Initial Offering
November 10, 2014 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Your wrought iron gate lacks that identifying touch, your wax seal seems a little anonymous, and your handkerchief might as well belong to anyone: you definitely need a monogram. Perhaps one of these 1200 gorgeous public domain examples drafted by A. A. Turbayne, famed Art Nouveau designer, will do the trick.

The Internet Archive version also has a version of Mongrams & Ciphers, if you'd prefer a PDF. The Archive is also the place if you're interested in older letter designs:

-Samuel Sympson's New Book of Cyphers (1750) twines the alphabet into 600 ornate medallions.
-If Sympson's not ornate enough for you, you might prefer M. Mavelot's Book of Cyphers in Double Strokes (1685).
-If you want something more sleeky Teutonic, here's Alexander's Koch's 600 Monograms and Signs (1920)
-And here's a bunch of historical French monograms. (Francis I apparently never found an F he could be entirely happy with.)
posted by Iridic (23 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't know I needed a monogram but if I can get something like the Turbayne, I may need to reconsider my position on that. (The others are nice at first glance, but I swoon for the Nouveau.)
posted by immlass at 2:22 PM on November 10, 2014

This is fantastic, thanks! Now I'm thinking of changing my name (or at least adopting some new internet handles) to make use of some of these.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:24 PM on November 10, 2014

!!! These are amazing!
posted by fermezporte at 2:27 PM on November 10, 2014

Well, sir, there's nothin' on earth like a genuine bona-fide electrified Nouveau monogram! What'd I say?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:40 PM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

What's the current status of monograms? Last time I checked they where still seen as ever so tacky ( and ring the resale value of an object) but I also think I'm seeing more and more monogram options available on more things?
posted by The Whelk at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2014

posted by threecheesetrees at 2:54 PM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Having your initials monogrammed on a sweater was a THING. When I was young, and it's back: decals on cars, tote bags and I saw someone with monogrammed boots yesterday ..... I still have a couple of pewter bracelets with my maiden name initials that I regularly wear.
But none of that monogrammed stuff comes close to these!
posted by mightshould at 3:00 PM on November 10, 2014

the amazing full title of the linked cypher book is:

"A NEW BOOK OF CYPHERS, More Compleat & Regular than any ever Publish'd. WHEREIN The whole Alphabet (twice over) Consisting of 600 Cyphers, Is variously Chang'd, interwoven & revers'd. Very Entertaining to ye Curious, & useful to all sorts of ARTIFICERS."
posted by mustardayonnaise at 3:14 PM on November 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Ok. Somehow or another I got thinking about the history of the monogram during my commute home. Then I come to the blue and see this.

AND IT DOESN'T answer my question! :sadface:

Who's terrible idea was it to put the last initial in the middle of a three-letter personal monogram?

Otherwise, yes, a lovely post and lots of fantastic typographical art.
posted by jefflowrey at 3:35 PM on November 10, 2014

I have to decide on a small-scale metalworking project like, tomorrow. This is awesome.
posted by nev at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2014

The Turbaynes are at a nice enough resolution that I could vectorize them and splat them out on my pen plotter.
posted by scruss at 3:51 PM on November 10, 2014

Extra points for the post title.
posted by psoas at 4:03 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mono - d'oh!

I as well am not a fan of the last-initial-in-the-middle monogram. It turns my IFL into ILF. Beautiful examples, though.

(Also, I just found out that my husband has never seen the Monorail episode. What did I marry?)
posted by ilana at 4:05 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just realized I named my daughter ET. My bad, kiddo.
posted by lydhre at 4:20 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's odd -- I expected to really like those -- I very much enjoy purely or mostly abstract geometric designs in those styles.

However, I found so many of the intertwining-letter designs stripped the elements of, well, their "letterness" that I was bothered to an extent that really surprised me. I reacted curiously vehemently to the designs in which either the letters were so stylized they were impossible to make out or in which superposition had rendered the ordering of the letters un-deducible..

So.. A for Aesthetics, I guess, but (unreadable curvy glyph) for Legibility.
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:37 PM on November 10, 2014

Who's terrible idea was it to put the last initial in the middle of a three-letter personal monogram?

Traditionally a young lady would embroidery linens for her hope chest. Since she usually started sewing linens for her hope chest years before meeting her husband, there was no way to know the final monogram. Therefore the young lady would embroider her first initial, leaving a space for the last name initial, embroider her last name initial. When she married, her husbands larger last name initial would then be embroidered between the two smaller initials.
posted by JujuB at 8:36 PM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

My favourite example of the art, JS Bach's. I look forward to browsing these later. Thanks, Iridic!
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 8:45 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Towards the very end of the main link, the examples for Christ, Mary etc. look like some kind of proto-wild-style graffiti. Kind of amazing, to me.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:39 PM on November 10, 2014

One of my favourites, because it's connected to so many wonderful things, is that of Albrecht Durer, which is a logo fully the equal of any you care to name. It just does its job so well.
posted by Devonian at 6:43 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Totally disagreeing with The Whelk the monograms are or have ever been tacky.

However: it does give parents another "is this name going to embarrass my child?" thing to consider. My cousin is about to name her baby something that will result in sTd - I really feel like someone should tell her before it's too late, but it's certainly not going to be me.
posted by naoko at 8:56 AM on November 11, 2014

I love the resonance between these ciphers, especially toward the end of the book, and the quasi-illegible wildestyle graf. They'd be fun to color with markers to make them look like bomb murals.
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 PM on November 11, 2014

What's with Project Gutenberg (viz. the link "1200 gorgeous public domain examples" and anything else there other than the front page) rejecting me with a 403 error? Is anyone else falling in that hole? Chrome, Firefox and IE all get the same treatment. Do I have to find a copy of Lynx? The message says not to use "anonymizers, open proxies, VPNs, or TOR" etc., but I'm not! I'm just a regular Comcast internet user.
posted by anadem at 8:57 PM on November 11, 2014

Lovely, what a gift. Best of the web, thank you.
posted by glasseyes at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2014

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