FYI: Original drawings by Bram de Does for Lexicon (1991)

Bert Vanderveen's picture

This may already have been noticed here, but anyway… The University of Amsterdam has some *really high res* scans of BdD’s original designs for TEFF’s Lexicon on its site:

http://dpc.uba.uva.nl/inventarissen/ubainv57

Click on the thumbnail. Enjoy! (And don’t forget to zoom in.)

In case that link does’t work, try this one:

http://bc.uba.uva.nl/bc_collecties/ubainv57

ben_archer's picture

Hi Bert

Thank you very much for sharing; I didn't know about this and thought that the only way to access the Bijzondere Collecties was to turn up to the UvA in person with a written list of what one wanted to look at. de Does' working drawings are magnificent.

William Berkson's picture

Wonderful! Thanks.

PabloImpallari's picture

Awesome!

Trevor Baum's picture

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

Bendy's picture

Wow, that bold is seriously nice!

quadibloc's picture

A brief search brought me here:

http://www.teff.nl/fonts/lexicon/lexicon.html

It's interesting that the typeface has six weights, indicated by letter, for each of two styles. Along with Roman and Italic, of course.

But then, offering designers flexibility that existing typefaces do not is a good selling point, on top of a very attractive typeface. Why should users of sans-serif typefaces have all the fun (Univers)?

Ah: Lexicon No. 2 is the "long descender" version.

1996type's picture

The NRC (the newspaper I read) uses Lexicon as their text typeface, in combination with a custom-made Lexicon Display. I must say that Lexicon represents my idea of modern typedesign. Nothing looks crisper, or newer than Lexicon, in text that is. For Display use (The Display variant, that is) it disturbes me. The finished font files are very similar to the pic you showed, which could mean that the drawings are really good (which they are), but it might also mean that Bram just didn't spend the necessary hours to make everything look 'like it's supposed to look' when a large size reveals all details. Perfecting outlines is a boring job... Don't get me wrong, though. I love it.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

If I recall correctly Lexicon was digitized by Peter M. Noordzij — perfecting outline comes naturally to him ,I guess.

On an altogether other note: I couple of months ago I sent a letter to the editor of Dutch newspaper ‘de Volkskrant’ with a critique of their new lay out. Imagine how chuffed I was to see that it was published — below one by Bram de Does!

octoploid's picture

One of my favorite fonts. I'm using Lexicon as the default font
in Firefox for several years now. I've tried several alternatives,
but after some short time, I always switch back to Lexicon.

In a better world Lexicon would be in the position where
unfortunately Times is right now.

Santiago Orozco's picture

oohh thanks for sharing!

William Berkson's picture

Though he only has done two typefaces, Trinite and Lexicon, I think de Does's typefaces are among the most worthy of study. When I saw a Dutch newspaper print of Lexicon, though, it looked too dark to me. But then I don't read Dutch. Bert, I'd be interested in the re-design ideas of you and de Does, in translation, with before and after pictures, if it's not too much trouble.

k.l.'s picture

Lexicon has a couple of weights to choose from, as indicated by quadibloc, so it may be more appropriate to say that the newspaper designers chose a too dark weight rather than "[Dutch newspaper print of Lexicon] looked too dark to me".  :)

As to being worth studying, I am certain that both typefaces have been studied extensively. Looking around suggests that they are among the handful of giants on whose shoulders typefaces-considered-as-modern stand. Or put differently, many typefaces that look contemporary or just cool owe something to either Trinité or Lexicon in one way or another, even indirectly via typefaces that drew on them.

1996type – Perfecting outlines is a boring job...

Unfortunately I have not seen actual Lexicon fonts, but afaik it has been digitized with Ikarus, when generating PS/TT fonts involves conversion of outlines (UPM change, i.e. scaling, as well as outline description format change) which produces artefacts.

William Berkson's picture

Karsten, I agree with you that they have been influential, but I'm not sure about the extent of their influence. I see some Lexicon influence in Unger's Swift and other faces. And perhaps in Peter Bilak's faces. My point was in agreement with you about the "giants" category...

And other examples of influence you see?

I see what you mean by the many weights; that's partly my interest in seeing what Bert and de Does commented on the newspaper redesign.

k.l.'s picture

Oh, I didn't mean to disagree, only emphasis it a bit more. (I read "worthy" as meaning "should be" with – my misreading – an implicit "not done yet".)

dan_reynolds's picture

>I see some Lexicon influence in Unger's Swift

Swift predates Lexicon by several years.

William Berkson's picture

Thanks for the correction, Dan. I got it mixed up with Trinité, which is earlier than Swift. Trinité does have the relatively sharp joins to the stem, with much thicker serifs. Though the structure of the serifs in Swift is different I think I see an influence in the sharp joins and the beefy serifs, which I think is original with Trinité, though it could have been taken from Van Krimpen—I haven't studied this stuff enough to know. Swift's design could be independent also, of course. However, there is also a similarity in the relatively flat curve of the top of the mnh, which are features of both Trinité and and Swift. When I checked Unger's work before Swift, the curves were the more conventional, more rounded ones.

Nick Shinn's picture

The degree of finishing in the Lexicon drawings seems strange and unnecessary for 1991, well into the digital era.

I didn't notice the reserved and conventional Lexicon when it was published, at the time being more interested in the less traditional approach represented by Emigre, which was in full swing at least until Filosofia and Mrs Eaves were released in 1996. (Traditional being new work in a conventional manner: not to be confused with revivals.)

Scala (1990), perhaps, and especially Quadraat (1992) were more instrumental in putting this kind of design into wider circulation, due to their being FontFonts, heavily promoted.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

@William: The redesign was that of a daily insert. Very fancy with a lot of different typefaces and the use of a top bar of 8cm height that’s mostly empty, with some small pictures and sidebarrish quotes. Bram de Does‘s commented that the new design was an eyesore because of the multitude of fonts and their diversity; mine was a sardonic remark that after the switch from broadside to tabloid they’d shrunk even more by leaving the top 8cm blank.

I have a snapshot somewhere, but can’t find it.

Re the remarks about the influence of L & T: I think that can’t be underestimated. The reach of Lexicon thru its use in the Van Dale lexicons (obligatory for most students) is immense and NRC Handelsblad (which uses it too) is considered to be the NYT of the Netherlands.
An image I found: http://ftpte222.home.xs4all.nl/fonts/customfonts/nrc_voorpagina-nl.html
BTW The guillemet of Lexicon is the main character in the promotional campaigns of NRC.

The fact that Trinité was released in 1982 implicates that it had been around for some time when the second wave (far bigger than the first) of Dutch type creators hit the market (Swift was released in 1985, Dan — before L, after T). Adding to that that Noordzij is very influential (through his long involvement with KABK) and BdD’s work shares a lot with that of Noordzij senior (and junior), it is quite clear that a lot of contempory type design can be considered ‘attributable’ to the work of BdD.

k.l.'s picture

Also, it is not that Lexicon is a completely different design than Trinité, it is more of a tamed (newspaper) version thereof. Structurally they do not differ that much.

William Berkson's picture

Bert, as you seem to know a lot of the history, I wonder if you know type designers who have *acknowledged* influence of Bram de Does in their work. I just read (on Google Books) the section in Dutch Type on De Does, and it mentions a 2003 tribute book, which I assume is in Dutch. So maybe something is in that.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

William, I found two publications in my home library: the one you mentioned, by Mathieu Lommen: ‘Bram de Does, typographer & type designer’ (bi-lingual - Dutch and English, published by De Buitenkant, Amsterdam, 2003) and BdD’s ‘Romanéé en Trinité. Historisch origineel en systematisch slordig’ (Dutch, published by De Buitenkant, Amsterdam and Spectatorpers, Aartswoud in 1991. The latter being BdD’s own imprint).

I will re-read those and get back to you!

BTW The second book mentions being the first publication using the PS-version of Trinité, as digitized by PMN with Ikarus M. Other instances of Trinité in this smal book were typeset by Enschedé on an Autologic APS153 in 1982.

[UPDATE] There is nothing in these about other type designers, apart from the observation that Unger and BdD shared an office at Enschedé’s in 1970–71 (a period in which Unger produced his first typeface: Markeur — intended for signage); and that British designer Ray Preston won a Morisawa first price with his ‘Prentis’ which is a knockoff of Lexicon (Preston called it ’inspired by…’).

octoploid's picture

One example of a typeface, that was clearly influenced by Lexicon, is the
TDC2 2009 winner Malabar:

dan_reynolds's picture

I wouldn't say that Malabar was influenced by Lexicon, because I would have had to look at Lexicon a lot more for that to have been the case. But Malabar was very influenced by Van den Keere's types, the 20th century non-Jannon Garamond revivals, and a little bit by Charter. Also, Gerard Unger was one of my professors at the time, so his influence is there, too.

quadibloc's picture

@Nick Shinn:
The degree of finishing in the Lexicon drawings seems strange and unnecessary for 1991, well into the digital era.

This brings to mind one of my earliest posts to this forum, which provoked a reply to the effect that I certainly couldn't be a type designer myself - which, indeed, I am not.

In my naïveté, I had assumed that drawings with "that degree of finish", or at least an approximation thereof, were essential to the creation of a worthwhile typeface (for certain purposes, at least), and it was unclear to me that a mouse and a computer screen would lend themselves to producing them - at least, my experience with paint programs did not lead me to be sanguine.

So I thought that perhaps one would be better off making the drawings on paper, putting graph paper over them, and specifying the endpoints of the component splines of each glyph as numbers - something which font making programs generally don't provide for.

Nick Shinn's picture

You can't just compare any two types of different dates that look similar, and say that the earlier one influenced the later.
The design of new oldstyles, informed by the pen stroke, has a long tradition, many threads.

The old style tradition I was familiar with ran through Gill and Syntax, in the sans serifs, and Goudy and Usherwood's types in the serifs.

It's easy to overestimate the exposure that existed locally, to foreign types, in the past, pre-Internet.
Certainly, there was an international type scene, but nowhere near as broad and open as it is now.
It depended much more on the scope of foundries' advertising and promotion, and local distributors.
In the first decade of digital fonts, roughly 1988-98, promotion was done primarily via direct mail and trade journals, and there was a very real language barrier, more so going to English than the other way around.

Rather than Lexicon, I was very aware of contemporary types like FF Thesis, FF Quadraat and FF Scala, because as a Canadian Mac-using art director I was targeted by FontShop International, but up until a few years ago I always thought that Enschede was an obscure, old-fashioned foundry with a very small niche, not much of a player. Such is prejudice! LettError were rockstars, but although the "stroked" Advert was part of their work, it was the oddity, they were better known for being random and distressed.

In North America, most eyes were turned West, not East, pointed by Raygun and Emigre magazines, or if West, towards the work of Neville Brody, he and Carson being heavily popularized by monographs. Looking west to Wired magazine, TheMix came into view.

A lot of this Dutch style, with its large x-height and shorter-than-ascender cap height, and its micro-detailing, is like the ITC faces of the 1970 and early '80s.
ITC Garamond, ITC Caxton, ITC Berkeley, ITC Veljovic, ITC Giovanni, ITC Galliard, ITC Usherwood, ITC Tiepolo, etc.
But who would dare say that classic ITC influenced the recent "Dutch School"?!

When I designed the humanist sans Sensibility for the Globe and Mail in 2007, one critic dismissed it as Dutch wannabee, comparing it with Auto, but I was working within my own tradition—it was a development of Shinn Sans, a "stroked" type I designed in the mid '80s.

Mark Simonson's picture

So I thought that perhaps one would be better off making the drawings on paper, putting graph paper over them, and specifying the endpoints of the component splines of each glyph as numbers - something which font making programs generally don't provide for.

That's more or less how the earliest outline fonts were digitized, except that they used a special mouse with crosshairs to input the x,y coordinates instead of typing them in. When you have existing analog art (which is pretty much all they had back then), it's a practical method. But once you're used to "drawing" with bezier outline tools, and the "existing art" may be little more than an idea, it's much faster, more flexible, and efficient to work directly on the computer.

Perhaps de Does was more comfortable using traditional methods at the time.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Almost 400 years the making of type was based on skills rooted in drawing and craftsmanship. The last three decades that has changed — computerisation, vectordrawing, etc. But still — drawing (well) is the best and most efficient way to develop ideas. [At least that’s what I think — and BdD’s drawings are proof IMHO.]

John Hudson's picture

The period in which highly finished technical drawing were required for the production of typefaces was relatively short. It begins with the introduction of the pantograph cutter in the late 19th Century, and comes gradually to an end with digital type as more and more designers begin working in tools like Fontographer and FontLab, rather than using plotting systems such as Ikarus. In other words, it corresponds to the industrial period during which type was manufactured by technicians rather than by craftsmen. Prior to the pantograph, when punches were cut by hand, the drawings provided by the designer needed only to convey the character of the design: the proper balancing of weight, the spacing and alignment, etc. was provided by the punchcutter. Somewhere, Hermann Zapf writes about this in terms of his collaborations with the punchcutter August Rosenberger, during which he realised that his drawing didn't need to be perfect because they would be interpreted by Rosenberger. Similarly, today, while drawing remains an efficient way to develop ideas, those drawings do not need to be completed to technical standards, since more often than not the designer is also the manufacturer, who can take a craft approach to the interpretation of those ideas in font software.

Bram de Does learned his craft in the era when finished drawings were a necessary stage of manufacture. I've worked with other designers who began work in that period and who still prefer to work in this way, not because it is necessary, but because they have trained themselves to think through this process. Tim Holloway still produces beautifully finished drawings, even though he digitises these himself and may, in the process, make further modifications to the design at the outline stage. Most of my contemporaries, though, work directly in the digital medium and, if they draw at all, only produce sketches and roughs, not finished 'artwork'.

Nick Shinn's picture

I wish people would stop not referring to vector drawing as drawing.
I use a tablet and stylus to draw, just like the ancient Egyptians.

Admittedly, vector drawing is usually more about manipulating path shapes than actually drawing out a line, but the process of limning outlines and filling in the solid is the same as that used in the Lexicon drawings. And vector drawing tools are indeed called drawing tools, and have icons that look like a pen.

The Lexicon inkings are not "good" enough to use as finished art for phototype, as you can see by zooming in—they would require a sharper edge, made darker, and cleaned up with white opaque, with the addition of "ink traps" and ticks, for that.

The drawing process was nonetheless culmulative and constructive (akin to vector drawing in that respect), refining the shape of curves from pencil lines which would have been erased here and there and re-drawn, I would imagine, as that's the way I worked and it seemed pretty basic.

William Berkson's picture

>my experience with paint programs did not lead me to be sanguine.

Quadibloc, paint programs, being drawing with pixels, are very different from vector programs. Since the end product, the digital font, is a set of vector drawings, this is completely accurate to the final product. That why most type designers now spend most of their drawing time with Bezier curves.

Of course the final result you want is not the digital font, but something rendered on screen or paper, and this may be significantly different. So the vector outline needs to be proofed with the final use in mind.

I think a lot of folks try things by hand on paper, because the hand in motion can teach you things. But polishing is generally done on the computer, rather than on paper. I see there's a new pad, Inkling, which enables a person to draw with ink on paper, and also records what is done digitally. So the two are moving closer together...

About influence, I don't particularly see De Does influencing Scala or Quadraat. I do think I see it in Swift, but I may be wrong. I think Gerard Unger has had a big recent influence though his teaching at KABK and Reading, as well as through his superb types. I'd be interested in whether Unger thinks he was influenced by Trinité in designing Swift.

John Hudson's picture

Bill, while I believe Gerard has occasionally lectured at KABK he is not a regular teacher there. Most of his teaching in The Netherlands has been at the Rietveld Academy and, more recently, at the University of Leiden.

quadibloc's picture

@John Hudson:
The period in which highly finished technical drawing were required for the production of typefaces was relatively short. It begins with the introduction of the pantograph cutter in the late 19th Century, and comes gradually to an end with digital type as more and more designers begin working in tools like Fontographer and FontLab, rather than using plotting systems such as Ikarus.

Well, I am not such a die-hard traditionalist that I would advocate that we go back to designing typefaces by cutting punches. It's clear to me that typefaces were originally designed by cutting punches because that's what the available technology made necessary - and this was an obstacle in the way of the goal of faithfully copying styles of penmanship. Which was what type design started out as being about, until people gradually became aware of other possibilities, and exploring them became acceptable.

@William Berkson:
Since the end product, the digital font, is a set of vector drawings, this is completely accurate to the final product. That why most type designers now spend most of their drawing time with Bezier curves.

It's perfectly reasonable to work on the end product rather than something which is only a sketch, and which can't be transferred to the end product except by redrawing it.

I am positively impressed by news of input devices like the Inkling, because it does seem to me that, even if it isn't nearly as bad as punch-cutting, the mouse-to-computer-screen interface really does stand in the way of control over one's design.

It may even be why a lot of recent typefaces seem to look all the same to me.

John Hudson's picture

I'm not sure that you understood my point, which is that the way most of us make digital type today is more like the way in which type was made when punches were cut by hand than during the industrial, machine period, because both punchcutting and today's common methods involve design within the manufacturing process, whereas the industrial process separated design and manufacture.

William Berkson's picture

>faithfully copying styles of penmanship. Which was what type design started out as being about, until people gradually became aware of other possibilities, and exploring them became acceptable.

Um, no. The Gutenberg Bible was 1455. Jenson's Roman was 1475, only 20 years later, and it already started modifying the stroke in a way different from pen-drawn. And it was done for both aesthetic, and I think readability reasons. As we have discussed here before, as soon as you have type, which repeats the same exact shape for each letter, the design demands have changed, and call for much more strict control, as well as the need for the shape to relate to every other letter.

Hand writing is a different animal than built-up or cut-out letters. That's why it can inform design in a different way from building up. The pen front of a broad pen has its own rules, and creates its own natural variations. But when it comes to punch cutting, before 1890, or built up type with pencil and paper—1890 to 1985—or drawing with bezier curves, it's really not fundamentally different, in that it's the eye and not the tool that determine the shape. There are influences of the tool in each case, but the fundamental thing is gradually building up the letter, as judged by the eye. Punch cutting had the disadvantage of only being able to take away, not add. Bezier curves are not as natural to draw with as a pencil, which is a drawback. But you can move things around, adding or reducing a stroke, even more easily, which is a plus.

John Hudson's picture

Bill: As we have discussed here before, as soon as you have type, which repeats the same exact shape for each letter, the design demands have changed, and call for much more strict control, as well as the need for the shape to relate to every other letter.

This seems a bit vague, and I think what happened is much more particular: Jenson's types formalised the uppercase letters along classical Roman lines, reflecting larger woodcut letters already in use pre-type rather than the written capitals of the humanist book hand.* This in turn prompted modelling the lowercase in the same way: it isn't as if the shapes of the humanist bookhand failed to 'relate to every other letter', but that they related in a different way. To put it another way: the scribes wrote their majuscule letters in a way that harmonised with their minuscule letters; Jenson designed his minuscule letters in a way that harmonised with his majuscule letters.
___

* I see this as another example of text type being tailored upwards to a larger document aesthetic, itself part of a broader cultural aesthetic. This is why it is helpful to look at the illustrations and, particularly, decorative caps and other ornamentation of renaissance books, to understand the context in which the classical Roman capitals provide the model for the new roman types. I don't believe there is anything internal to typography that demanded those forms, and if it weren't for the broader context I don't see a reason for Jenson to have veered from the humanist bookhand that was the scribal norm.

Two books are particularly worth perusing:

Grafton, Anthony, ed. Rome Reborn: the Vatican Library and renaissance culture. 1993.

Alexander, Jonathan J.G., ed. The Painted Page: Italian renaissance book illumination 1450–1550. 1995.

Nick Shinn's picture

Bezier curves are not as natural to draw with as a pencil…

They aren't the tool.
The constraint of working with a mouse, trackball, or stylus as the hand tool is that one isn't looking at the tool tip, but aiming a cursor. But that is an adjustment that can be learned, and I don't think it effects precision, because one can zoom in.

The constraint of working with old media (which, BTW, is no more "natural" than digital media) is quite pertinent to type—namely that one is trying to create a hard, clean, high-contrast image. This is very difficult with pen and ink, much easier in PostScript. I would argue that it is more natural—with greater "truth to materials" to draw digital type with a stylus and tablet, rather than pen and ink.

The idea that drawing with pencil or pen and paper is natural is incorrect. Those are merely the primitive media we learn with, which do have an important historical status; but tradition is not nature.

The only advantage that old media has is its ability to capture the vitality of gestural movement, and this has two aspects. Firstly, the deft touch can be a way of making a delicate, precise mark, but as I said, this is rendered redundant by zooming on screen.

Secondly, in certain types, for certain kinds of curve, the gestural line has a human authenticity which the constructed curve (or one drawn with pen and french curve or templates) does not have, although it can be mimicked to a degree.

And if one is working with gestural shape, the overall effect tends to have a subtle, organic quality.

However, it seems to me that the rigidity of PostScript type forms, such as it is, is informed by hinting requirements—the standardization of alignment zones and stem widths in particular, and perhaps the desire of typographers who are able to inspect type zoomed right in, to see that it is "clean", equating cleanliness with professionalism. (Maybe one reason Arial gets such a bad rap.) But there is no fundamental reason to make digital styles antiseptically neat and tidy; I drew Oneleigh roughly, scanned it, traced it with a bezier line, and cleaned it up—but as I had not been working on a grid, this only involved making the fit sweet and the details pretty, not standardizing vertical metrics and stem widths.

I haven't seen Lexicon hinted on screen, but I would imagine it's a bit gnarly, with details like the unequal stem widths of "o".

William Berkson's picture

With Jenson, there are a number of things going on, but I was referring to the way he makes the letters different from what would be written by a scribe. They are more upright, the serifs more horizontal, and the changes in weight depart from the pen, going toward more even color than scribal writing would have. Jenson's page is extremely even, strikingly more so than a manuscript, I think.

John, the other issue of how to harmonize the caps, which evolved out of a brush drawn letter, and the lower case, which came from the pen, is related but not the same. I guess I wasn't clear, but I was referring to being vertical and adjusting weights for evenness of color.

The overall point, which I think we agree on, is that while type is derived from writing, it is also modified, and both the ancestry and the modification are important. The modification involves sculpting, rather than writing. So some of the gestural qualities that Nick refers are retained—particularly in Jenson—but they are also modified. I don't know how people work with connected scripts that are supposed to look more like they came from the hand, but I think with roman text type a lot of the work is the sculptural thing. And that is best done with the precision of the Bezier curve.

Nick, when I said less natural, I meant that instead of drawing a line directly, you have to deal with nodes and handles.

octoploid's picture

>I haven't seen Lexicon hinted on screen, but I would imagine it's a bit gnarly, with details like the unequal stem widths of "o".

To give you an idea, this is how Lexicon looks like on my Linux box:
(The font is unhinted with VRGB sub-pixels (I use my monitor in portrait mode))

Nick Shinn's picture

Bill: …instead of drawing a line directly, you have to deal with nodes and handles.

I'm still not sure that pen on paper is less direct than bezier drawing.
Drawing a circle or a square with vector tools is far simpler than with pen on paper using templates, t-square & set-square, or compasses.
And applying a manual transformation (scale, skew, rotate) interactively is positively transcendental in its WYSIWG-ness, compared with old media.

Furthermore, with old media one has to deal with ink flow and the tooth of paper.

None of these different qualities of new and old media are bugs, they are features. The tooth of paper, for instance, provides the fundamental upstroke-downstroke construction of letter forms, just as the width of a broad pen provides contrast and stress.

By being able to imitate all forms of previous media, digital media appears to have no style of its own, but surely this is a fallacy, because the same situation occurs with every fresh generation of technology.

Just because digital media finds it so easy to mine analog media for form and content, this doesn't mean that it doesn't have its own predispositions to form and content—it's just hard to see what they are right now.

John Hudson's picture

Bill, I think the uprightness of the Jenson letters and the horizontality of the serifs is directly related to harmonisation with the classical capitals. If you look at the use of capitals in manuscripts of the period, especially prestige editions, you see a move towards drawn capitals based on classical model, rather than written forms, as part of the overall aesthetic. The letters are a) more regularly upright and b) the serifs are flatter and more horizontal. These are exactly the characteristics that you observe Jenson applying to both upper- and lowercase.

The variations of weight are more interesting and, as you say, not directly related to the harmonisation of the cases, but I interpret them slightly differently from you. Jenson's types are smaller than most preceding types and almost all scribal bookhands. I think Jenson's genius is in achieving a great evenness of tone at these new, small sizes while anticipating print conditions of paper and ink (over which he had control, of course). That is to say, I think the variations in weight that he 'sculpts' in the punches are reactive to size and conditions. Manuscript letters tend to be sharper than print, since they are not pressed into the fabric of the paper but are defined by the sharp edge of the nib, so typographic letters need to compensate in various ways for the conditions of their reproduction, as well as optically for their smaller size.

Earlier in the thread you referred to type 'which repeats the same exact shape for each letter'. In fact, the accurate reproduction of a the same shape for each instance of a letter is a relatively recent phenomenon that is pretty much impossible to attain in hand-pulled letterpress printing. The evenness of inking doesn't come about until roller systems are introduced, and it isn't until offset lithography does away with the impression of metal into fibre that significant variation disappears. Witness my collection of Baskerville lowercase a letters from a single page of one book that he printed himself. A scribe needs to write very slowly and carefully to faithfully reproduce the same shape of a letter in two places, but he can get the same ink density and sharpness of the letter with an ease that escaped the printers.

William Berkson's picture

John, I may be wrong about this, and I don't have books to hand to check it out, but my memory is that Jenson's types were pretty big, and only Aldus and Griffo started producing smaller types.

Also I think that the variation because of varying ink spread is still much less than the variation in spacing and letter width and shape in a hand-written manuscript.

In other words, I think you are underestimating the way type, as opposed to handwriting, forces the issue of evenness of color to the attention of the producer of type. This is true even at 16 or 18 point, and more so at 8 or 10 point. So small type certainly forces the issue of even color, but if my memory serves me (which it may not!) think it was present and noticed at larger sizes first.

John Hudson's picture

Jenson's types are larger than modern text standards, but are small compared to most formal manuscript bookhands.

I think you are underestimating the way type, as opposed to handwriting, forces the issue of evenness of color to the attention of the producer of type.

Let's be clear that I'm not talking about 'handwriting' in the sense that we use the term today. The humanist bookhand is a formal manuscript hand, used to write prestige editions. It is written slowly and with great care, with the pen lifting from the page between each stroke (i.e. it is not cursive). I've looked at a lot of this stuff, and evenness of colour is not an issue, far less so than in the frequently unevenly inked early printing; the latter, of course, is not the fault of the type maker, but it is one of the things that he needs to anticipate. Bear in mind also that books about typography, like books about calligraphy, tend to reproduce images of the good stuff, so are unreliable witnesses to quotidian quality.

I am not underestimating the way type forces the issue of evenness: I am saying that the reasons why it does so, and how it does so, are internal to the size and medium of type, especially to impression in the page, and not relative to manuscript, which has its own approach to evenness.

It turns out we've been here before.

rs_donsata's picture

Very interesing thread, I have been away for so long!

dezcom's picture

Welcome back, Héctor!

GT_Foundry's picture

Brilliant. Thanks for sharing this :)

Stefan Seifert's picture

I always liked Lexicon a lot!

Stefan

hrant's picture

Lexicon is amazing. But to me it's not good for news.
You don't want a luscious blonde trying to be objective
about a car bomb in Karachi or flooding in Bangkok.
For that you need a balding middle-aged man.

hhp

hrant's picture

I had missed this:
> ‘Prentis’ which is a knockoff of Lexicon

I don't agree with this characterization. I was there.

hhp

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