The Justin Howes Memorial Lecture:

Western foundry founts in the Kannada and Telugu scripts

With Pria Ravichandran

Wednesday 9 June 2021

7–8.30pm (GMT)

Online via Zoom

Tickets: £3–5

Please note: you will be emailed the Zoom link for the talk at 6pm GMT on the day of the talk.

European and American printing establishments in the Indian sub-continent during the 19th century were responsible for the foundry type endeavours in the Kannada and Telugu scripts. During the later part of the 16th century, Europeans arrived at the Indian sub-continent to pursue pepper trade, which eventually extended to colonisation. As colonialism gained a foothold and the East India Company revised its religious policies, missionaries found it pertinent to intervene with the religious beliefs and evangelise the locals.

The talk identifies the factors from the foundry type period that influenced the typographic forms of the Kannada and Telugu scripts. It mainly explores the role of type making in the divergence of the Kannada and Telugu scripts, the introduction of modulation and stroke contrast, the standardisation of their respective typographic forms, the demands from the printing environment, and how this history can inform current practice. Inadvertently, it also identifies the first book printed in the Telugu language with movable type.

Pria Ravichandran studied type design at the University of Reading in 2011 and completed a PhD at the University of Reading, focusing on the development of typographic forms for the Kannada and Telugu scripts. She received the Monotype studentship for her Masters. Gerry Leonidas and Fiona Ross supervised Pria's PhD, and URW Type Foundry funded the studies. She is currently a Director at Foundry5, a UK based type foundry focussing on global script coverage. She held the position of Chief Design Officer at URW. She has also collaborated with Monotype and Google, adding Indic support in existing typefaces and creating new designs. She has released free and commercial fonts such as Neue Frutiger Tamil, Palanquin, Catamaran, and Olivine.

This talk is an adaptation of Pria’s PhD titled The development of typographic forms for the Kannada and Telugu scripts, Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading. Many thanks to Fiona Ross, Gerry Leonidas, Peter Rosenfeld and Juergen Willrodt.

Justin Howes died on 21 February 2005. A good friend to the St Bride Library and the wider typographic community in 1999 he founded the original Friends of St Bride Library with James Mosley. He was not only a distinguished scholar, whose wide-ranging research was making an important contribution to our understanding of the types and lettering of the past, but he also put that scholarship into practice, learning to cast type by hand and to demonstrate to others the techniques of a secretive and mysterious trade. This annual lecture series is given in his memory.

Book Online HERE

Ticket is non-refundable, however you are welcome to offer your ticket to another person or reschedule the date of your visit. Please contact [email protected] to change the date/event of your booking at least 7 days prior to the event date.

Part of our ‘Celebrating 125 Years of St Bride Library’ lecture series, this talk has kindly been sponsored by:


Commercial Type

Eye Magazine

Eric de Bellaigue


Jerry Wright

Just Another Foundry

Klim Type Foundry

Lexon GB, Creative & Innovative Print

Mayor of London

Medioto – Graphics & Animation

Peter Longland


Type By

Usborne Publishing

and The Wynkyn de Worde Charitable Trust who have sponsored students and recent graduates to attend this lecture.

Image credits: Left – The cover image is a reproduction of an etching by Jan Van Ryne of Fort St. George, Chennai, 1754. Fort St George was the first English fortress in India, founded in 1639 in the coastal city of Madras (Chennai) and served as the administrative centre for the Madras Presidency. In 1812, Francis Whyte Ellis founded the College of Fort St. George and in the following year established the College Press. The EIC's attitude, policies, and print requirements impacted the typographic requirements of South Indian scripts. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Top right – The third page from the Specimen book of the Basel Mission Press, 1882. This title fount is constructed in a similar style to the Latin drop caps in illuminated manuscripts with floral details. Image courtesy Mission 21 Archives. Bottom right – Kannada handwriting sample from Collection of Kannada documents awaiting identification (1826–1833). In this sample, the emphasis is on the extending out-strokes. An attempt to mimic this kind of stroke contrast could have contributed to the Kannada and Telugu types gaining stroke contrast and modulation parallel to the baseline. Image courtesy the British Library.