The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

This is the title card for the first series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations for British TV, produced by Granada Television between 1984 and 1994. The series was broadcast on the ITV network and starred Jeremy Brett, whose portrayal remains very popular and is accepted by some as the definitive on-screen version of Sherlock Holmes, although others find his performance mannered and pretentious.

Two fonts are used for the title cards. The upper one is MGB Patrician, which also goes under the names Mazama, Aegina, Opti Protea, or Verve. The lower one is called Rubens, alternatively known as Ravenscroft or Mansion.

Conan Doyle’s Holmes was keenly interested in typefaces and font identification. It was, for him, a professional forensic tool that provided facts for his theorising:

“The detection of types is one of the most elementary branches of knowledge to the special expert in crime, though I confess that once when I was very young I confused the Leeds Mercury with the Western Morning News. But a Times leader is entirely distinctive, and these words could have been taken from nothing else.” (The Hound of the Baskervilles)

and he had written a monograph in which he explains how to recognise a compositor by looking at the left thumb:

“Here, too, is a curious little work upon the influence of a trade upon the form of the hand, with lithotypes of the hands of slaters, sailors, corkcutters, compositors, weavers, and diamond-polishers. That is a matter of great practical interest to the scientific detective—especially in cases of unclaimed bodies, or in discovering the antecedents of criminals.” (The Sign of Four)

Holmes presumably can spot any hardened skin or calluses that could form as a result of a typesetter constantly gripping the composing stick.

Would the great fictional detective be up to the task of assigning the correct names to these two fonts? We have, at least, a date—1984—which allows us to rule out some of the more recent digitized versions. After all, “when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” (The Sign of Four)

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