Microgramma: they are absent in the version of Eurostile I looked at. On the left: Eurostile Bold Extended No.2, page 181 of the Linotype Collection, 1989. Center: the V and M from the panels photographed at the Kubrick exhibition. On the right: Microgramma Bold Extended, page 84 Letterforms, Frederick Lambert 1964.

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The small line at the top of the slides shows a bit of a problem. The sample at the bottom shows the M from PMT from the COM slide. The center sample is Microgramma Breitmager from Nebiolo (reproduced from page 322, Typos, Rosen and Weidemann). It shows the characteristic flat bits also present in the Bold. But clearly the proportions of the Eurostile (top) are closer to the one on film.

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The Eurostile showing in Linotype Collection (1989)

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The Microgramma showing in Typos (Rosen and Weidemann, 1963)

Inconclusive

Perhaps the dry transfer version used different drawings? Perhaps there were more Eurostile and Microgramma versions in circulation? Maybe the small type is set in Eurostile, the large type in Microgramma? Eventhough Eurostile was published in 1962, the fact that Lambert mentions Microgramma and not Eurostile might indicate that the first was in wider circulation? As the article indicates elsewhere in the movie Kubrick mixes and matches typefaces as well, so it could possibly be both Eurostile and Microgramma.

Oh heck it is a great movie, and a great article.