Centennial Script was designed and cut by Hermann Ihlenburg in 1876 (the centennial of American independence, hence the typeface’s name) for the MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan foundry in Philadelphia. Ihlenburg was then only 33 years old, and these beautiful forms put him on his way to become the most prolific and innovative deco, ornamental and script typeface designer and punch cutter of the nineteenth century.
In trying to be a true homage to the history of the new world, Centennial Script transcends its then-contemporary deco fashion to embrace script elements historically similar to lettering found on maps or political documents of the 18th century. Letters like the p and s extend themselves high and mighty to accentuate words and lines of text in a fancy hand-drawn manner. The dots on the i and j are those of a careful scribe who acknowledges the importance of the document being lettered. The lowercase letters connect with two slight angular motions of the hand, also very carefully and elegantly. Even the ligatures and ending swashes Ihlenburg made for this face were reminiscent of a mapmaker’s patient hand, though Ihlenburg’s elegant touch in them cannot be mistaken.
Although Centennial Script was one of the few Ihlenburg faces to make it to film type technology, the transition was neither credited nor faultless. The film type version was a bit sloppy in the way the connectors were made, so the lowercase needed a lot of manual work to typeset properly. To alleviate such waste of time for the user of this digital version, the connectors were redrawn according to the original metal ones made by Ihlenburg himself, and tested thoroughly in print to ensure the quality of the typeface’s flowing cursive nature. This wasn’t an easy task, and very time-consuming, since the changing angles on both ends of the connection made it impossible to escape from having to build every lowercase letter with both left and right connectors that would fit with the rest of the letters. This is one typeface that couldn’t be revived in any other manner than the way it was originally made, regardless of more than 130 years of technological advances since the face was designed.
Centennial Script comes in all popular font formats, and supports most Latin-based languages. Also included is an Alts fonts that contains alternates, ligatures, snap-on swash endings, some ornaments, as well as a complete set of the lowercase without left side connectors, for a more natural combination when following a majuscule, or just in case the user finds it fit to set the copy in a non-connecting script instead of the face’s original connected flow.
Centennial Script Pro, the OpenType version, combines the main font with the Alts font in a feature-packed single font. Use the ligature feature to set wordmarks like Mr, Ms, Mrs, Dr, and &Co, the stylistic alternates feature to replace some letters with their alternative forms, the contextual alternates feature for better uppercase-lowercase sequences, and the titling feature to set your text in a disconnected script.
Centennial Script is the only script we currently know of that can be set connected or disconnected simultaneously, either using the titling feature in the OpenType Pro version, or manually in the other formats.