Monday, August 10, 2009

Medieval Fonts: Judd Hall

Just a few feet south of Memorial Chapel, another building dominates Wesleyan University's campus. The Orange Judd Hal of Natural Science was built in 1870. The font used in its cornerstone shows slight variations from the font used in Memorial Chapel only a year or two earlier. Although Judd Hall's architectural language is completely Renaissance, its datestone carries a different sensibility. The simple bulky Civil War letters of 1868 have become more Victorian with redundant turns and wiggles at the corners. Note the extra concave curves pinching the numbers "8" and "0."
Judd Hall was one of the earliest buildings in the U.S. dedicated to science education. Undergraduate education through the early 19th century centered on Greek and Latin. Scientific education was considered to be a specialization and left for post-graduate studies. Wesleyan took the lead in 1843 by establishing a Bachelor's of Science. The New York Times reported on the buillding's dedication and quoted from the speeches (July 20, 1871). Judd Hall signaled a revolution in higher educaiton "to displace from their leading position in a course of instruction the ancient languages, especially the Greek." I found that highly amusing considering that my wife teaches Greek at Wesleyan's Classics Department.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States