(A great place to start if you're new here is my Wide Spacing Roadmap.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Typography was a Manly Art

I came across this tidbit and just had to share it.  I was reading "Articles on William Morris" by Theodore Low DeVinne and Katherine Tynan Hinkson from 1897.  DeVinne (who is not always in favor of Morris' typographic stylings, particularly his affinity for narrower word-spacing), has this to say:

William Morris deserves high praise for his attempts to put typography back in its proper field.  He seems to have been the first of moderns to see that typography was a manly art that could stand in its own legs without crutches lent by sister arts, and that it should be treated and clothed in manly fashion.
I just found that to be a very amusing description.

In other news, I still haven't found any 19th century sources for the phrase "french spacing" (the earliest source I know of at this point is 1939), although the few 19th century french publications I've looked at do use word spacing between sentences.  Which of course makes it so odd that in all the english publications I'm looking at about typography, nobody seems to mention this particular habit of the french.

Another random and interesting thing I stumbled across is that a number of books seem to have stolen quite directly from Johnson's Typographia, from 1820-ish (at least that's the earliest version I've found so far, maybe he plagiarized it from yet another party).  I was trying to track down early references to rivers and gutters and holes in text.  Which I can't find hardly at all.  But apparently the word "pigeon-holes" was a popular way of describing text that had wide word spacing without the benefit of increased letter spacing.  And in my research, this quote kept turning up in different books by very different authors throughout the 19th century:
What is required of a compositor when he goes about correcting a foul proof, is a sharp bodkin and patience, because without them the letter cannot escape suffering by the steel; and hurrying will not permit him to justify the lines true.  No wonder therefore to see pigeon-holes in one place, and pi in another.
This version is from "Typographia: a brief sketch of the origin, rise, and progress of Typographic Art", by Thomas F. Adams, 1837.  And I found something similar in "A Manual of Typography, [and a really long subtitle]", fifteenth edition from 1885.  Although that one definitely mentioned having stolen from a great number of other sources including Johnson's Typographia.

OK, how about some actual sentence spacing content?  I'm still looking for older references to rivers and gutters (or some term that meant the same) in 19th century texts, and not finding anything closer than "pigeon-holes".  In fact gutters meant something entirely different.  My suspicion is that rivers and gutters were easily avoided in hand-set type, and only became a significant problem with the Linotype machine, which was not capable of automatically spacing out letters, only words.  So the Linotype would have been very susceptible to "pigeon-holes".  Migrating to narrower spacing overall (which seems to have happened from about 1900-1930) would have alleviated the problem, and I think this is another example of limitations of technology influencing fashion.

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