archive for the ‘Typographically Speaking’ Category

Anatomy of a Typeface: The Ascent of Scotch Roman (continued)

The English typefounders, while accepting the novelty of the Didot-Bodoni types, exercised their own modifications of the pattern. On the whole, the English variations tended to retain the bracketed serifs and return to the roundness of the old style, which had been compressed in the Continental faces. Nevertheless, excesses due partially to competition among typefounders […]

Anatomy of a Typeface: The Ascent of Scotch Roman

In the present century, Scotch Roman appears to have been, like its fellow import, Scotch whiskey, and acquired taste. Certainly the evidence at hand indicates its fall from favor in the eyes of American typographers. It wasn’t always so. While admittedly the type never achieved the full acceptance of the Centaur-Lutetia private press set, it […]

Older Faces Hold Their Own In One Current Mag’s Ads

When looking over one of those fat pre-Christmas issues of The New Yorker, I was reminded of the stent I used to do a couple of dozen years ago, listing the types being used in the full-page ads of that publication along with several others. The idea was to keep current with the type styles […]

Designing Type Is Still an Art, Computerization Notwithstanding

Now there is a computer program said to be capable of producing a typeface, the implication being that the complexities of type design are accessible through computer programming. To back up that claim, the promoters of the system, Metafont, availed upon Hermann Zapf, best known of present-day type designers, for comment. Zapf is quoted to […]

Anatomy of a Type: Century—Part 3

Linn Boyd Benton has received credit in all accounts for the designing of the Century type. Presumably he enlisted the assistance of a number of punch cutters at ATF, although why any of them would have wanted to help him is beyond understanding, since some seven years earlier Benton had actually invented a device which […]

This Was Updike, Eminent Historian Of Printing Types—2

  Herein is the second part of a review of Daniel B. Updike’s Printing Types. In spite of the conservatism of its proprietor, as noted in the preceding part of this review, the Merrymount Press was one of the great printing establishments during the first four decades of this century, producing a volume of work […]

This Was Updike, Eminent Historian Of Printing Types—1

  “These volumes form the most important addition to the literature of typography which has appeared for many generations.” So began the review of a book written by an American printer and published in 1922 by Harvard University Press. The review appeared in the British typographical journal The Fleuron, Volume 1,1923, and was the work […]

T.M. Cleland: Outstanding American Typographer—II

About 1915 Cleland was commissioned to design all of the publicity material for the Locomobile Co., then producer of one of the country’s finest automobiles. Realizing the breadth of this assignment, the designer once again returned to practical printing, setting up a complete shop in which he could design and supervise every step of production. […]

T.M. Cleland: Outstanding American Typographer

The last of that triumvirate of creative American typographers who were born in 1880, and about whom I have been writing in this department, is Thomas Maitland Cleland—a man whose personality was completely at variance with that of either Carl Rollins or W.A. Dwiggins. Whereas Rollins brought to his work an almost evangelical persuasion, and […]

Rollins: Master Printer in the Best Tradition Of His Craft

  The year 1880 was certainly a prime one for 20th century American typography, and fortunately we are still feeling the effects. We could, in fact, use a few more years like it, for in that one calendar period William A Dwiggins, Thomas Maitland Cleland and Carl Purington Rollins were born, into homes in such […]

Anatomy of a Type: Parsons

I suppose that most old typos who have hung up their composing sticks—or are about to—revive in their memories from time to time certain type faces that arouse feelings of nostalgia for a less complicated era of typography. One type which puts me into that euphoric state is Parsons. And it’s back! Well, like the […]

Joseph Blumenthal, Fine Printer—Part 2

Recently I spent several hours with Joseph Blumenthal at his Connecticut hill-top home. I came away with many of my traditional typographic values intensified, and I must admit that in this respect my batteries needed recharging. Blumenthal, one of the fine American printers of our time, has completed The Printed Book in America, a project […]

Joseph Blumenthal, Fine Printer—Part 1

Over the past half-century, many distinguished printers have had their impact upon the typography of our times. Obviously a list of such figures would include Bruce Rogers, W.A. Dwiggins, T.M. Cleland, Frederic W. Goudy, etc. But they were primarily designers who were never content to settle down to the every-day routine of running a printing […]

William Morris: Crusader For Craftsmanship

About 85 years ago an Englishman named William Morris began to protest what he considered to be the dehumanizing effects of the 19th century automation of the printer’s craft on the esthetic sensibilities of individuals. Fortunately, printing happened to be one of the many crafts for which Morris had an affinity so things have never […]

The Prolific Career Of Morris Benton

I recently had the opportunity to read a very fine paper, written by David Ritter of Pittsburgh, on the contribution to American type design by the late Morris Benton. It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that Benton is pretty well forgotten by most printers, although he was unquestionably the most prolific type designer who […]

The Book Designer Who Was Bruce Rogers Part III

  Following the completion of The Centaur at the Montague Press in 1916, Bruce Rogers went to England to work with the renowned advisor to the Kelmscott and Doves Presses: Emery Walker. His only project before wartime conditions made fine printing a most difficult undertaking was the setting and printing of Albrecht Durer’s, Of the […]

The Book Designer Who Was Bruce Rogers Part II

  Continuing the chronicle of the activities of Mr. Bruce Rogers, most distinguished of American typographers, whose centenary is celebrated this year, it may be noted that he was frequently referred to in print with the appendage to his name of the respectful “Mr.” But this formality was softened by the universally applied “BR” for […]

The Book Designer Who Was Bruce Rogers

  The art of the book as practiced in the United States over the last 70 years has been advanced by several typographers and printers of notable reputation. But one stands apart from his fellows at the pinnacle of accomplishment and is recognized as the most distinguished book designer of the 20th century. Indeed, his […]

Beatrice Warde—Graphic Arts Champion

“Beware of pinning your typographic heart to a sheet of the calendar. Because when you tear the sheet off, your heart goes into the wastepaper basket. Never, in other words, pin your reputation to any decade, epoch, dawn, or period of time. It is better and far more durable to pin your heart and reputation […]

William A. Dwiggins: Master of Typography And Type Design

William Addison Dwiggins. Who? Why he was just a typographic tinkerer who said a lot of things: “What any given person knows about the graphic side of advertising is limited. There is no body of tested data relating to the subject.” “The end product of advertising is not printing—it is sales.” “What type does the […]

A Few Reflections On a Man Named Alfred A. Knopf

In a recent issue of New York Times Book Review, a writer was questioning the emergence of conglomerate ownership in the formerly preponderantly individualized book publishing business. Discussing this problem with an executive of one of the conglomerates (for example, Time Inc. owns the old Boston house—Little, Brown—and RCA owns Random House, Knopf, etc.) this […]

The Grabhorn Era—Fine Printing In the Far West

“It’s the end of an era.” Well, here is a statement made so frequently about so many events plaguing our civilization during the last 30 years that it has become a rather tired cliché. But, upon occasion, it is the only thing which can be said about occurrences that leave us at a loss for […]

Old Stand-By Faces Outlive the Trends

In a recent issue of the printing trade periodical, full-page advertisements use the following types for display: Cheltenham Bold Condensed News Gothic Franklin Gothic Bookman Cooper Black Kabel Bold Futura Heavy Century Bold Garamond Bold Caslon Bold So what is changed, typographically, in the last 40 years? All of these ads could have been said […]

Typographer’s View of Phototypesetting

Typographers who are apprehensive about the future of the conventionally-style letters which we call roman types may take some degree of comfort from the fact that most of the current crop of phototypesetting devices are producing the same types as the “hand comp” of an earlier era, albeit somewhat swifter, if not so skillful. The […]

New Technology And Typesetting

It is somewhat ironic that typesetting, last of the ancient craft skills of the printer to be automated, is now the first to lend itself to the various demands of the current models of Mr. Babbage’s calculating machine. And this notwithstanding the fact that typography has been notably served by printing historians of the century […]

Anatomy of a Type—Franklin Gothic

When the late Steve Watts was manager of the type foundry at ATF, he was fond of saying that while “types come and go, Franklin Gothic goes on forever”—which was just another way of reminding printers that the type was a perennial best seller. Franklin Gothic, over the past 60 years, has been one of […]

Skill in Spacing Acquired by Experience

Continuing the discussion of spacing begun last month, I offer a quotation from a paragraph written just 50 years ago. Ben Sherbow, an advertising man who carried the torch for good spacing, remarked that it was “probably the most difficult problem in type arrangement, and the last thing anyone ever learns to do well.” Just […]

Is There an Art To Spacing?

The traditional typographer might will answer this question in the affirmative. Certainly he would have centuries of accepted practices to back him up. Prior to the introduction of movable type, the calligraphers had brought to handwriting a remarkably well-developed sense of fitness in the spacing of letters and words. Naturally enough the early printers sought […]

Bodoni–the Anatomy of a Type, Part II

The 45 years which Giambattista Bodoni spent as director of the Stamperia Reale at Parma established him as one of the great printers of any era. He had every opportunity to live up to his statement, “Beauty is founded on harmony, subordinate to the critique of reason.” The Duke of Parma, Bodoni’s patron, had reason […]

Bodoni–the Anatomy of a Type, Part I

The numerous types which today bear the name of Bodoni or attribute more to his skill as a printer then to his ability as an engraver of punches. Most of these types may be considered to be in the style of Bodoni rather than exact copies of his letterforms. They do, however, represent the ultimate […]

Nonappreciation of Good Book Design

In a recent short review in The New Yorker, an anonymous critic concluded his remarks with this statement: “It is also an extremely handsome book—well made, well designed, and beautifully illustrated. . . .” To those typographers who have for so long labored in unacknowledged obscurity, the New Yorker critic might be the harbinger of […]

Fads, Trends, Ages—A View of Typography

Was there ever a Golden Age of Typography in the present century? Should two or more typographers ever get together, in or out of a smoke-filled room, there will be polemics aplenty before any satisfactory conclusions could be reached in answer to that question! There might even be a few bruises, and not just egos. […]

Artist, Printer and Book Designer

A continuing, and probably irresolvable, argument between printers and artists concerns the proper training of a designer. The printer cites the artist’s lack of fundamental knowledge about type and printing procedures, while the artist falls back upon the ineptitude of the printer in drawing straight lines. There is a certain amount of validity in both […]

John Baskerville: The Anatomy of a Type Part II

While John Baskerville introduced many improvements to the art of printing, he did not profit by them. Standards of production were so high that he was unable to compete with the commercial printers for the work of the booksellers, who complained that his prices were two to three times as much as they could reasonably […]

John Baskerville: The Anatomy of a Type

By every measure, the types originally created by the amateur English printer John Baskerville in the middle of the 18th century—and named for him—have demonstrated universal appeal. The proof of this is their availability as single types for hand composition, and upon all of the typesetting machines, both hot-metal and photographic. And, unquestionably, Baskerville will […]

Back to Fundamentals of Typography

Recently I came across a copy of a list of rules for the compositor, as issued by an advertising agency. A noteworthy muster roll of first principles it was. The surprising factor, of course, was why such a compilation was necessary, since it represented items which used to be considered as articles of faith in […]

Stanley Morison: Significant Historian

During the 20th century two typographic historians have achieved notable stature and will be long remembered. The first of these, Daniel Berkeley Updike of Boston, died in 1940. The second, Stanley Morison, died at his home in London on October 11, 1967. He was 78 years of age. The literary achievements of Updike and Morison […]

Trends in Typography: Gothics Lose Ground

Typographers who can recall the days when sans serif types were of secondary importance in the typographic marketplace are undoubtedly the best customers of their respective hatters. It is beginning to appear that even the younger members of the profession will spend their entire careers under the primacy of the skeleton letters. Is interesting to […]

Anatomy of a Type–3: Caslon, Part 2

As noted last month, remodeling of earlier Dutch types by William Caslon about the year 1720 created such a wide demand for the “English” letter that, except for the period 1790–1840, it has enjoyed most universal approval. Naturally enough, it became the principal type of the American colonial printers, most of whom depended upon England […]

Anatomy of a Type–3: Caslon, Part 1

One of the most widely known types of existence is that which bears the name of its designer, William Caslon, and English engraver who cut it about 1720. It is an indisputable fact that the type has been overpraised, particularly in this century, by most of the outstanding typographers. Beatrice Warde, in her essay on […]

Typographic Trends of the Fifty Books

Typographers who are particularly interested in the art of the book look forward each year to that long-lived exhibition though as the Fifty Books of the Year. Since 1923, the American Institute of Graphic Arts as annually appointed a jury and has requested American publishers to submit those books for judging which they believed represented […]

Asymmetric Typography

“Typography is the arranging of words to be read. Before the words can be arranged they must be understood. The typographer must first read through the manuscript and understand. Until he has done so, he will not know what it is all about. The intelligent arrangement of the words is the first duty of the […]

Anatomy of Type Faces: Variations of Garamond

In my discussion last month of the origin on the popular Garamond types, I emphasize the fact that there are two basic sources of inspiration for contemporary type designers who wish to create letters modeled upon the original. The true Garamond types appear in the specimen sheet of the Frankfurt typefoundry of Egenolff-Berner, dated 1592. […]

Anatomy of a Type—2: Garamond

The types which presently bear the name of the great French punchcutter of the 16th century, Claude Garamond, are universal demand, and are thus available from a variety of sources, including foundries and composing machine manufacturers. Unfortunately, the many versions do not always have the same characteristics, a factor which makes there ready identification difficult. […]

Swiss Type May Be the “New Typography”

All those typographers who are devoted followers of that school of typography called Swiss, or New Swiss, will be delighted to have at first hand a source book, written by Emil Ruder, a founder and one of the masters of the movement. This text, entitled Typography, has been made available to the American market by […]

He Extended Typographic Horizons

If the measure of a man is a 36ʺ shelf of books, then Paul Bennett—who died suddenly, in his 69th year on December 18, 1966—may be remembered for a long time as very much of a man indeed. That shelf full happened to be a series of books called the Typophile Chapbooks, and they will […]

Anatomy of a Type—1: Cloister Old Style

In A Note on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press, written in 1895, William Morris stated, “By instinct rather than by conscious thinking it over, I began by getting myself a fount of Roman type. And here what I wanted was letter pure in form; severe, without needless excrescences; solid, without the thickening and […]

Revivals Follow Revivals in Type

Of the revival of old types there is no end. Maybe that’s just as well, too. It is a game that anyone can play, provided that a couple of older specimen books are at hand. Of course, typographical designers can participate in the sport without any qualms about where the types are coming from. But […]

A New System for Type Categories

There has never been a concerted effort on the part of typographers in the United States to produce a system of classification for printers’ types. Unlike the more methodical Europeans, American printers have been more or less content with haphazard terminology, with the result that every writer who discusses type classification involves his own procedures […]

Let Us Standardize!

If typographers, designers, production men, and type designers are to communicate with one another about type, it becomes increasingly evident that, in the matter of typographic nomenclature, they must find a common ground. It is to this end the growing interest appears to be a rising in the international dialectic upon the subject of type […]

How Many Type Categories?

Two type systems that agree—but only in part During the past 60 years, numberless attempts have been made to evolve the system by which printing types may be reasonably classified. Hopefully, this would ease the problems of type recognition by neophyte typographers and graphic designers when they first gaze upon an ordinary type specimen book. […]

The Problem of Nomenclature

As long ago as 1958, the British Standards Institution, which conforms to the United States Bureau of Standards, published a pamphlet titled Typeface Nomenclature, which represents an attempt to systematize the terminology of a craft that had heretofore resisted such endeavors for over 500 years. There’s a reasonable amount of agreement on some printing trade […]

Type Specimen Book Challenge

Possibly the most disagreeable task faced by any printer or typesetter is the production of a new typesetting book. It’s production is such a chore that is put off until even the copies of the old book in the plant are dog-earred and marked-up beyond recognition, and the customers’ demands become incessant and perhaps incoherent. […]

Typographically Speaking

Printing Impressions is pleased to announce the addition of Alexander S. Lawson to its staff of contributing editors. His column “Typographically Speaking” will appear as a regular monthly feature in Printing Impressions. Lawson entered the printing industry in 1928 and served his apprenticeship in the composing room. After naval service during the war he attended […]

The Press of the Nightowl: Why It’s a Credit to Its Kind

Last month I began a discussion of the mushrooming private press movement as expressed in the output of two presses in particular, The Adagio Press and The Press of the Nightowl. Now there are similar undertakings throughout the land, but these two were selected because their proprietors have each issued beautifully printed documentation describing their […]

R.F. DaBoll: Rich Influence On the Course Of Calligraphy

To modern printers looking back over the past century, the art of calligraphy and the craft of printing seem to have become inexorably entwined, in spite of requiring somewhat different disciplines, although of course related ones. According to the typographic historian Stanley Morison: “Calligraphy is the art of fine writing communicated by agreed symbols. If […]

Private Press: Printers Who Never Say Die

The opportunity to print by whim and at leisure has long attracted professional and amateur printers, resulting in the production of a good deal of very fine printing indeed—and even more which could qualify only as schlock printing. The present era has witnessed a tremendous growth in this private press movement, stemming from the vast […]

Popularity Lives On For Goudy Style

The late Frederic W. Goudy would undoubtedly have been most amused if he could have lived until the present to witness the love affair between the dispensers of alcoholic beverages and his types in the pages of the national consumer periodicals. I have compiled a list of 15 distillers and vintners who use Goudy types […]

A Few Comments on the Life of Mardersteig, Part 2

Giovanni Mardersteig always had a keen interest in the design of printing types, but his association with Stanley Morison and with Frederic Warde increased his desire to make further investigations into the development of classic typefaces. During his stay in Scotland in 1933 with the Collins Cleartype Press, Mardersteig also supervised the production of a […]

A Few Comments on the Life of Mardersteig, Part 1

For some months now I have been meaning to comment upon the death in Verona, Italy of the notable printer, Giovanni Mardersteig, on December 27, 1977, at the age of 85. While the craft of the printer in itself contributes to the scholarly aptitudes of most of its practitioners, the fact remains that in the […]

When a Student Designs a Typeface

Writing about his profession of type design some 35 years ago, Frederic W. Goudy stated: “Critics, unfamiliar with the classic forms of the past, too frequently mistake details of handling for the essentials of underlying structure, rating highly one design exhibiting some more or less insignificant but flamboyant touch—and rating as mediocre another, of less […]

The Uncertain Background of Type Cases

To mention type cases in this automated age is to indicate, at the very least, an interest in antiques. It becomes increasingly evident that the only thing to do with a case of type is to dump it in the hell box, clean it up, paint the boxes in the wildest possible colors, and hang […]