Living in Edinburgh I see the name Playfair from time to time.
The Playfair Steps are on the footpath leading from Princes Street to Market Street at the top of the Mound. They are named in honour of the architect William Henry Playfair (1789 -1857).
Then there is the Playfair Building (often called Surgeons’s Hall) on Nicholson Street, up from North Bridge, that is part of Edinburgh University and the home of The Royal College of Surgeons.
I use Playfair Display typeface and I happened to be reading about the Scottish scientist and mathematician, John Playfair.
And that got me wondering.
The typeface was designed by Claus Eggars Sørensen, who describes it on his website ForTheHearts as follows:
An Open Source typeface family for display and titling use: Playfair is a transitional design. From the time of enlightenment in the late 18th century, the broad nib quills were replaced by pointed steel pens. This influenced typographical letterforms to become increasingly detached from the written ones. Developments in printing technology, ink and paper making, made it possible to print letterforms of high contrast and delicate hairlines.
I wondered how the typeface got its name, so I wrote to Mr Sørensen who designed the font, and asked him.
The naming of the Playfair typeface was indeed inspired by the Playfair brothers of Scotland. I was looking for a name from the era in which the transitional style of typefaces (to which Playfair Display belongs) was developed, and preferably from the with a Scottish connection since Playfair Display is inspired from the so called Scotch Roman style developed by printers in Scotland. With this in mind Playfair was both topical, evocative of the era, and free to use (important for an OpenSource product).
With kind regards,
About The Brothers Playfair
Both John Playfair (1748-1819) and his brother James Playfair (1755-1794) are buried in Calton Old Cemetery, which is in the centre of Edinburgh on the street leading from Princes Street to Calton Hill. In gilt lettering on the wooden plaque at the entrance, John is mentioned as one of the notables buried there.
Here is a link to the font on GitHub along with a photo of the designer, Claus Eggars Sorensen.