Signs of Italy: Exploring 200 Years of Italian Lettering

Much like inhabitants of New York City, Italians love spending their time outdoors. They congregate in parks, cafes and corner shops to meet, talk, and eat. Also like New York natives, Italians are equally surrounded by signage, albeit Italy’s more traditional roots and older cityscapes often mean forgoing the flashing LEDs New York is known for in exchange for tried and true lettered signs. These signs are a big part of the Italian cityscape, and each has its own unique quality harking back to its day or area. However, over the last two decades, this outdoor signage has undergone the same changes that all other art forms face, evolving and changing with the times. James Clough, an Englishman living in Milan, has been cataloging these changes in typographical elements used in the street signs of many Italian cities.

In his new book, Signs of Italy, or “L’Italia Insegna” in Italian, Clough has captured hundreds of signs from various Italian cities, documenting the “freedom and detachment from standard models of letters as well as the craftsmanship and creativity of the sign makers” that inhabit these towns. Clough stresses that the book explores all eras of inscription “dating back to 1815, a time span of exactly 200 years, and therefore including the nineteenth century and Art Nouveau”, but it is in no way a complete study. The artist explains that “several millennia of Phoenician, Etruscan, Roman, medieval and Renaissance inscriptions are absent. And at some point in the future I would like to extend my research in that direction.”

The book is available from Lazy Dog Press, and features everything “From the ornate Tuscan style of the 19th century to the eccentric letters of Art Nouveau, from the grandiose architectural lettering of the 1930s to the exquisite surviving examples of the old sign writers, from fascist ghost signs to lettering on manhole covers”


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via coolhunting and Lazy Dog Press




Category: Typography