London’s Handwriting: The Development of Edward Johnston’s Underground Railway Block-Letter


It’s too bad nobody pays with cash anymore, because we really could’ve used a penny in these photographs to help you understand just how big this book is.* It’s massive. But that’s fitting for such an important book. This is an account of just one of Johnston’s letterforms, but one that had perhaps the greatest impact on type design in the last century (or so the prospectus claimed). Emerging in 1916 as London Transport’s exclusive typeface, the “Underground Railway Block Letter” alphabet set a new benchmark from which any responsible type style development would be measured.

OK. But why is this book so big? It’s because all of the specimens are printed directly from wood type in the London Transport Museum’s collection, the biggest being specified as having a cap height of 98 millimeters. Tragically, there is no way of knowing what a millimeter is. . . . Just kidding. It’s 277.795 points. (Or, 3.85827 inches.)

*Do not go out of your way to pay us with cash. It’s kind of a pain.

  • Author: Colin Banks
  • Size: 14.75 × 20 inches
  • Pages: 50
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Edition: No. 61 of 150 copies
  • Condition: The binding has some soiling, mostly on the back, but is otherwise good. Interior is spotless. 
  • Publisher: London Transport Museum, 1994