Pushing the Envelope

Sifting through my late Grandmother’s scrap-books, I found this set of Pharmaceutical envelopes from the Victorian/Edwardian era. They were collected by her uncle (so that’s my Great-great Uncle) Thomas Lewis, who was a Chemist in Pembrokeshire, Edinburgh, and London.

Pharmaceutical Chemists, by appointment to her majesty and to HRH the Princess of Wales, At their dispensing establishment, 177 Regent Street

The two things I enjoy about these designs are the innocent and polite text, and the use of typography. One would think that employing several different typefaces would look odd and discordant, but the combination of stencil, gothic, serif and sans-serif faces somehow seems to work. I’m reminded of the illustrator Kevin Cornell’s work, which is unsurprising really – He has an obvious affinity with this era.

Walker & Son, Member and Associate of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

I’ve added these images to Flickr with a ‘Public Domain’ creative commons license.

A Greenall, Dispensing Chemist, 38 South Road, Waterloo, Telephone No. 3231

Later, I’ll add some more from Thomas Lewis’ scrap-book, including some early attempts at advertising copy.

F Glanvill Practical Chymist, 317 Fulham Road, West Brompton, London SW


A colleague, too busy or cowardly to post in the comments, thinks I may be viewing these items with rose-tinted goggles. What holds the designs together, he suggests, is the old, textured paper behind the typography, rather than a balance in the type itself.

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