2740Re: Summer reading....
- Jul 6, 2004Rufo
A very intriguing and thought provoking post.
As far as I can discern from reading Smeijers'_Type Now_ it does not seem that he has cut a complete alphabet from punches. His idea that the way type was cut and later, designed, results in a significantly "different" letterform is hardly a new observation. But drawn faces are also a great part of metal type during the twentieth century. There were very few (relatively) twentieth century metal typefaces that would have been hand cut from punches. The schism between the punch cutter and the drawn metal face created with the pantograph is
probably a much greater one than that of the pantograph and the digital.
On the other hand, I have seen it argued, though rarely, that the cutting of letters was more a violation of letterform than the drawing. One would have to discern how significant the differences are between drawn or sculpturally created letterforms of antiquity to secure a position in what is obviously a fairly untraveled argument.
The early printers were using the only technology at hand in their attempt to perfect mechanical writing. I just point this out. It was the only way to standardize the written letterform. But punchcutting drew from the numismatic world rather than the traditional world of the scribe. The Carter book is, I think, the most important thinking on the early manufacture of type. And requires a great deal of rereading. Though I have the first edition I was quite pleased that Kinross reprinted it. Note though, how Carter hardly mentions Gutenberg, and when he does, it is a query. More is not said there than was said.
But the way we see the development of metal type today may very well be incorrect. The very recent investigations of the DK-type (historically attributed to Gutenberg) have provided a much more interesting view of possible early metal type production. One that is more probably aligned with letterform structure and of significance, I think, in the way digital letterforms are themselves often constructed.
But I think a reasoned examination of the intentions of the early printers and the later ability to actually "draw" letterforms mechanically provides a very good rationale for the use of photopolymer. You surmise a preservation act, I see it as much more.
I was going to also refer you to the Andy Crewdson interview with Robin Kinross (publisher of Hyphen) at Andy's new-series.org but the link seems to be broken. Anyone know what happened to Andy's site?
> Yes, I really liked "Counter Punch"; it rearranged my thinking
> regarding the way type could be designed. I never saw how the sometimes
> contrived nature of twentieth century text fonts could have something
> to do with the fact that most contemporary fonts are drawn designs,
> which would be more open to arbitrary idiosyncrasies than a punch cut
> based on a common counter. The latter method limits one's design
> options but, God, what a wonderfully practical & satisfyingly tactile
> way of focusing a typographic design. It's a way of going about things
> that I can't imagine a design school student or teacher wanting to try
> - most schools like designing to be free of limitations.
> I'm curious if Smeijers has punch-cut a font and finished it digitally
> on a fontlab or fontagrapher program. If he's right in thinking that
> the early design of fonts is more of a sculptural rather than graphic
> process, and that with practice and learning of right techniques one
> could learn to make tactilly with punch and counter punch a font
> family as quickly as one could design it visually on paper or via a
> font program, it's conceivable that one could then scan smoke proofs of
> all the punch-cut letters into a computer and create a digital font for
> mass use that is much more solid a type form than a computer-only
> design. Like polymer plate letterpress, it seems like great way of
> using present technology to preserve - or in this case revive - an art
> form & keep it relevant with the current techniques of design. And by
> thus remaining relevant, older typographic design has a better chance
> of influencing future typographic thought.
> Oh, and to Paul: I'm reading Harry Carter's "A view of early typography
> (up to about 1600)" originally put out by Oxford UP in 1969. The
> version I have is a 2002 reprint by Hyphen Press (yeah, them again).
> It's a compact trade paperback clocking in at about 150 pages (126 of
> it text) based on a series of lectures Carter gave at Oxford in 1968.
> His prose is great - no stodgy dry lecture here. Carter was a guy
> whose love of typography is infectious; you get drawn in as he traces
> the origins of the early printing industry and the spread of roman and
> blackletter across Northern Europe. So far a ripping yarn.
> And what bully would dare kick sand your way if you're walking around
> swinging a big-ass book like "Printing on the Iron Hand Press"? A book
> like that could do some real damage.
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