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The genius of Father Catich is on full display here as he lectures about the creation of the Latin alphabet without the aid of any notes. It was a subject that he had researched and knew so well that he could explain the entire development in less than a half hour. This audio recording has been supplemented with images of him from various sources.

Audio recording courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Kansas City, MO

Photographs are courtesy of Hugh Tessendorf, Wichita, KS and St. Ambrose University archives, Davenport, IA.

Final voice-over by Paul P. Herrera

Father Edward M. Catich

Edward Michael Catich was born in Stevensville Montana on January 4, 1906. He was orphaned at age 12 and, with his three brothers, was moved to the Mooseheart orphanage near Aurora, Illinois. Following a sign-writing apprenticeship with Walter Heberling and graduating from Mooseheart in 1924, he worked as a union sign-writer and musician in Chicago and vicinity. He also attended the Art Insitute of Chicago for two and one half years.

Ned Catich enrolled at St. Ambrose College (Davenport, IA) in 1931 and graduated in 1934. He earned his M.A. in Art from the University of Iowa in 1935 and was awarded a four year scholarship to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy by the Diocese of Davenport that same year. He conducted intensive paleographic and epigraphic research while studying for the priesthood from 1935 until his ordination in December of 1938. His special fields of inquiry: Paleography and Archeology.

Reverend Catich returned to St. Ambrose College in 1939. He taught art, math, engineering, and music while establishing and expanding the Art Department as a permanent entity. Catich also published several books with his own Catfish Press which he operated from his studio. Through his research, he saw and formulated the kinesthetic linkage between the inscription letter making of Imperial Rome and his own familiar Chicago sign-writing.

Father Catich was president of the Catholic Art Association, staff consultant for Encyclopaedia Britannica – he designed EB’s corporate identity symbol and bicentennial medal – and was consultant for several nationally known architectural firms. His stone inscriptions have been exhibited in institutions throughout the country and are the permanent decor at Encyclopaedia Britannica’s corporate headquarters, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Reed College, the Morton Arboretum, Harvard University, and the George M. Bevier Library of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Engineering. Among his many awards and achievements, perhaps the best known was the Frederic W. Goudy Award which he received in 1976. Father Edward M. Catich died on April 14, 1979.

Reverend Edward Michael Catich remains the leading authority of the Imperial Roman letter as found at the Trajan Column in Rome, Italy. The Trajan Inscription has been generally regarded by paleographers, calligraphers and others interested in the letter arts as the finest example of the best period of Roman monumental lettering. It is accepted as the basic model of the Roman alphabet. Until Father Catich, the majority of the studies made of this inscription were not based on the original stone, but on reproductions of it which were in many ways misleading.

E. M. Catich began his intensive paleographic and epigraphic research throughout Europe and the Middle East in 1935 as he studied for the priesthood in Rome. After his ordination in December of 1938, he returned innumerable times over the course of his life to gather facts which he published in two major works; Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription (1961) and Origin of the Serif (1968). Both books were published by his own Catfish Press at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa where he was chairman of the Art Department. Father Catich did more than just write about the letters on the Trajan Inscription, he made an actual full-sized cast* directly from the monument itself. A feat that will, most likely, never be repeated.

Father Catich is well known as an author, stonecutter, calligrapher, photographer, musician, liturgical artist, historian and lecturer. He taught at St. Ambrose College (now University) for over forty years, to include the years he attended as an undergraduate student when he taught music. He taught Art at the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery an equal number of years and offered calligraphy workshops all across the country during his lifetime.

Young Ned Catich and his three brothers were orphaned and sent to the Mooseheart orphanage near Aurora, IL. 

Catich was a talented musician and served as an undergraduate band leader.

Father Catich attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy where he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on December 8, 1938.

Father Catich established himself as the foremost authority on the Imperial Roman alphabet.

Father Catich was an award winning artist and a dedicated teacher. In addition to his full-time duties at St. Ambrose, he taught at the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery and gave seminars in a multitude of cities across the United States.

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