‘Fringe’ Font Friday

Notebook with hand drawn "Observer" text

The TV show ‘Fringe’ aired between 2008 and 2013 on the Fox Network. The series follows members of the fictional Fringe Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, based in Boston, Massachusetts, under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses fringe science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences, which are related to mysteries surrounding a parallel universe. (More information at Wikipedia and IMDb.)

As the series developed, a group of beings called The Observers became more and more important to the storyline, and were often depicted using a written language or code.

Notebook with hand drawn "Observer" text
Screengrab from ‘Fringe’

Viewer Drew Crawford was excited about using machine-assisted cryptanalysis, and started looking at occurrences of the code. He began with screengrabs from the show and the series’ website on Fox, both of which had a number of examples of text in English and a presumed translation into the Observer language. His full article is here.

Text sample in English and the Observer language
Screengrab from ‘Fringe’
Web page showing text in both English and the Observer language
From the ‘Fringe’ website on Fox

Sadly, what he found was that the text on the web pages was selectable—that the designers had simply created a font called “Observer” with a character-for-character swap with English, rather than using images to represent glyphs or concepts. Makes sense, in terms of the budget allowed for a TV show, but still disappointing.

Screengrab showing code from the "Fringe" web page
Screengrab showing code from the “Fringe” web page

Download the key for the hand-drawn Observer language (see below) here. The hand-drawn font seems to have been available at one point at www.rewardwire.org, but the website no longer exists. An angular and, in my opinion, ugly version of the font (also below) is supposedly available here, but I got warnings from my font-loading software saying that the font had “serious errors.”

Glyphs in English and the hand drawn Observer language

Glyphs in English and the hand drawn Observer language

Glyphs in English and the "Observer" font from dafont.com
Glyphs in English and the “Observer” font from dafont.com

Faëry Font Friday

Faery Font poem 3

Ok, so this is a total cheat. Today’s Font Friday is “font” as in “fountain”: in this case, a font created and guarded by faeries. I came across the poem when I was looking for font-related words that start with “f,” and I thought it was interesting.

The untitled poem is from the Knickerbocker, a literary magazine of New York City from 1833 to 1865. (Knickerbocker was a term for Manhattan aristocracy at the time.) Contributors to the magazine included such authors as William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and many others.

The poem is a syrupy paean to the chaste, wholesome love of “Edward” for “Emma,” as contrasted with the seductive lure of a faery woman. Kind of a raw deal for the faery woman as Edward may have secured Emma’s love by praying at the faery font/shrine. Overtly sexual women don’t deserve love, clearly. Whatever. I’ll be over here with my Good Vibrations variety pack, reading trenchant political commentary and eyeshadow tips in Teen Vogue, and eating Christopher Elbow chocolates.

Knickerbocker, Or, New-York Monthly Magazine, Volume 46 (July, 1855)

Faery Font poem 1Faery Font poem 2 Faery Font poem 3


1595 Font Friday

Decorative initial E

From the Public Domain Review. See also my post 1510 Font Friday.

Hoefnagel’s Guide to Constructing the Letters (ca. 1595)


Joris Hoefnagel (1542 – 1600) was a pivotal figure in the history of Dutch art, playing an important role both in the latter stages of the Flemish illumination tradition and the birth of the new genre of still life. In the last decade of his life Hoefnagel was appointed court artist to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, and it was in this time that he appended Georg Bocskay’s Model Book of Calligraphy, of thirty years previous, with his own beautifully exquisite Guide to the Construction of Letters, examples from which are shown below. In each he surrounds the typographic diagram with a colourful array of symbolically charged motifs and, for some, an excerpt from the Bible which begins with the letter of focus. See the Getty site, by clicking on each image, for further commentary.

The Getty
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions

Guide for Constructing the Letter E

Guide for Constructing the Letter Q

Guide for Constructing the Letter R

Guide for Constructing the Letters f and g

Guide for Constructing the Letters h and i

1510 Font Friday

Decorative initials A and B

From the Public Domain Review. See also my post 1595 Font Friday.

16th-Century Pattern Book for Scribes (ca. 1510)


This scribal pattern book – dated to around 1510 from Swabia, Germany – was made by Gregorius Bock and is addressed to his cousin Heinrich Lercher Wyss who was the official scribe of the duchy of Württemberg, most likely put together with the purpose of aiding Wyss in the refining of his art. The first part includes alphabets in various scripts with the second part presenting some decorative initials. Some of the styles found in the book include gothic textura, round gothic, round humanistic, as well as the unusual inclusion of letters and texts from Greek and Hebrew script. Bock may himself have been a monk in the Benedictine monastery of Ochsenhausen in whose library the manuscript was found.

Housed at: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions

Free Tree Font Friday

The phrase "about trees" in the Tree font

From Atlas Obscura.

Read the Tree Leaves, With an Artist’s Invented Tree Font

The plants are speaking. Time to read what they have to say.

The phrase "about trees," shown in the font Trees

The phrase “about trees,” shown in the font Trees

The book About Trees, now being reprinted after selling out its first small run last year is, as the title says, about trees. Like other books, it’s also printed on trees, in the form of paper. Unlike any other book, it’s printed in Trees, an arboreal font (free to download) in which each letter corresponds to a different type of towering plant.

Creator Katie Holten, an Irish artist, describes About Trees as a “recycling” of texts that, considered together, provoke much thought about the relationship between humans and nature. The 256-page book contains tree-themed works by prominent authors and other luminaries, from Plato to Radiohead, via Jules Verne, Charles Darwin, and Zadie Smith. The text of each piece appears in English alongside a Trees translation.

A line from Zadie Smith's novel NW, translated into Trees

A line from Zadie Smith’s novel NW, translated into Trees (All images courtesy of Katie Holten)

In selecting the texts, Holten aimed for an eclectic yet cohesive mix incorporating fiction, philosophy, non-fiction, and academic writing. All the translations are confined to one page, meaning short works are transformed into orderly rows of trees, while longer works appear as dense forests.

For the Trees font, which was created especially for the book, Holten delved into her archive of New York City tree drawings, created 10 years earlier. “I wrote out the alphabet, A through Z, and then realized I could match a tree that had the same letter: A for apple, B for beech, C for cedar,” she says. (V and X were a bit trickier, but Latin names came in handy.)

The numbers are represented as twigs, while the punctuation marks are shoots, leaves, and, in the case of the period, an acorn.

The Trees alphabet

The Trees alphabet

Having established a tree alphabet, Holten is now considering ways to write messages into the landscape. One way is to incorporate words, spelled out in trees, when planting a garden or reforesting a developed area.

She is currently in talks with Google’s ecology team about a possible “typographic forest” installation at the company’s California headquarters, which would involve developing a new alphabet tailored to the area’s native flora.

The Trees translation of Liberty Trees, a story by Robert Sullivan

The Trees translation of Liberty Trees, a story by Robert Sullivan

Holten also has her eye on the forthcoming Obama Presidential Library in Chicago, which she believes would benefit greatly from a garden filled with hidden messages written in Tree.

In the meantime, anyone is welcome to use the existing tree alphabet to plant their own message. (If you don’t have space or access to the requisite saplings, you can plant a virtual garden in a Word doc—the Trees font is free to download.)

About Trees is now available for pre-order and ships in late July.

Flora Fauna Faces Font Friday

From the Public Domain Review

This 17th-century alphabet seems to show grotesque vegetation, animals and even humans in its forms, reminiscent of DeepDream imaging.

An Alphabet of Organic Type (ca.1650)


A series of stunning prints – titled Libellus Novus Elementorum Latinorum – designed by the Polish goldsmith Jan Christian Bierpfaff (1600-ca.1690) and engraved by fellow-countryman Jeremias Falck (1610–1677). According to BibliOdyssey blog, where we first learnt of the images, Bierpfaff worked as an apprentice at the Mackensen family of metalworkers in Cracow, a group “who introduced the Dutch auricular (‘shell or ear-like’) style of ornament into the Polish gold and silver workshops”. We see the influence of this auricular style in Bierpfaff’s letterforms but also the unmistakable baroque stylings of the grotesque. The result is wonderfully surreal, the writhing forms hovering somewhere between the monstrous and floral.


Japanese Artist Creates Fun Miniature Dioramas Every Day For 5 Years

From boredpanda.com

Since 2011, Tatsuya Tanaka has been creating creative and playful miniature dioramas. Not only has he not shown any sign of stopping since we last wrote about him, but he seems to be getting better and better

Tanaka has been collecting the creative images into an everyday calendar that you can follow on Facebook or his website. Most involve foods and everyday objects that most of us wouldn’t even give a second glance!

More info: miniature-calendar.com | Instagram | Facebook

Kintsugi: The Art of Broken Pieces


Kintsugi (or kintsukuroi) is a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The philosophy behind the technique is to recognize the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it. The process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

The video above was filmed at Tokyobike in London which recently had a Kintsugi workshop. If you’d like to try the technique yourself, Humade offers gold and silver DIY kintsugi kits. See also: When Mending Becomes an Art. (via Kottke and The Kid Should See This)




Video about the Kintsugi process