Linn Konserven-Gläser invoice, 1935
Before Lucida, there was Lucina. This reversed all-caps face is a companion to Erbar-Grotesk, and was part of the initial release in 1926. It comes in two weights and comprises a number of decorative border elements. In this exemplary use, the sorts have been playfully arranged to form a ribbon. Note the angled double hyphen, a remnant of blackletter convention, and the two forms of ‘S’. The “LINN” logo above is not a typeface. It may have been made with brass rules, but I don’t know for sure — if you have any leads, please let me know. All other type below is set in a few styles from Reform-Grotesk, a large sans serif family cast by Stempel (later known as Information by Klingspor).
Jakob Erbar’s Lucina was the first negative typeface issued by a German foundry in the interwar years. In fact, the only other entry for this genre in Seemann’s Handbuch der Schriftarten, a compendium that lists the vast majority of German metal typefaces available in 1926, is the whimsical Radium (1905) — which clearly belongs to a former period. Beyond that, there were several sets of decorated initials — including one designed by Erbar to accompany his Erbar-Mediaeval (1913) — but those served a different purpose, and were not intended to be used in words. Lucina hit the zeitgeist, though, and kicked off a trend: Soon after, several modern reversed typefaces were released. Schelter & Giesecke made Baustein-Grotesk (1928). Schriftguss went all in with Schaefer-Versalien (1927), Cito-Versalien (1930), Super-Blickfang-Initialen (1932), Minister-Kreis-Versalien (1933). In 1935, Monotype jumped on the bandwagon and added Cameo styles to the Gill Sans series.
In letterpress printing, white-on-black typefaces were the only direct way to set inverted text. Digital typography offers a lot more options, and yet there is a case to be made for cameo fonts today. It still is easier to simply access a ready-made glyph than to fiddle with two layers. Nowadays, white-on-black glyphs are sometimes featured in fonts made for information-dense work. Such fonts typically have various monospaced container forms (squares, circles, diamonds and more) and can be used for labeling maps or charts. Prime examples include Whitney Index, Greta Symbol, Ceremony, or the less demure Totem Cameo. Negative circled and squared caps are even defined as distinct characters in Unicode, and can be found as such in some symbol and CJK fonts.
The Linn company was founded in 1924 by Wilhelm Linn and his son in Arnstadt, Thuringia, and became quickly known for their seamless preserving jars. In 1944, during the last year of Nazi reign, the owners were put on trial for hoarding goods, and sentenced to five years in prison. In addition to a 100,000 RM fine, goods worth 400,000 RM were confiscated for the German Reich [Reinhold] After the war, the business was successfully re-established in Kulmbach, Bavaria. Today the Linn GmbH is part of the Unimet Group.