Interview with Our Font & Layout Designer

October 6, 2016 in Interview, Interviews, Reports, Uncategorized

Logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (colour version)Logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence in Monochrome VersionInterviews:  Number 1

Here we begin a Series of Interviews with people involved in the origins, formation, development, and life of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence.

First comes an interview with our Font & Layout Designer, Leslie J. French.

with the Font and Layout Designer
for the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence

"Bembino" Booklet CoverIn recording the origins, history, and progress of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (= “RGME”), we conduct interviews with people involved in these stages.

I invited our expert Font and Layout Designer, Dr. Leslie J. French, to describe the directions in the creation of the distinctive style of Research Group page-layout and Publications. His digital designs for the Research Group begin at the beginning, with our logo and very first letterhead.  They extend throughout our publications, from pages and posters to booklets and books, including our copyright multilingual font Bembino.

Starting with this:

Question. What were the steps through which our design approach developed?

Taking it from the top, Leslie took its explorations from there, with a few more questions along the way.  Having participated in parts of the processes of design, and continuing to learn much from them, I could mention, as an easy prompt, some elements deserving recollection within the evolution.

Cover for the Report on 'Two Detached Manuscript Leaves containing New Testament Texts in Old Armenian' by Leslie J. French for the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, with a detail of Leaf I verso, column a lines 10-12, with the opening of Acts 23:12We present the interview here in the form of a printed and printable booklet.  Naturally it employs our own Research Group copyright font, and its design and layout correspond with the principles of our Style Manifesto.  Like very many of our Publications — including this website and also Bembino — it is freely available.

Below, you can download the Interview in PDF.  First, as the interviewer, I offer a few illustrated remarks to set the scene.

This method of presentation is similar to that chosen for Leslie’s Report on some New Testament Leaves in Old Armenian, with my illustrated blogpost introducing his downloadable Booklet.

[Published on 5 October 2016]

Through the Years

Since the beginnings of the Research Group (1989–), while we were based at the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (to 1994), and beyond, in our years based in the United States (1994–), Leslie has designed very many of our Publications, including our

and many other materials.  All this work is donated, for which we feel fortunate indeed.

The amount of the donated work over the years is truly impressive.  The quality of the work is remarkably outstanding.  The results speak for themselves.  If you have suggestions for how to make them better, please let us know.  If this scale of donations inspires you to offer any contributions, let us say that it would be welcome.  Some people seem to think (and some people even go so far as to say) that we must run on air.  Bread and water would be good, too.

If you feel inspired to contribute to our cause, whether by funds and/or in kind (materials, supplies, expertise), we would welcome your donations as a nonprofit educational corporation.  As additional incentive, we



The first page of the 'Style Manifesto' of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence in the version of October 1999

Version of October 1999, Page 1

Page 1 of the 'Style Manifesto' of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence in the version of April 2014 (4 pages)

Version of April 2015, Page 1

The extent of Leslie’s contributions to, and support for, our work and mission is outstanding as well as long-standing.  Even through the long, thin, isolated years.  The dedication to presenting our publications rigorously and impeccably in traditional and digital forms is through-going.

While the design, layout, and maintenance of the Research Group’s website (You Are Here) are the generous gift of our WebMaster, Jesse Hurlbut, and its contents and upkeep are the work of our WebEditor / Editor-in-Chief-of-Publications, Mildred Budny (Yours Truly), almost all the other Publications and ephemeral publications by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence are shaped or finally shaped by Leslie French, and sometimes they are also authored or co-authored by Leslie French.  We are fortunate to have his help, support, guidance, and expertise.

Yes, we repeat ourselves when expressing these thanks.  Some things deserve repeating.  Especially with Style.

Progress from Page to Page

The early series of Letterheads for the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence unfold in stages across the Invitation Letters for the First Series of Seminars and other scholarly meetings devoted to “The Evidence of Manuscripts” (1989–1994).

Invitation to 'Technical Literature' Seminar on 13 July 1991

Invitation Letter for Seminar on 13 July 1991

2002 Poster in monochrome for the 'Form and Order' Symposium at The British Museum.

Poster for 2002 British Museum Colloquium

Recently we have published on this website a series of reports and recollections of most of those meetings, as we examine more of the Research Group Archives and record our history and activities.  The recollections as part of that process provide glimpses with the benefit of Hindsight and some lessons learned along the way — including how to improve layout, and how to adapt to changing equipment, processes, and materials for the publication of words and images upon the page or screen.

Those reports of the intensive series of early meetings (listed here) now illustrate, and make available for download, the Invitation Letters in their evolution and circulation, along with the first of the Program Booklets for our Events.  It is instructive to observe the development across time, and with application, between those early Booklets and the most recent ones, as for Words & Deeds (March 2016) and the 2016 Congress.


Remember, as we mentioned, Leslie designed the layout of both the early “Profile” of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the five “Annual Reports” to the Leverhulme Trust.  Also the Style Manifesto. Posters. Booklets.  Etc. (Listed and downloadable among our Publications).  And more.

Sometimes these elements were co-designed or co-authored, with Mildred Budny and others involved in the specific activities (as with the Program Booklets, aided by our co-organizers, including Valerio Cappozzo and Florin Curta respectively for the Congresses of 2015 and 2016).

Front cover of the assembled booklet with the Profile of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the full set of 5 Annual Reports to the Leverhulme Trust, which funded the 5-year major Research Project

Cover for ‘Profile’ and ‘Annual Reports’

Cover for Preliminary Report of the January 1994 Workshop on 'Image Processing and Manuscript Studies'

Cover for ‘Report’ of the Workshop on 15 January 1994

Leslie is the designer of Bembino, our copyright multilingual digital font, generously donated to the Research Group and available freely for download and use here.  You see it in action on this page and across our current website.

Please feel free to use it and to give us your feedback and requests.


The Interview in Booklet Form

The Interview is published here as an 8-page illustrated Booklet:

Interview with our Font & Layout Designer (Booklet).

Please let us know your suggestions for the next stages and designs.  You could Contact Us or offer your Comments here.


More Interviews on the Way

More interviews are planned. They will appear here or elsewhere.

They may, for example, describe in-depth the layout challenges and choices for the 2-volume Illustrated Catalogue, or explore the pioneering aims of the Palaeographical and Textual Handbook.

Cover for "Selected Pages from Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A Palaeographical and Textual Handbook" by Mildred Budny, Leslie French et al.

Handbook Cover

Depiction number IX for Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 352, folio 30, by Leslie J. French

Handbook Depiction Number IX

For now, this Interview with our Font & Layout Designer gives the first-ever published sample of one of his Depictions for the Handbook.

Fittingly, the choice of which sample to show focuses upon a page in a beautiful 10th-century Boethius manuscript (this one, Number 20 in the Illustrated Catalogue), about which he has spoken for some of our  Seminars at the Parker Library and at some meetings elsewhere.  For example:


And so, here, we celebrate the many contributions by Leslie French to the mission, research, maintenance, and prospects of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, and we thank the donated website for the opportunity to publish and disseminate his Interview Booklet. All Good!

Booklet Page 1 of the 'Interview with our Font & Layout Designer' (2015-16)*****

An Interview with our Director

Another Interview can be heard on the air in the exceptional series hosted by Thomas Hill, Art Librarian at Vassar College: The Library Café.

On 22 October 2016, he will air the radio interview with Mildred Budny, our Director (Vassar, Class of ’71), following his invitation, in association with a college reunion. It records a happy occasion.

A few reflections about this occasion appear in our report of one of the early Seminars on “The Evidence of Manuscripts”:

Those reflections, inspired by the conversations with Tom, recall some formative moments, subjects for study, and instruction during undergraduate years at Vassar, as I first encountered some texts and authors whose work, and indeed whose handwriting, I could come to study closely at first hand in postgraduate and postdoctoral years of research in England.  It is a pleasure to recall some good learning experiences, with thanks to dedicated teachers.

Tom’s series for The Library Café includes many wonderful interviews, and we feel happy indeed to be included.


Gold stamp on blue cloth of the logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence. Detail from the front cover of Volume II of 'The Illustrated Catalogue'More on the Way

Meanwhile, with Leslie French, we prepare more in-house interviews or recollections about the design challenges and choices for the Illustrated Catalogue, the Palaeographical and Textual Handbook, and other aspects of Research Group Publications as they continue to evolve.

Watch this space!

—— Mildred Budny