Out of a lifelong inner struggle, Philip Bouwsma unleashes a masterpiece that reconciles classic calligraphy with type in a way never before attempted.
Maestro takes its cue from the Italian chancery cursive of the early sixteenth century. By this time type ruled the publishing world, but official court documents were still presented in calligraphy, in a new formal style of the high Renaissance that was integrated with Roman letters and matched the refined order of type. The copybooks of Arrighi and others, printed from engraved wood blocks, spread the Italian cancellaresca across Europe, but the medium was too clumsy and the size too small to show what was really happening in the stroke. Arrighi and others also made metal fonts that pushed type in the direction of calligraphy, but again the medium did not support the superb artistry of these masters or sustain the vitality in their work. As the elegant sensitive moving stroke of the broad pen was reduced to a static outline, the human quality, the variety and the excitement of a living act were lost. Because the high level of skill could not be reproduced, the broad pen was largely replaced by the pointed tool. The modern italic handwriting revival is based on a simplified model and does not approach the level of this formal calligraphy with its relationship to the Roman forms.
Maestro is the font that Arrighi and his colleagues would have made if they had had digital technology. Like the calligraphic system of the papal chancery on which it is modelled, it was not drawn as a single finished alphabet, but evolved from a confluence of script and Roman; the script is formalized by the Roman to stand proudly in a world of type. Maestro came together on screen over the course of several years, through many versions ranging widely in style, formality, width, slant, weight and other parameters. On one end of the spectrum, looking back to tradition it embodies the formal harmony of the Roman capitals and the minuscule which became the lower case. On the other it is a flowing script letter drawing on the spirit of later pointed pen and engravers scripts. As its original designers intended, it works with simple Roman capitals and serifs or swash capitals and baroque flourishes. The broad pen supplies weight and substance to the stroke which carries energy through tension in balanced s-curves. Above all it is meant to convey the life and motion of formal calligraphy as a worthy counterbalance to the stolid gravity of metal type.
The Maestro family consists of forty fonts distributed over two weights. The OpenType version compresses the family considerably down to two fonts, regular and bold, each containing the entire character set of twenty fonts, for a total of more than 3350 characters per font. These include a wide variety of stylistic alternates, ligatures, beginning and ending letters, flourishes, borders, rules, and other extras. The Pro version also includes extended linguistic support for Latin-based scripts (Western, Central and Eastern European, Baltic, Turkish, Welsh/Celtic, Maltese) as well as Greek.
For more thoughts on Maestro, its background and character sets, please read the PDF accompanying the family.