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I find attempts at classification like Bringhurst's a bit misleading, in the sense that they assume continuum. The historical perspective that "we" enjoy was not apparent prior to the use of the camera for documenting historical artifacts. Typefounders such as Caslon worked "in the contemporary" so to speak and were influenced in that way, not by historical precedents. The Dutch were drawing upon contemporary German, French and East European work. It would be wrong to assume they had knowledge of typeface development in an historical sense.
So to some extent I would say they were not sacrificing elegance of letterform since they were not aware of previous effort. I think a reading of Moxon, writing in 1683 and very fond of the Dutch work, will reveal this. Both Updike and McLean show typographic developments as very culturally nationalistic. I believe this the correct path to follow in discerning why typeface design changed prior to the introduction of the camera. It explains much more than classification systems can.