Typography papers 2

Editorial

Modern type design began in the 1690s, with the project to devise a new type for the French royal printing house. The romain du roi is well known but, as James Mosley observes, the most enduring legacy of the enterprise – a rational system of type measurement – is still almost wholly unrecognized. He subjects the surviving documents for its history, many of which are unpublished, to forensic scrutiny, and demonstrates that the system of related type bodies that was devised for the new type by Sebastien Truchet anticipates many of the features of the ‘point system’ commonly attributed to Fournier le jeune.

Richard Southall’s survey of the methods used in the design and production of typefaces before the era of digital typesetting was written in 1981–82 but is here published for the first time, with new notes. He describes the central problem in a type design system – communication between the designer of a typeface and the producers of the types that realize it – and examines the means by which this communication took place within different manufacturing technologies, and their implications for the effectiveness of the systems in delivering typefaces whose appearance accorded with the designer’s intentions.

Michael Twyman explores the making of The Landscape alphabet, which shows the letters of the alphabet both as, and set within, fanciful landscapes. It was issued anonymously by the London branch of the firm of Engelmann in 183o, but has the initials EK on its first plate. Michael Twyman discusses the original drawings for the publication by EK, now in New York, in the context of the lithographs made from them; and he traces connections between this publication and a later landscape alphabet printed by Engelmann’s competitor, Hullmandel.

Robin Kinross takes some current arguments about intentions that inform the shaping of letters, and about the meanings and associations that attach to them. His traverse from Sacramento to The Hague engages with a theory of letterforms worked out by Gerrit Noordzij; here some of Richard Southall’s themes – on the difference between typography and writing – re-emerge. Kinross holds that typography is more than writing with prefabricated letters, and that ‘the process of prefabrication abolishes writing’. Gerrit Noordzij briskly replies.

Ole Lund investigates a study of the relative legibility of seriffed and sans serif typefaces which, when it appeared in 1971, was unusual in two ways. It offered a theory of why typefaces with serifs are more legible than those without; and it took a cognitive science approach, employing a computer-based model that claimed to rely on how the human visual system works. Ole Lund casts doubt on the validity of this widely-cited study.

The Bremer Presse’s puritanical reputation rested on handpress printing and sober typography. Its director Willy Wiegand, who designed the Presse’s types and its books, held the typographic and literary aims of a ‘true’ private press to be closely connected. But Germany’s turbulent Weimar period was not favourable for such an enterprise, and Wiegand had constantly to revaluate his aims. Christopher Burke examines those aims and the ways in which they shifted during the inter-war years.

PS   Reading, August 1997

Article summaries

James Mosley:
French academicians and modern typography: designing new types in the 1690s

The new type made for the French royal printing office in the 1690s, the romain du roi, is the first for which a preliminary ‘design’ is known to have been made. This paper looks at surviving sources for the history of this project, some of which are unpublished. Particular attention is paid to the system of related type bodies that was devised for the new type by Sebastien Truchet, which anticipates many of the features of the ‘point system’ commonly attributed to Fournier le jeune.

Richard Southall:
A survey of type design techniques before 1978

This article, written in 1981–82, surveys the methods that were used for the design and production of printers’ type before the widespread introduction of numerical typesetting techniques in the late 197os. The central problem in a type design system is that of communication between the designer of a typeface and the producers of the types that realize it. The means by which this communication took place in different manufacturing technologies, and their implications for the effectiveness of the systems in delivering typefaces whose appearance accorded with the designer’s intentions, are discussed. Short cycle times for testing designs under development, and the ability to work on character images at their final size, are seen as desirable characteristics of an effective system. The text printed here is – apart from a few literal corrections – as it was originally composed in 1981–82. Notes have been added, along with a brief account of the origin of the text, and the list of references has been extended.

Michael Twyman:
Engelmann’s Landscape alphabet

The subject of this paper is a lithographed publication called The Landscape alphabet, which shows all the letters of the alphabet separately in rather contrived landscape views. It was issued anonymously by the London branch of the firm of Engelmann in 1830, though it has the initials EK on its first plate. The original drawings for the publication by EK, now in The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, are discussed in the context of the lithographs made from them. The publication plays on the duality of the lithographs, which are both views and letters. Versions of the publication are found in volume form and also as boxed sets of individual cards with embossed borders. Connections are made between this publication and a slightly later landscape alphabet printed by Engelmann’s leading competitor, Hullmandel.

Robin Kinross:
Type as critique

This is the text – lightly revised for publication – of a talk given at the ‘How we learn what we learn’ conference organized by the School of Visual Arts, and held in New York in April 1997. I am grateful to Steven Heller for his invitation and encouragement to contribute to the conference. Much of the second part follows from discussions in 1993–4 with Gerrit Noordzij and Paul Stiff: to both of whom, my thanks.

Gerrit Noordzij:
Reply to Robin Kinross

Ole Lund:
Why serifs are (still) important

This paper re-examines a study of the relative legibility of seriffed and sans serif typefaces, by providing a generous context for that study and by closely scrutinizing both it and its reception. When it appeared in 1971, the study was unusual in two respects: it proposed a theory for why seriffed typefaces are more legible than sans serif typefaces, and it took a cognitive science approach, by employing an explanatory computer-based model that claimed to rely on how the human visual system works. This paper demonstrates that the study in question lacks validity. However, the study is still cited; some reasons for this are suggested.

Christopher Burke:
Willy Wiegand and the Bremer Presse

The Bremer Presse is reputed for the quality of its handpress printing and the sobriety of its typography. These both stem from a puritanical approach to publishing that was developed by the director of the Presse, Willy Wiegand. He considered the typographic and literary aims of a true private press to be interconnected. Wiegand designed the Presse’s types and its books, and he also cultivated a relationship with a certain literary circle. But the troubled years of Germany’s Weimar period were not favourable for the survival of a private press, and Wiegand was forced to constantly revaluate his aims for the Presse. This essay examines those aims and the ways in which they shifted during the inter-war years.

Richard Hollis:
Review of Graphic design (Jobling & Crowley)

Hendrik D.L. Vervliet:
Review of Counterpunch (Smeijers)

Colophon

Typography papers [2] is published by the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, The University of Reading, PO box 239, Reading RG6 6AU, England

Editor: Paul Stiff

Production manager: Mick Stocks

Composed and printed in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, The University of Reading

Production team: Andrew Cross, Neil Rogers, Paul Stiff, Mick Stocks, Jennie Walsh, Geoff Wyeth

Typeset in Monotype Ehrhardt and formatted in QuarkXPress; printed on Monadnock Dulcet Smooth, neutral white, 118 gsm

ISBN 0 7049 1122 1

© 1997 Typography papers the authors and Department of Typography & Graphic Communication

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher or copyright holder.

James Mosley:
French academicians and modern typography: designing new types in the 1690s

Richard Southall:
A survey of type design techniques before 1978

Michael Twyman:
Engelmann’s Landscape alphabet

Robin Kinross:
Type as critique

Gerrit Noordzij:
Reply to Robin Kinross

Ole Lund:
Why serifs are (still) important

Christopher Burke:
Willy Wiegand and the Bremer Presse

Richard Hollis:
Review of Graphic design (Jobling & Crowley)

Hendrik D.L. Vervliet:
Review of Counterpunch (Smeijers)

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