Introducing Albertus Nova, an iconic classic revived by Toshi Omagari for The Wolpe Collection

Sci-fi title cards, supermarket packaging, fashion logos and theatre posters… Albertus has had a long, and remarkably varied, life.

Commissioned by Stanley Morison and designed by Wolpe in 1932, the typeface’s stern, commanding appearance earned it a role in any environment where a strong voice was required. Wolpe modelled its flaring serifs on his time spent designing letters in bronze, which explains its uncompromising, chiselled appearance.

Albertus was the starting point for Toshi Omagari’s five-typeface Wolpe revival collection, which began when he discovered original drawings for the design – which Omagari describes as breaking a lot of typeface conventions. Albertus’s upper case M has middle strokes that descend only part way, not reaching the baseline, while the uppercase U has a stem on the right-hand side.

Using the original sketches, Omagari was able to restore some of the designer’s original intentions – such as the flared elements that Wolpe had to compromise on as a result of the limitations of technology of the time.

Perhaps one of Wolpe’s best-known creations, Albertus is familiar to many designers for its use on signage for the City of London – adopted to create a strong identity during the city’s post-war rebuilding.

In honour of Wolpe’s time in London’s Stockwell, design studio Atelier Works also used the typeface for street signs in the borough, as part of a regeneration initiative.

Other uses – many of which have become iconic for the design community – include an entire range of packaging for British supermarket Sainsbury’s in the 1950s, and as a logotype for luxury fashion brand Loewe in 2014, designed by studio M/M Paris.

Its natural authority also earned it a home in the cultural sphere, used by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on posters for its 2006 season, in almost all of film director John Carpenter’s movies, and extensively in cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner – where it appeared on everything from signs, posters and maps to food labelling and newspapers.

However its perhaps best-known for its literary uses, particularly by Faber & Faber – whom Wolpe designed more than 1,500 covers for.

“Typefaces evolve, like language,” says Omagari. “If you want to keep Albertus relevant, you have to make it evolve.”

The Wolpe Exhibition at The Type Archive, London, is open to the public until Monday 4 December and is free to visit. For opening times and more information click here.

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