The Emergence of Capitals

The first Greek alphabet derived from Phoenician writing, around the 9th century BC. The Phoenician alphabet containing consonants only, certain letters took on a new phonetic value in order to transcribe Greek vowels: aleph, for example, became alpha. Several forms of these archaic capital letters coexisted, varying from one city-state to another. The direction in which they were written and read varied as well, from spirals to boustrophedon, which runs left to right and then right to left like oxen plowing a field.

In the 4th century BC, Athenian democracy united the provinces under one rule and one system of writing: the twenty-four capital letters of the Ionian alphabet took permanent form, carved on stone tablets placed in public spaces for all to see – the gods and the people – henceforth running left to right in regular lines. At about the same time another style of lapidary inscription from Greece passed through Etruria, maturing into the roman capital.

This is where Infini finds its foundation, drawing inspiration more specifically from a model popular between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC. Rather than drawing on later, imperial Roman capitals, which have been reinterpreted so many times, Infini champions the revival of an unsung and forgotten form. However, “it’s absolutely not a matter of going back to a source (you can never go back),” says type designer Roger Excoffon, “but of summing up the available data.”

The model in this sense serves as the point of departure for a journey punctuated by encounters, reunions, surprises, an exploration of the Roman alphabet; a new beginning, as every new type design strives – or ought to strive – to be. Infini is the dream, the story and the survey.