Monday, July 14, 2014

The Biggest Catch of Fish Lettering

Although several nice versions of this Prichard & Knoll trade card with novelty fish lettering were produced in the later 19th century, you might say they are now endangered. These two came from the same dealer and recently sold at auction for handsome sums. They are equally nice, however the first card has much finer detail held in the rainbow trout artwork and fish lettering. It was printed by Stahl & Jaeger Artistic Lithographers in NYC. The second card has the name reversed and several alternate letters, along with some clever wave-like handlettered text with flourishes below the fish which add to its appeal. They each have an eel ampersand. 
     Directly below is another unrelated trade card from 1871 with similar novelty lettering of fish. This particular card from Fisher Ice Boxes and Refrigerators of Chicago, found here, is sporting an amphibious eel for the letter S. Although this Fisher card is nowhere near as elaborate as the two above, the artist did provide some level of detail to the three-colored fish. I guess the imaginative art of fish lettering requires a fine line and some reel angling, just like fishing.

The art of fish lettering actually goes back much further than I had ever imagined. To track its amphibious influences required some further fishing of my own. Much to my surprise, I discovered this decorated initial S from a 7th or 8th century manuscript. The scribe likely had fun creating this with the aid of a compass. 
     For a completely different take, there is this contemporary Golden Fish alphabet created with goldfish tails by Lauren Nash

Dutch designer Monique Goossens uses actual fish called "sprats" to create her amphibious alphabet. And a bolder version you might want to wrap in newspaper from Handmade Font. Refrigerate after serving.



  1. I misread your description of the 3rd piece to include an "ambitious" eel. Ha. These are amazing, but I keep imagining a fishy smell.

  2. I always enjoy your blog so much! Thank you.


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