Piranesi's Initials - a source of modern sans serif typography, were identified on the Plan of Nero's Nimphum (Fig.II and Fig.III). They were engraved in 1756 for Le Antichit Romane Tom.I [Plate] XLI when his Roman architectural authority was under threat within the Grco-Roman debate of the mid eighteenth-century. By adding serifs to the E [1] he argued that the ancient Italians added serifs to the primitive Archaic Latin alphabet [2] which took 21 letters used in the ETRVSCAN alphabet. The process involved the unneeded Zeta [3] which was moved to the end of the alphabet, and was replaced with Gamma [4] created from an Etruscan C. Then, following Romes conquest of Greece the Grca Y [5] was added to Classical Latin. V was used for U and the medieval ligatured double V became double-u [6]. Eventually a curled minuscule j became J and V became U following the post-Renaissance convention where I and U we're used as vowels, and J and V as consonants [7].

 

Piranesi's Etruscan initials on his engraving of Nero's Ninfeo

 

Piranesi's Etruscan initials on his engraving of Nero's Ninfeo of 1756

 

These primitivist origins of our modernist Sans Serif types were presented at ATypI18 in Antwerp the leading international conference on typography and type design, alongside the new emfoundry proto-sans font ETRVSCA (fka. Fount1756). 

Piranesi's decorative [NER]ONIONIANA initial majuscules are included in the regular and bold weights of the ETRVSCA Sans font family. This alphabet deliberately represents a Latin 'G' derived from the Etruscan 'C' glyph.

 

Piranesi's initials Specimen

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Piranesi's Initials Specimen