Measuring Type Size

slivers's picture

Greetings from a new poster!

There is an old discussion that shows up on the forum asking the proper way to measure printed type with a type gauge, but the thread seems damaged and is unreadable. (In fact the last couple of posters point that out as well.)

So I’m sorry to re-ask something that you may have answered in the past, but surprisingly I cannot find this information anywhere. Please help!

-Courtney

Theunis de Jong's picture

Type gauges only and exclusively work well with single typefaces, i.e., you cannot use a type gauge marked with Helvetica in different sizes to measure Times.

I always find it quicker and more reliable to copy one or more words in that font, and then measuring its length, rather than the height. Then all you need is a regular ruler.

slivers's picture

I don't see a typeface listed on this gauge-- it'a a Haberule "10" Type Gauge, with three slots cut out to show scales for agate through 12 point type on one side and 13 and 15 pt on the back. I also have have a "C-Thru" leading gauge with various other scales printed on it.

I'm not sure how to do the ruler method you are mentioning.

All I'm trying to do is find what point size and leading for Garamond is used in some books I like and don't like, to get a better idea of what will work for my design, but I'm not sure if I'm aligning the type correctly with the gauge to get the right answers.

quadibloc's picture

The first thing to do would be to measure the distance between successive baselines on lines of text.

That gives the type size plus any leading - the upper bound for the type size.

Then, for an individual line of text, measure the distance from the highest ascenders (or the cap height, if that is higher - it is more often lower) to the lowest descenders. This is the lower bound for the type size.

(Note that the upper bound can be more easily measured by measuring many lines of text at once; once one has that value, one can then measure the lower bound by using an enlarged image of the text, with the linespacing value allowing one to scale the enlarged image.)

The upper bound should be an integral number of points, while the lower bound may not be: round it upwards to the next nearest point.

That may not really be the right answer, but without access to the metal bodies of the type used to print the book, it's about the best one can obtain. (Of course, one can try hunting up the type specimen books of whoever produced the type used - in many cases, the question can be settled with accuracy.)

slivers's picture

Thanks, I'll give it a try!

slivers's picture

don't know why my comments keep showing up twice (showing up twice, showing up twice...)

the's picture

I've wrote some program to calculate font space usage: you could calculate »standard width« (multiplying character frequency times width) times line spacing. Line spacing e. g. maximum character hight (ascender to descender) (depends on used alphabet, of course) plus x-height.

Now you could calculate: at wich point size i will match TimesNewRoman 12pt?

With those data, an XeLaTeX-Document is easily created - allowing fast comparison of font appearance.

Kind regards, the

Theunis de Jong's picture

All I'm trying to do is find what point size and leading for Garamond is used in some books I like and don't like, to get a better idea of what will work for my design, but I'm not sure if I'm aligning the type correctly with the gauge to get the right answers.

Do you have the exact same version of Garamond? (That's important. If not, there is no point in measuring, because the internal measurements vary wildly between fonts; and then you might as well gauge it by eye.)

If so, do the following:
1º Find a very long word -- something like "somnambulance". That works better than a phrase with spaces, because justification might throw off your measurements.
2º Measure how long this is. It might be around 21 mm.
3º Using your DTP software, draw a horizontal line of 21 mm long.
4º Type the word underneath it and adjust the size until it's about the same length.

The length will be "about" the same because there are lots of factors in 'measuring type'. For instance, the printed material may have been tracked (positive or negative), or scaled horizontally, or the font used may be a different version, or you forgot to allow for some side bearing at the start and end of the word. Nevertheless, it's fairly unusual to see type in print with a size of, say, 9.3676 pt, and it's reasonable to round up or down to the nearest whole or half point.

slivers's picture

Thanks, that helps. I don't need to exactly ID the books, I'm just trying to get a general sense of what sizes work.

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