hrant's picture

If I'm not mistaken there was a short discussion about Mistral here recently. The other day I got my hands on some old issues of Herbert Spencer's one-of-a-kind Typographica magazine, and I found by far the best treatment of the font (written by Excoffon himself), in issue #12 of the Old Series. The article contains developmental sketches as well as a technical analysis - it's a true gem, and probably a goldmine for script designers.

It's from 1956, so if anybody can assure me that the copyright is passed, I can


hrant's picture

(continued... sorry)
put the article up for you guys.


kentlew's picture

I can't offer any solid assurance, Hrant, only this guideline: Material published before 1964, but less than 75 years ago, had an initial term of copyright of 28 years from date of publication. If a renewal registration was properly filed, then it received an extension of another 47 years.

But this is US Copyright. Wasn't Spencer from the UK? Could be a whole different matter.

BTW, I think the Mistral discussion came up in Jill Bell's "Connecting Scripts" thread over on Typo-L a month or two back.

-- Kent.

hrant's picture

Yes, Typographica was British - and how! So how does that work out?
BTW, Spencer passed away just over two months ago. :-( He was da man.

> Typo-L

I remember that. For some reason I also seem to remember something here too, but it could be a short-circuit in these aging wires...


kentlew's picture

Sorry, Hrant, I have no experience with overseas copyright laws. Maybe ask RK?

-- K.

hrant's picture

Here's the deal: since I'm willing to make the effort to OCR/scan the article and put it up for others, I'm hoping that a sufficiently motivated person will figure out the copyright stuff and convince me that it's OK. Fair?


gulliver's picture

Since it would be sharing an article ostensibly for purposes of education and critique, mightn't a "fair use" exemption apply in this case?

I would think that something similar would apply to the scan of the article about Typophile from the current issue of "Metropolis" that was posted here a few days ago.


kentlew's picture

I believe that the Fair Use exemption for educational purposes usually applies specifically to a classroom situation, not just general edification.

Section 107 of the Copyright Code lists four factors that are weighed in determining whether an instance constitutes fair use:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

It is a subjective standard. That Hrant's intentions are clearly noncommercial and the fact that the work in question has long been out of print stand in favor of fair use with regard to points 1) and 4), and to some extent perhaps 2).

Posting on a publicly accessible website could be construed as "publishing," which is a slightly different circumstance than mere copying. If you wish to make the article available to those who are interested, Hrant, I would recommend offering to send individual copies via e-mail rather than publishing to your site. This would be more defensible as fair use, in my opinion.

-- Kent.

Disclaimer: As I've said before, I am not an intellectual property rights attorney. My opinions should not be construed as legal counsel.

glutton's picture

On the web, don't copyright holders typically just send a cease and desist letter? Just put it up, and if no one complains, it must be OK.

hrant's picture

Kent, thanks for the nice "fair use" elaboration. Unfortunately, I think #3 kills it, but that's assuming copyright even exists.

John: You know, I was thinking exactly the same thing the other day about the use of copyrighted music in Flash - but I'd rather not go down that path. And actually, I'd be very surprised if anybody were to complain outright about the Mistral thing. The reason to be cautious is simply because it's not nice to just put it up blindly; many people won't like such behavior, even if they don't voice their displeasure.


graficartist's picture

I agree, Hrant. You can get away with stuff if you just 'do first and repent later' but it rubs people the wrong way.

hrant's picture

Especially if you "repent" only
as a result of getting caught!


Diner's picture

So now that we know of the existance of this amazing article on Mistral that many up us cannot see due to potential copyright issues, can you at least give us the jist of the article or perhaps describe the images - maybe illustrate in your own hand some of the points the article was trying to make.

You wouldn't have brought it up in the first place if you didn't want to share it with the group. . . .

"Now class, Let's see what Hrant brought for Show and Tell!"

Stuart :D

hrant's picture

> many up us cannot see due to potential copyright issues

Well, if you have access to the ILL service at a library (possibly through a student friend), you can always request that issue of Herbert Spencer's Typographica: #12 ('56) of the *old* series.

But I'll try my hand at some highlights/excerpts, sure.

- Excoffon wanted to "introduce some life" into typography.

- He started with a long-drawn process of figuring out how handwriting could work in type, trying to "forget all the forms which typefounding had rendered traditional", and wanting to render the "handwriting of the man of the 20th century. ... perfectly free, uncodified, and spirited."

- He notes that the technical requirements were naturally opposed to letterform variety, and resolution seemed impossible at first.

- "I consulted and studied hundreds of autographs of important men of our century", and he also "consulted the most eminent graphologists." But graphology turned out to be entirely "analytical", with no hope of "sythesizing" anything from it.

- He turned to his own handwriting, since "any other method would be marked as artificial".

- "The absence of alignment {typical of handwriting} could not be calculated from the authentic handwriting .... in order to obtain a greater certitude in the average irregular alignment, a careful study of the data* supplied by cryptography on the frequency of juxtaposition of characters (in the French language) enabled me to eliminate, or to foresee in most cases, sequences of disharmonious combinations."

* This is what makes Excoffon truly great: a gifted artist, but unafraid to *think*.

- He implemented "frequent variations in the inclinations of the main strokes ... [which further] enabled me to adjust as far as necessary the characters menaced by kerning** (mainly the l and the p). By adding some logotypes (qu, st, ll, on) I could increase the impression of freedom.***"

** There are no kerning characters in Mistral, noting that it was born as a foundry metal face.

*** OpenType, anyone?

- He points out that having all the glyphs attach at the same height was a major problem in terms of authenticity. Fortunately, "the roughness given to the outlines of the strokes ... [confuses] the repeated regularity of these strokes".

- In order to increase variety, he varied the "base glyph" of the accented characters.

The article includes initial trial sketches, and the best thing about them is that they show a great variety of ideas - there's a lot in them thar mines! There's also an enlargement of a lc "a" from one of the smaller sizes of Mistral, showing how much stronger the outline irregularity is, because it needs to be, to maintain character. And this is why so many "rough" digital fonts essentially fail: they need to have different versions for different sizes, with roughness inversely proportional to size - or ideally an MM axis to that effect.

Further notes:
1. The piece includes the original article in French.
2. It is followed by a review of Mistral (as well as Ashley) by Stuart Hayes. In the review Hayes says that "it is a remarkable technical achievement", but also points out an interesting problem: because Mistral was optimized for French, some common English sequences (noting "ft", "fl" and "fo") tend to "stumble". To me the fix would be to incorporate non-French languages into the "solution", and/or have different versions for each language (maybe through OpenType). This language-specificity also applies to spacing/kerning, btw. Like in French, round-round adjacency is much less frequent than in English, and that directly affects the validity of the sidebearings of the lc "o" for example.


Michel Boyer's picture

I see that I am waking up an old thread. Interesting! Unfortunately, here in Montreal, it seems that Typographica #12 (1956) is accessible only at the McGill university library, from 9 to 5, week days. I'll have a look when I go there.

Concerning digitization, in France, NUMDAM (Numérisation de documents anciens mathématiques - digitization of old mathematical documents) offers an open access to 34 journals, 29 seminars and 4 memoirs up to year 2000. For instance all the issues of the Bulletin de la Société Mathématique de France (Bulletin of the French Mathematical Society) from 1872 to 2000 are freely accessible. The Operations Research Journal RAIRO is freely accessible up to year 2006 (and to subscribers after that) so that "old" is not that old. And they even got the Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa - Classe di Scienze from 1871 to 2005.

Maybe things have changed in the last 10 years... This thread is from 2002.

hrant's picture

BTW anybody into Excoffon (as I feel any good type designer should be)
could do worse than acquire a copy of David Rault's recent monograph:
(English translation by yours truly. :-)


Michel Boyer's picture

I read it yesterday. Interesting indeed but in your comment in the end about Mistral, you cheated a bit when you translated "calquée" by "calculated" (in the main text, you wrote "directly copied"). I agree with your conclusion that he was a gifted artist but unafraid to think, but why "calculated" ? In «L'absence d'alignement ne pouvait être calquée sur l'écriture authentique » I see no calculation, just the fact that it was not possible to reproduce actual writing in lead.

hrant's picture

Ah! :-)
Actually the translated passage in my own contribution was taken directly
from Typographica* (a decision arrived at mutually with David), while the
translation in the main text is mine. Although that might seem confusing,
one thing it does is avoid an exact repetition (at least in the English). In fact
when doing my own translation I intentionally remained oblivious to the
one in Typographica.

* A translation I suspect was done by Spencer himself.

BTW, any views (positive or negative) on the
overall quality of the translation are welcome.


Michel Boyer's picture

Hrant, I had a look only once in a while at the English translation and it looked excellent; I read the text in French.

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