The History of Fonts with Timeline.JS


The Timeline!

Access the Timeline of Font History

Curious about how I made this? Check out timeline.js


One of the most interesting things about archives is the temporal nature of the collections. There’s a cardinality to the story that we tell with artifacts and resources in individual collections. The timeline project really brought home the process of putting items in context, to document the progression from an archivists’ perspective.

For this task, I pulled together some basic information about the history of fonts and their use in publications. Some of this information came from the History of Books course at San Jose State University. Other pieces of information came from my personal interest and web searches. This timeline shows the progression of fonts, and how quickly the field has really grown. If you look at the beginning of the timeline, there is limited information, and only a few fonts being created. Once you hit the 1700s (the transition period) and later, the number of fonts really increases. The stories of the creators begin to get more interesting, and the “plot thickens.” For example, until you start to dig a little, you would never know that Times New Roman was designed by a critic who complained about the font used in a Newspaper. Add to that the fact that the “Times Roman” font was basically created by licensing wars, and you have quite a story!

I found myself exploring various features of the timeline.js tool. I wanted to know how to change colors, adjust the order, and do things like change the colors on the year bar at the top of the page. I explored what “Groups” meant, and how to incorporate HTML into things like descriptions and titles. The tool is quite powerful – with just some basic configuration within a Google Sheet, I could develop a fully featured timeline!

It is always a challenge to boil down a significant collection of information into a relatively short timeline. That tends to be one of the most difficult tasks. I found myself discovering all kinds of information that I wanted to include. I did look for more of a mechanism to incorporate formal citations within the timeline. I instead utilized links out to source content where possible.

There were a variety of resources that I used for the project. The references listing below includes a full listing of the formal resources. In addition, I used a standard HTML code chart ( to select the background colors for each of the entries in the timeline.

Overall, this was a very interesting assignment! I explored a variety of features of timeline.js, and can really see how this would be useful! I’m even thinking of ways I can use this in my professional work.


References Used

P. (n.d.). [Helvetica Font Poster]. Retrieved April 15, 2018, from

A Brief History of Times New Roman. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2018, from

A Brief History of Type. (2015, June 13). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Adobe Caslon™ Font Family Typeface Story. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Arial Font [Download]. (2016, November 22). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from
(2013, April 28). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Boone, A. R. (n.d.). TYPE BY GOUDY – Popular Science (Apr, 1942). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Britannica, T. E. (2014, December 16). William Caslon. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Creative, A. (2014, July 03). A Brief History of Typography. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Crum, M. (2014, March 13). The Incredible Histories Of Your Favorite Fonts. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Crum, M. (2017, April 10). The Wild History Of One Of Our Most Popular Fonts. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Family Classifications of Type: Transitional. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Google Fonts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Harding, M. (2017, August 21). What Are Grotesque Fonts? History, Inspiration and Examples. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Heidelbach, W. (2014, May 19). [Moveable Type]. Retrieved April 15, 2018, from

Hustwit, G. (Director). (2007). Helvetica [Motion picture]. United States: NewVideo.

Helvetica (2007). (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Hustwit, G. (n.d.). [The Helvetica Film Poster]. Retrieved April 15, 2018, from

Italic vs. Cursive. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Italics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Nealon, T. (2014, September 17). How a Frenchman Who Lived Nearly 600 Years Ago Created One of the World’s Great Typefaces. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Olson, K. (2013, May 9). Typeface Comparison. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

S. (2009). Periodic Table of Typefaces. Retrieved April 15, 2018, from

Prisco, J. (2017, August 15). The game-changing design made to go unnoticed. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Yau, C. (2009, June 17). Know your type: Futura. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

Yau, C. (2010, October 26). Know your type: Baskerville. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from


Introduction to Archives

Archive material is a fabulous starting point – individual documents are like signposted roads, heading to a variety of intriguing possibilities.
― Sara Sheridan

Let’s take a few minutes to think back over the last 24 hours. Did you write any notes? Send any emails? Take any photos? Sign any documents? Create any artistic doodles or drawings? Document any official records of a work task or personal achievement?

Imagine if a researcher, 100 years from now, was interested in understanding more about you. They would potentially be interested in your answers to each of these questions and more. They would use this information to recreate your life for the last 24 hours. A library archivist works through the answers to these types of questions and works to preserve the items that would paint a picture. Think of an archivist as an academic professional who is working to recreate a picture of a specific time, place, person or project. They use physical and digital items to characterize something specific. The goal is not to interpret these items and activities – merely to document them!

In practical terms, this means an archivist identifies the items that would be most effective at painting a picture. They then work to completely describe each item (or group of items) that is selected for saving long-term. All the while, the archivist is constantly working to make sure the picture and all of its parts, are available for decades to come. This could mean working in climate controlled spaces, or protecting the physical embodiment of the item. When you really think about it, that introduces some complexity. One hundred years ago, we didn’t even have computers. Now, we all think about saving things long term as making them digital. Speaking of which, what exactly does digital mean? At one point in time, the general public used a tool called WordPerfect. Now, that software is a long-distant memory. The archivist uses best practices to ensure that items created today, with today’s tools and techniques, will still be accessible years from now. Each piece of the painting is important – and each piece has to be processed and prepared for long term access and use.

Of course, the archivist doesn’t want to hoard the picture they’re painting. The goal is to make the picture interesting, findable, and understandable. Let’s take each one of those individually. The collection of items was pulled together because they tell a story. That story could be about an individual’s life (i.e. personal papers), a specific project (i.e. medical research), a company (i.e. records, output, and marketing for an organization), or a time (i.e. the turn of the century). That story is the glue that holds the collection together – and it’s the key to making the archive interesting! Archivists tell that story, and they use the archives to engage others with the story.

Archivists also make the collection findable. This could mean a website that Google knows about. Additionally, it will likely involve partnering with other libraries and archives to share information about the particular items an archivist is preserving. It could mean working with the press to get the story out. Perhaps it means hosting events or marketing the story to the general public. Not only does this help a wider audience know about the collection, but it helps the archivist raise funding or collect additional resources to keep the archives running well.

The third goal was to make the picture understandable. For an archivist, this means providing context for an individual piece of the picture. Perhaps there’s a picture of folks enjoying a day on the beach. The archivist can make this picture more understandable by saying when the picture was taken, where it was taken, who was at the beach, and describing how this is a part of the story. Take that same photo, and show it to a conservationist. They will see not only the people in the photo, but the erosion of the coast, the birds flying in the air, and and the basic level of the ocean. Some of the same context is vital, but it is used in different ways by different researchers. In technical terms, this context is called metadata – and it is published on websites and in other systems. The metadata describes not only what the item is, but how it came to be in the archive and the history of ownership or stewardship. All of this context is crafted carefully, so computer systems and individuals can find, read and understand the story.

Archives really exist to tell the stories. The archivist works to make those stories available so that researchers can connect the potential of the future with the lessons and experience of the past. Archivists provide access, make the picture understandable through well-formed context, and helps others find pieces of the picture that tell the story. Each piece has value in its own right, but taken as a whole, the picture presents an irreplaceable resource that the archivist ensures will be available for generations to come.

When you visit the archive, you will begin your exploration of the materials by talking with an archivist. Through the conversation, the archivist looks to identify what you might actually benefit from seeing (i.e. the parts of the picture that would be most fulfilling), and then the archivist works with the archive staff to ensure you view the items. All the while, the archivist and archive staff would work to verify that future researchers could have access to those same items in the same order.

This is really the exciting part, because it’s during this process of viewing the items that you get to see the picture the archivist has created. You’ll probably use the documentation to make interpretations! This is where your input and expertise is invaluable to the archivist. You can share your findings with them. Let them know the additional pieces of the picture that you’ve found. Describe how this picture is a part of your research project, and share your publications with the archivist. This type of information sharing just might help the archivist begin to craft the picture of your life and the work you are completing!

Ted Carlson Papers – Scope and Content Note & Container List

OK, the next element of the Ted Carlson Papers finding aid is the Scope and Content Note and the Container List. This is a little unique, because I have been working on digital scans of the original artifacts. Note that I’ll also be working to refine the earlier elements of the finding aid, to make this as effective as possible. Watch for more info on that…

Scope & Content Note

The Ted Carlson Papers, dated 1943-1949, contains personal letters, records of Carlson’s higher education and early professional career, and official documents related to his military service. Correspondence to and from Ted Carlson comprise a majority of the material. The letters depict the life of a university student, professional and serviceman during this period. Official military records portray the experiences of a chemist and member of the Manhattan Project.

Container List

Series I: Correspondence with Family (1944-1949) – This series includes letters received from and addressed to Ted Carlson’s parents. The letters contain personal reflections, details from each of their lives, and information about Ted’s educational and professional experiences. In addition, Ted shares his experiences in the Manhattan project along with how those experiences shaped his personal and political views.

Series II:  Correspondence with Friends and Colleagues (1943-1945) – In the correspondence with friends and colleagues series are letters exchanged with Rog, Bob, Sam and Arvid. These letters details the movements of the individuals, and their daily experiences. These individuals were introduced in either educational settings or through the military service.

Series III: Education and Career (1944-1946) – This series contains correspondence with administrators at Wesleyan University and Iowa State University, regarding admission and graduation. There is a professional newsletter that includes writing about Ted Carlson’s political activity. Additionally, there is a variety of pragmatic documents, including an ID card from Iowa State University, a timecard from Iowa State University, and an employee inter-plant pass.

Series IV: Military Service (1944-1946)- This series contains a variety of official documents related to Ted Carlson’s military service. Included in this series are official orders, various service-member passes, verification of services, and correspondence requesting clarification of policies or discharge.

Ted Carlson Papers – Abstract and Description

This is the first post in a series focused on a new project! The Ted Carlson Papers are a collection of documents that I will be exploring as part of the Archives and Manuscript course!


For this first step, I was given a set of 71 PDFs, and asked to pull together an abstract and description, which will eventually be incorporated into the EAD (encoded archival description).

The trick… I was not allowed to do any outside searching. The abstract and description that are included below came only from my scouring the 71 documents! I have to admit that as I was looking through the collection, I was very curious about the whole story. I felt like I had only part of the story… and I definitely wanted to know more!


The collection is comprised primarily of personal letters to and from Eric T. Carlson (a.k.a. Ted Carlson), a chemist who worked on atomic energy during World War II. During the time covered by the collection (February, 1943 – December, 1949), Carlson was affiliated with Wesleyan University, Iowa State University, Cornell University, the Manhattan District and Monsanto Chemical Company.


In 1943, Eric T. [Ted] Carlson was planning his future. He had applied to medical school and was completing his studies in Chemistry at Wesleyan University. The Ted Carlson Papers highlight the struggle of an academic, who tried to obtain a deferment from military service. Just one month after his graduation from Wesleyan University, Ted was ordered to report for service. He successfully avoided joining the army until July, 1944 when he received an order to report for induction in Aimes, Iowa. Ted had been working as a graduate student at Iowa State University.

During Ted’s time in the Army, he continued to correspond with his parents and friends. The letters provide insights into life as a researcher in the military. Ted shares his political insights, his experiences with friends in social situations, and he talks of his stamp collection, among other topics.

Ted’s skills as a chemist were deployed in the “Manhattan District.” Readers are given a glimpse into a scientists view of the atomic bomb research. He believes the atomic research should be a deterrent for war, and hopes the bomb will cause humanity to walk away from war for good.


Archives are the Future

The appointment was officially set – I was very excited! I had been to Sherman Gardens many times, and I had even seen the library sign. I was intrigued by the library, but I never seemed to be in the neighborhood when the libraries were open. That’s a mistake I hope to mitigate in the future!

At the appointed time, I rang the doorbell at the entrance, and sneaked a peak through the open window in the top of the door. To my surprise, I could see a beautiful courtyard, surrounded by offices and what appeared to be the library stacks. When the door opened (actually, when the two doors opened), I was greeted by a welcoming woman who acknowledged my appointment and invited us in. The interior of the building is no less beautiful. My eyes were immediately drawn to the old banker-style desks, which were ironically equipped with modern computers. I spotted a set of wooden library catalogs, tables and chairs poised to accommodate readers and researchers. In the midst of this, I saw exhibit cases filled with historical artifacts that were carefully preserved and selected for display.

The library was built effectively around the courtyard. This architecture allowed natural light in (although not directly on the collections), which made the library feel very welcoming. The configuration of the building allowed for a reading room, staff offices, collections, and a conference room. The next step in the tour was an introduction to the life and legacy of Moses Hazelton Sherman (the library’s namesake, 1853 – 1932), Arnold Haskell (the library founder, 1895-1977), and the Sherman family. The amazing story spans education, banking, real estate, mining, water rights, railroads, militia, and much more. Sherman’s professional adventures took him and his family to Vermont, New York, Arizona, Nevada, California and Hawaii. The coincidences of history placed “General Sherman” in the midst of the Los Angeles Water Wars, Hollywoodland sign, LA Pacific Railroad, San Francisco earthquake, and Sherman Oaks.

The archival collections are vast. They include artifacts related to the life and work of General Shermann, Arnold Haskell, and Otto Freeman Brandt (Bernal, 2016). This is only the beginning of the archive, which covers the history of the Pacific Southwest (Sherman Library Collections and Guide). The archives are open to the public. The audience is primarily historians and individuals interested in the history of General Sherman, Arnold Haskell, Otto Freeman Brandt, or the local area. It is clear that the library provides programming for younger children as well, as witnessed by the gnome garden and children’s reading area.

The library and archives are a stand-alone organization related to the Friends of the Sherman Library and Gardens. Arnold Haskell and General Sherman’s two daughters created the foundation after General Sherman passed away. Originally called a cultural center, the Sherman Library was opened in 1966. This impressive library currently is staffed by three individuals – a director, librarian, and one additional staff member. In addition, volunteers support both the gardens and archives.

A vast majority of the collection was originally acquired through the work of Arnold Haskell. As the secretary for General Sherman, Haskell had access to all professional records and the extensive collection of print publications and artifacts. More recent acquisitions tend to be from collections of individuals who were affected by the life and work of General Sherman or Haskell. This introduces a bit of complexity in the preservation process. In some cases, the new records are exact copies. In some cases, a single transaction was recorded by an individual, and separately by an organization (i.e. for tax purposes). These records are not exact copies, but they do reflect the same information.

As the Guide to the Newport Beach Historical Collections in the Sherman Library indicates, there are a number of additional collections housed within the archive. There are historical maps, photographs, paintings, printed publications, personal papers, and a limited number of additional artifacts (i.e. clothing, silver pitchers, figurines, and more). Sherman Library staff also acquired a collection of historic photographs when the Newport Nautical Museum shuttered its doors. These photographs not only provided historical context, but they enhanced the impressive collection of art.

One of the most intriguing items I saw was a book of letters and correspondence curated by the author. To truly understand the value of this item, you must understand the process. An individual would purchase one of these books empty. They would then prepare the original document that is typed or written with water-soluble ink. When ready, they would take the empty book, moisten the back side of a page, place the document behind the moistened page, and press the book page onto the original document. An impression of the original document would then be added to the book. This becomes a mechanism for the original author to curate a collection of documents for long term archiving.

Like many archives, the Sherman Library faces resource challenges, both in terms of funding and staffing. The backlog of material that needs to be processed is significant. The unprocessed materials are carefully stored, but they must be carefully preserved and researched to ensure accurate metadata. The processing area is contained in the climate-controlled basement. As you walk down the stairs, you see beautiful pieces of framed, historic art.

The processing area is nearly full to capacity with materials that are boxed and organized into compact shelving. In addition, there are multiple map cases, stacks of rolled maps, blueprints and more. The processing space has a large table on which the staff work. They have access to a scanner, which is used to digitize materials based on archiving best practices. Perhaps the most interesting element of the processing area is a set of silver pitchers, which commemorates the significant contribution of General Sherman during the San Francisco earthquake. It is clear that there are treasures in this archive, and in the backlog of materials ready to be processed.

The Sherman Library archive is truly inspirational! Being in the physical space and exploring the collections brought an appreciation of the value of the archive, and the potential for individuals to make a difference. The Sherman Library is indeed a bridge between the storied past and the potential-rich present to build to an impressive future.


Bernal, V. (2016, May 04). Sherman Library and Gardens: Finding L.A. History in Newport Beach. Retrieved February 10, 2018, from

Guide to Newport Beach Historical Collections in Historical Collections in Sherman Library. (2016). Retrieved February 08, 2018, from

Library Archive Interview [Personal interview]. (2018, February 8).

Sherman Library Archival Collections. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2018, from

Additional Reading and Information

A Community Icon Turns 50: With a fascinating past and a revered present, Sherman Library and Gardens looks to the future

Online Archive of California (OAC): Sherman Library and Gardens

Russo, S. S. (2008). The library as place in California. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.
See Chapter 6: Sherman Library and Gardens