Manhole Monday: bitchin’ cover

Happy Manhole Monday! Over the weekend, I was tagged in a picture taken by Tobias Frere-Jones during his trip to Toronto. I try not to play favorites with covers but sometimes certain ones rise above. Case in point:Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 7.23.25 AM.pngWhen I first looked at this image, I noticed City of Toronto and 1889. That’s the year that this cover was made! The beautifully intertwined letters in the middle were a little bit tougher to decipher.

Side Note: It was made painfully clear to me that I can’t read elaborate lettering. Where did someone point this out to me? Oh, the BEST place possible…right after my presentation at TypeCon :/ One of the slides in my presentation highlighted the elaborate raised lettering found throughout the Yale campus and I was excited to point out my favorite find:bitchenWhen I took this picture, I was convinced this said ‘Bitchen’ and thought this was the most awesome thing because, I mean, LOOK AT IT! It IS Bitchen! Except wouldn’t it be spelled ‘bitchin’? And where is the apostrophe? But, who am I to argue with the spelling of concrete typography at Yale?! Right?! Fast forward to right after my TypeCon talk where I was graciously told ‘that image you were so excited about that said ‘bitchen’…yeah, that says’Kitchen’. Sigh.

So now, thanks to my eff up at TypeCon, whenever I see intricate and ornate lettering, I take my time and really study the letterforms to make sure I’m reading it right. When first looking at the letters on the cover Tobias sent, I thought it was TEBW because no B could possibly be THAT stretched out, right?!!3Wrong. That is in fact the letters TBW fully engaged in some serious action. TBW stands for Toronto Board of Water, a 19th century department of the City of Toronto. The W is so whimsical and dainty compared to the strong T and stretched out B.

Patrick Cummins made it a hobby to find similar covers around Toronto and has documented them here. He was surprised at just how many there are. On his page, he refers to TBW standing for Toronto Board of Works, a long ago predecessor to the “service cluster” now known simply as “Toronto Works.” He noticed that in many of the covers, the ‘f’ is missing in ‘City of Toronto’. Another interesting characteristic in his 100+ photos: they all have the date 1889. Must have been a bitchin’ year!

Thank you Tobias for taking this picture for me. If anyone reading this also obsesses enjoys taking pictures of manhole covers like I do, please tag me in your finds, I’d love to see them!


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