Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Short History of the Font

I lived next door to a man several years ago; he was an insurance salesman. Mr. Insurance would as a habit trap me when I parked my car and tell me all about himself and the neighbors. He told me that he was writing a book on the history of a particular font, a very obscure and unappreciated font. He told me that if I saw lights on in the Carriage house behind his house built in 1852 he was probably hard at work on his font passion. Eventually he was arrested and put under house arrest for fraud, embezzlement and a curious collection of illegal acts. His family was shamed and I did not have to listen to him ramble on about his favorite font. Below I have included a brief history of fonts. Great Reading! I will be out of town for a few days so if I do not respond I am simply incommunicado, as we say in Indiana. JW

Font History
This section is a brief history that explains the evolutionary development of letterforms and how technology affected changes in typefaces.

Technology and Context
Random House Webster's College Dictionary (1990) defines technology as the application of knowledge for practical ends. The American Heritage Dictionary (1992) tells us technology derives from the Greek word tekhnologia that means the systematic treatment of an art or craft. Many of us think of the tools as the technology. What people know and what people do with what they know is technology. This background frames the word technology in our context: printing is the art, the craft, and printers are the artisans; the printing process is the systematic treatment; the printed result is the practical end; and what we know and learn about printing technology is the knowledge.

Human development has experienced five broad technology stages: 1) hand and handtool, 2) mechanical, 3) machine, 4) electric, and 5) electronic. Two constants throughout the changes in technology are: 1) the tool, the material, and the method always effect the result in a unique way; and 2) we use the cumulative technology from all previous stages daily.

Hand and Handtool Stage
History traces communication and technology to the earliest known beginnings of civilization. The earliest known visual communication, images from the Paleolithic period, confirms the fundamental human need to communicate, and that visual communication is elemental. Technology at this time was basic, that is, the hand as the tool, and hand-manipulated, found and fashioned, non-mechanical tools.

Early images seem more literal than sign like, and seem to have no system to their use. History identifies a three-part development in communication images from: 1) forms for objects, called pictograms, through 2) forms for ideas, called ideograms, to 3) forms for sounds, called phonograms. These signs and symbols and their uses developed from non-standard forms and no perceptible system, through non-standard forms and systems, to standard forms and systems.

Mechanical Stage
The mechanical stage is a period of compound tools and simple machines powered by natural means. They were animal powered, human powered, or nature powered, that is, by gravity, water, wind. Communication, socialization, and technology developed interconnectedly as Western culture began to form.

Language is the unified and systematic means of communication by standardized sounds and signs that function through convention. The letters of the alphabet are the signs of our language system, each something in itself, a unique sign, and not a symbol of some other idea or object. For our Western culture, this means sequential rows of groups of standard signs, the alphabet, written and read from left to right. (See figures 4 through 8.)

The visual form of Western written and printed language derives from two models. The first model is the Roman monumental capitals, or majuscules, which date from about AD 100. Artisans formed these letters in a three-part process: written first with a brush on stone, second chiseled into the stone, and then colored. The second model, the Carolinian minuscule, derives from the majuscule, and dates from about AD 800. Scribes wrote these letters directly on parchment with a square-tipped pen and ink. Scribes refined these two form models in the Renaissance period from about 1350 to 1500 as the humanistic minuscule, or roman style, and the humanistic cursive, or italic style. (See figure 9.)

Gutenberg invented the first reliable means of casting individual, moveable, and reusable pieces of type for printing. Type casting was 'invented' hand technology, and printing was 'adapted' mechanical technology. Printers, and the results of this paired technology, printed books, meant to rival pen-written manuscripts.

Printed roman type took the humanistic minuscule as a model first (1469), and later also the humanistic cursive (1501). The style development of typefaces occurs over three cultural periods: 1) Renaissance, 2) Baroque, 3) Neo-classic. I use these broad style period names rather than typeface classifications to state that it is important to consider influences on the whole cultural period to understand a part of that period. Throughout this time, type casting remained hand technology, printing remained mechanical technology, and the materials of casting and printing directly affected the type forms.

The development of what we know as conventional text typefaces occurred primarily in Italy, France, and England from 1469 to 1818. William Caslon IV introduced the first sans serif printing type in the early 1800s. Giambattista Bodoni died in 1813, and in 1818 his widow published his last work, Manuale Tipografico. This ended the development of traditional text typeface designs. Later type forms are exaggerations, revivals, or variations of these earlier models. (See figure 10.)

Machine Stage
The machine stage marks a significant change in human development. The term 'Industrial Revolution' applies to the social and economic changes that mark the transition from a stable agricultural and commercial society to a modern industrial society. Historically, it is the period in history from about 1750 to about 1850. Technology became an agent of change in the social and economic structure as inventions and new technology created the factory system of large-scale machine production and greater economic specialization. New periods of development came with electricity and the gasoline engine, but by 1850 the revolution, fulfilled in England, had become the dominant factor in British life. The effects of the Industrial Revolution were worldwide. Industrialization transformed France (after 1830), Germany (after 1850), and the United States (after the Civil War).

Complex machines, direct-powered and self-powered by steam and then fuel, increased production speed overall but had little effect on type forms. Printing became machine technology, but type casting remained hand technology.

The cumulative scientific, economic, and political changes of the preceding eras, caused people to believe that continued growth and improvement were the natural state. They believed in reason, science, and unrestrained competition as the means to continuous economic expansion, and to improve the physical and social environment. Primarily, the systematic application of scientific and practical knowledge to the manufacturing process achieved the growth in productivity. Perhaps the most important changes occurred in the organization of work. The typical enterprise expanded and took on new characteristics. Production took place within the firm or the public enterprise instead of the family or manor. Tasks became increasingly routine and specialized. Industrial production became heavily dependent upon the intensive use of capital, that is expense for a physical plant and equipment produced for the express purpose of increasing efficiency. A reliance on tools and machinery allowed individual workers to produce more goods than before, and the advantages of experience with a particular task, tool, or piece of equipment reinforced the trend toward specialization.

Electric Stage
Electricity became useful to industry in the 1880s, and electric powered machines, servo-controlled and servo-powered, soon replaced steam powered machines. Here again are examples of paired technology. That all aspects of printing became electric powered had little effect on type forms.

Phototype was a transition between metal type and digital type. It was post-mechanical and pre-electronic. Many text photo typefaces were copies of machine cast composition typefaces that were themselves copies of the original hand cast designs.

Electronic Stage
'Bad news concerns few, but good news can upset a whole culture.' This statement, by Marshall McLuhan from War and Peace in the Global Village (1968), describes today's experience.

From Gutenberg in the fifteenth century to Köenig in the nineteenth century, the arrival and mechanization of printing established a concatenate of technology, information, and culture. The pre-World War II departure from Newtonian determinism in the sciences and classical communication theory began the evolution of information theory as a new science with macroscopic effects on post-war cultures. Not since the application of steam power and the telegraph in the 1830s have developed societies experienced the increase in information as that due to the infusion of the personal computer. Information interdependence through digital technology has altered human activity beyond traditional description. The global cat's cradle of interactive communication resets Weltanschauung in the image of McLuhan's 'global village.'

We are in the contemporary cycle of technology, affecting information, affecting cultures. As technology becomes established in business, education, entertainment, and professions, many disciplines become disconnected from traditional materials, methods, and tools. The graphic arts jobs that do not exist in the pre-digital printing industry are clear examples. Everyone becomes verbal and visual message makers and message managers, connected by the same universal meta-tool. Computer impact in graphic design rapidly expanded from a production tool to the principal vehicle of expression. Graphic designers intermediate information to understanding, message to meaning, but often today their affectation of technology and its style supersede meaningful content and clear communication, resulting in a specious message. Despite the inertia of economics' acceleration principle, technology itself, even technology as an agent of change, is less important than its effects on the universal themes of human communication that foster cross-cultural interaction.

Time Line

* Renaissance in Italy

Sweynheym/Pannartz 1465 fonts
Da Spira Brothers 1469 font
Nicolas Jenson 1470 font
Aldus Manutius (Fr. Griffo) 1495, 1501 fonts

* Renaissance in France

Geoffery Tory 1525 font
Simon De Colines 1536 font
Jacques Kerver 1546 font
Estienne Family
Claude Garamond
Robert Granjon
Jean Jannon 1642 font

* Belgian/Dutch Renaissance

Plantin/Moretus Family
Elzevir Family
William Caslon 1726, 1732/34 fonts

* Baroque Period (France and England)

Phillippe Grandjean 1702
Fournier Family 1737, 1742
Baskerville in England 1757

* Neo-Classic Period (France and Italy)

Didot Family in France 1775
Bodoni in Italy 1778, 1813

* Industrial Revolution

Senefelder, lithography, 1798
Stanhope, first iron press, 1800
Köenig, powered press, 1814
Hoe, rotary press, 1847
Benton, punch machine, 1885
Merganthaler, Linotype, 1885
Lanston, Monotype, 1887


At 6:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh - while you're busy lifting dull chapters from dusty internet books, could you pull up pages 37-41 of the current Penthouse? Not only are they more interesting than fonts (tits/fonts?), they are in color. Your fans need colors to capture and hold their interest - they have short attention spans.
Thanks, I would appreciate taking a turn from your recent blogs. They make my brain flacid - and we all know an errect brain is an active brain.
Your pal, Mike

At 9:42 AM , Blogger zen wizard said...

I think I have evolved from the "Hand & Handtool Phase" of human development and entered the "Hand, Handtool, & Jergen's Lotion"-Phase.

At 5:36 PM , Blogger Mom! Toilets blogged! said...

To be honest, I enjoyed the last two posts on My Mule, so keep up the strong work Josh, my skull is getting as tight as my underwear band.

At 6:21 PM , Blogger Helen Mansfield said...

Are you a serif, or sans-serif man?

I like a man with a big pair of serifs.

Know what I'm saying?

At 5:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh - why, without any photo of you gracing your blog, do all the women who leave you comments leave references to your testicles, penis and sex? Either you are a sexy writer (and as I have told you, your last two blog kept me flacid for hours) or these ladies are terribly bored hausfraus who will firt with any man who responds to them with any sort of attention. My God Josh, can you imagine the women to whom you are tossing flirtatious repartee? Their lives, their bodies, their faces?

There is the possibility that you too are but a male hausfrau and need this anyomous cockteasing to add the only sexual dimension to your life. Instead of getting laid, you read and memorize Wikopedia.

I also note that when I post challenging remark to one of your "favorite" commentors (Mom Toilet Face etc - the women that my heart, soul, common sense and weenie tell me are the biggest loosers in the blogworld) you ALWAYS delete that comment. Like a mother ducky with her wing around her chick to protect her. Trust me Josh, these chick are quite able to defend themselves. They perhaps are already trained to join the WWE. We could send them to Iraq and save our soldiers. Usually the more warts on such womens faces, the stronger they are. And Mom/Toilet - in response to your comment today, NOTHING is as tight as your underwear band.

Now shall you hypocritically delete THIS comment because I said penis or because I said something less than flattering to Mom/Toilet? Dont forget, when she insulted my father, called me names etc, you let her comment proudly wave here like a dick at half mast. Do you have different rules for c-nty women as you do for pr-cky men? As I have informed you, I found it surprising that Mom/Toilet could swear to me and it was fine with you - I assume you feel a trailer park piece of trash is permited to swear like a fat sailor and a gentleman and I am guarded with rules.

It is your blog, I think you should be able to do whatever you wish. I am but pointing out your hypocrisy in how you respond to comments. I am content to receive a "f-ck you" from you as a reply to any comment I make.

I have made a decision, when you delete my comments again I am heading directly to your commentors blogs (you know I simply click on their name and am lead immediately to their blog link) and start leaving my comments with them. This nuisance will, of course, be totally your reponsibility. The more disgusting they are (Mom/Toilet) being the queen of sh-t) the more disgusting my comments will. The only thing to stop me will be comment moderation and NO ONE reads blogs with comment moderation - it's like a comic book without illustrations.

Finally Josh - what the fu-ck got into your head that you are blogging LONG AND BORNING BS. Let me tell you, no one cares to read lifted paragraphs from Wikipedia or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyone who drops you a comment about how fascinating these recent blogs have been is bipolar or one of your many asskissing fans - trust me. Write some jokes for God's sake boy!

Questions for Josh:
how old are you
eye color
maritial status
sexual prefernce
age of first sex experience
do you find red lobster "fine" dining?
why do you hide?
show yourself (not your weenie, your face)
i think all your female commentors with damp panties deserve the opportunity to see what they are getting hot about.
penis size - average?

Later - when my comments disapear, I do as well babe.

My current email is:
I generally maintain an email address for 5 days before becoming someone else - it DOES cut down on junk mail and pop-ups.

At 5:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joshua Jerico -
So you wouldn't think I would ever lie or stretch the truth, I AM in that European city I told you I left for Wednesday. Sadly my very fine hotel's internet connections are down - I can get on the net but am unable to send emails. So, I am typing my notes to you on my laptop, printing them out and faxing them do my younger brother who idolizes me. He then is forwarding them to you. I won't let a inconvience such as a downed internet system prevent me from keeping in touch with my Indianpolis friend.

Au Revior mon ami ......

At 8:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josharama - Thought you would appreciate this:
The group of nations have a history of co-operation and close political ties. A network of varying military alliances as well as intelligence arrangements (such as the UKUSA Community which runs Echelon, or the ABCA agreement) exists between the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and some are in free trade areas with each other. The countries of the Anglosphere were military allies in major world conflicts in the 20th century, most importantly World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. The US, the UK, and Australia co-operated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, along with most members of the NATO alliance, but a few traditional EU allies of the United States, specifically France and Germany, did not participate. Although neither did Canada or New Zealand, traditional 'anglosphere' allies of the United States.

On the other hand, the group is in no sense a bloc. During the 1950s and 1960s the Suez crisis and Vietnam War caused divisions on how to approach regional conflicts. Common ground has not always been attainable between the Anglosphere members. During the 1980s New Zealand adopted an anti-nuclear policy, and declared a nuclear-free zone around the country. Visiting United States warships that would not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear arms were thus banned from entering New Zealand ports. This led to a period of ostracism of New Zealand, an ally in previous conflicts.

Polls have shown that most citizens of Anglosphere nations regard other Anglosphere countries as their closest "friends and allies". The United Kingdom, Australia and Canada are usually named as the United States' closest friends and allies, while the other nations routinely list the US and the UK at the top of their lists.[citation needed]

The Anglosphere nations freely interchange cultural materials. Certain actors, directors, movies, literature, and TV shows enjoy high levels of popularity across the Anglosphere nations. The USA remains the largest global exporter in film, television and music; within the United States, many prominent actors and some musicians originate from other Anglosphere nations. Stars such as Russell Crowe (New Zealand and Australia), Jim Carrey (Canada), Charlize Theron (South Africa), Bono (Ireland), Orlando Bloom (England), Nicole Kidman (Australia) and Arnold Vosloo (South Africa) often appear to transcend their birth nationalities, and instead adopt cross-cultural identities that have earned them great popularity with fans of all seven nations. The Anglosphere's main cultural divide continues to be over sports, which vary considerably from nation to nation, with football (in its varying forms), cricket, rugby, ice hockey, curling and baseball having different popularities. Authors such as Professor Claudio Véliz and Walter Russell Mead have pointed out the degree to which sports (both individual and team) originating in Britain and America have come to dominate the globe.
I think reader's comments should better relate to the new direction your blogs have taken. My friend Peeps has lots he wants to share when I return to the States. Peeps, on a good day, can bore over 12,500 people. You're on your way there but I think some Peeps help would be good academically for you. Plus he can Peep in five languages. Not withstanding, our offer of disapearing forever from the back of your mule IF you delete ALL our comments stands. Otherwise, like herpes, we become a permanet staple at "Our Mule". You be de man and choose.

Bon Soir mon Josh

At 3:47 PM , Blogger Toby said...

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See you on the flip side.

At 5:57 PM , Blogger Mom! Toilets blogged! said...

Why Toby, I couldn't agree more...

At 7:13 PM , Blogger Helen Mansfield said...

I used to use Lorem ipsum a lot for newspaper projects in j'lism school.

I once did an entire newspaper project with "Lorem Ipsum" in the headlines, such as "Lorem Ipsum to face murder charges," "Lorem Ipsum announces run for presidency."

I guess I am more interested in fonts than I realized.

Palatino is far and away my favorite.

At 6:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lorem Ipsum was a well known German stage actress during the 30's. She is best know for her performance as Cleopatra's army, a challenging role with many quick costume changes.She died choking at the age of 53 when accidentally swallowing a cork that slipped into a bottle of dry white wine.

And a brief note to "Our Mother of the Toilets" - of course you can ignore me. However it does not make me disapear. I still see you and know your scent. I know where you live in Blogland and could easily make a visit to your column de comments. Peeps also has some interest in making a brief visit, after all you were so rude to him and said such horrible things about him and his father that Josh deleted your comments. I am sure that hurt - to have the man you flirt with delete you from his blog. Peep would leave you some interesting comments, about your trailer, pigs, collection of vibrators and most of all address how sad it is that you refer to the mentally challenged as RETARDS. The saddest part is you thought you were being funny - got any jokes about breast cancer Mom?

At 10:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey everyonem - a question? Where does Joshua disapear to during the weekends. Weekdays he leaves you a brief and cute response to your comments. Weekends, he is gone with the wind. We need to solve this mystery:
1. Having and affair?
2. In Temple?
3. Clues he is Jewish - we know he
changed his name from Josh
Weinstein to Josh Williams.
4. Josh is a proper Jewish name
5. Where else is he? Having sexual
reassignment surgery?

I hope Joshua comes clean and solves the mystery of "the missing weekends". His female groupies are
leaving him teasing comments and are receiving no responses in return - they must be so upset.

When as a young man living with my family, Thanksgiving dinners were always joyful. As the clan sat at the groaning board, my sweet Grandmother would tell jokes rather than say a prayer. A few I recall that have stayed with me are:

Q What did the blind man say when he walked past the seafood store?
A "afternoon ladies!"

Q Why didn't the two tampons speak to each other?
A They were both stuck up c-nts.

Q What's Jewish and 10" long?
A Nothing.

Oh yes, the memories of grandma. She always made our holidays special.

Finally, Joshua, you never, but never leave responses to my comments. Is it something I said? Somthing I did. Do you simply hate me? What can I do to warm up our relationship. I think we could become best friends - go camping together, share our clothing, go to some of those new action films that are now being released. Give me a sign that you are ready for this friendship I offer.

Your Pal - Bill

At 12:46 PM , Blogger josh williams said...

zen,toilets,toby, helen: I ♥ all fonts and I ♥ all of you so much! Lets meet at our secret blog and talk about our favorite fonts; though I must warn you I refuse to choose favorites...Oh its so fun to ♥ fonts! JW

At 1:36 PM , Blogger Toby said...

Palatino rocks!


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