History Question

dgc's picture

Do you know where/how the standard metal type sizes originated (8, 10, 12, 14, 16...24, 32, 36, etc.), and why those sizes? I can speculate but would like to read an historian's (or type nerd's) perspective. Lawson doesn't mention anything in "Anatomy of a Typeface." Perhaps Updike? Thanks for any light you can shed, or direction you can send me.

Mark Simonson's picture

The sizes are mostly multiple of 6 or 12 (32 was not standard--it should be 30 in your list). 6 points is half a pica and 12 points is one pica, so basically it made the math easier. Below 18 point there are sizes that are not multiples of 6, but for practical reasons it was necessary to have finer steps.

Geoff Riding's picture

Robert Bringhurst states in his bible that, during the 16th century, a series of common type sizes was developed by European typographers as a typographic equivalent of the musical diatonic scale.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72

In the early days, the sizes were referred to by name rather than their measured point size.

6pt: nonpareiel
7pt: minion
8pt: brevier or small text
9pt: bourgeois or galliard
10pt: long primer or garamond
11pt: small pica
12pt: pica
14pt: english or augustin
18pt: great primer

Miss Tiffany's picture

3 pt is minikin

dgc's picture

Bringhurst! Of course! Thanks all.

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