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Okay, either A) I've had a simplistic epiphany, B) I'm on to something, or C) I've lost it completely, but i've just realized that Bodoni, Caslon, Garamond, &c. are no longer typefaces (and possibly never were). I mean we don't really have access to the original typefaces that these names refer to and perhaps their creators never gave their own names to them. It gets even more confusing in the case of Garamond with typefaces based on models he didn't even create masquerading under the same name. But even with the case of Caslon, even Caslon's Caslon is not the same as William Caslon's Caslon. In effect, these names that we say refer to typefaces no longer refer to the typefaces they were meant to (for the most part), but are in effect categories that can refer to a whole group or typeface, for which the originals are simply prototypes or prototypefaces.
this problem revealed itself to me as i've been working late at night on typeface entries for wikipedia, trying to structure info boxes for typefaces so that they can present information that is meaningful to the reader of said articles. My thought process went something like this:
An image illustrating the typeface would be useful, but which version of Bodoni should be used for the illustration? Ideally, infobox should show the original typeface, but is there really even a definitive Bodoni typeface that Giambatista created? What if I just use a digital Bodoni, is there one that is "truer" to Bodoni than another? I can't say...
Then in the same info box comes the listing of different versions of typefaces, as seen in the article for Helvetica that can be classified in different ways, as variations on the typeface, as knock-offs, &c. and the distinction begins to blur. Couldn't these all just be called "variations"? Is there a reason Nimbus Sans is more legitimate than Swiss 721 BT? Anyway, now i'm rambling. Feel free to enlighten me on anything I may or may not have touched on here.