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5069RE: [PPLetterpress] Re: The King is Dead, Long Live the New King

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  • Ludwig M. Solzen
    Dec 1, 2005
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      Gerald and Jason

      > I think it is essentially true that OT was developed for the Asian
      > market.

      Take the case of ligatures. Of course the OT support of automated glyph
      replacement commercially zealed for the Asian markets, where the use of
      ligatures (and their easy implementation) are orthographically obligatory
      (Arabic, Hindi, Tibetan &c). This shouldn't mean of course that fine
      typographers weren't to gratefully embrace the OT features facilitating
      their work in - amongst a lot of other things - the replacement of glyphs by
      the proper ligatures, also in Western languages, where their use might be
      considered purely aesthetical (although I wouldn't agree on that
      completely). Also the technical possibilities of 16 bit data files,
      resulting in much larger glyph palettes, obviously had type designers
      devising glyphs they wouldn't have even considered before, or only seldom,
      such as long-s and fb, fh, fj, fk, ft ligatures, for which their was no
      place in the regular expert sets. Perhaps these new possibilities gave font
      developers too much room for design extravagancies. But then again, I'd
      rather have too much technical means than too little - I don't use these
      imho profligate ct en st ligatures.

      > but I would not agree that these improvements have likewise
      > improved my or anyone else's typography

      Generally speaking, typographical improvement in practical daily use _can_
      be noticed thanks to improvements on behalf of the typographical software.
      Just compare photographically set newspapers from the late 1970s with most
      of today's. And although I heavily dislike the plump traits of Times New
      Roman, it sure is a better default system typeface than Courier was, so that
      I am at least slightly less vexed when receiving a letter of some
      typographically insensitive secretary.

      > Having typographic niceties does not mean that most folks
      > will use them, or even know how to use them properly.

      It all depends from the default settings of the system. To take up the case
      of ligatures again, which is my typographic hobby-horse. I really hate it
      when people don't use them, although in most fonts (PS1) at least fi and fl
      are available for a long time and since the introduction of Windows XP are
      also accessible by non-Mac users. One day I got the master thesis of a
      friend. His typographical knowledge didn't exceed the average, but as a
      mathematician he used the LaTeX typesetting system. Ligatures were all over
      the text and with a meticulousness rarely met in Quark or Pagemaker
      documents. When I asked my friend about them, he hadn't even noticed that
      they were there, in fact, he didn't know what they were! It seemed that
      their implementation was a default setting of the software. Meanwhile, I
      contentedly noticed that this became true for InDesign as well: thanks to
      these technical defaults we can look forward to a brighter typographic
      future, without jobbing designers and common pc users having to be even
      aware of what the machine is doing for them.

      > Building the capability into the system is great, but its a gift to
      > typographers, a panache.

      No doubt. Even with all these great techneutic features we cannot expect a
      'spontaneous generation' of fine typography under the bluntest of hands.
      This has been true for all the arts, where it comes to aesthetic genius, or
      plain good taste. But technological innovation may help to bring better into
      expression artistic brilliance; just think of what the invention of oil
      painting meant for European art. Of course there were more poorly talented
      painters then there have been Raphaels, but at least we have that one,
      unsurpassed Raphael. Likewise, in the digital age, there will be a vast
      majority of poor typography still, but I am happily awaiting the new
      Jensons, Bodonis and Mardersteigs, fully exploiting the new technologies in
      realising what couldn't be achieved by the physical restrictions of metal
      type.

      > It really isn't until the 20th century that such concerns become fully
      > developed and stabilized.

      Quite so. Hanging punctuation and kerning can't be traced in the Aldine
      publications, afaik, even less in the work of Plantin. Gutenberg's 42-line
      Bible, however, has it - and more. In general, I'd say typography has gained
      a lot thanks to technological progress, and although myself an enthusiast of
      incunabulian beauty and all the great achievements by the geniuses of our
      typographic history, the hand printed sheets of the earlier days are often
      rather poor, when compared with the clean products of the motorised cylinder
      press.

      > the vast majority of typesetting and typography gave way to
      > DTP and a complete disregard for setting correct type because so much
      > of correct setting was simply not possible with the tools at hand. [JD]

      Frankly, I guess hot metal typesetting is to be blamed a lot more. The
      Linotype, Intertype and, above all, the Monotype machines have produced much
      better books than photocomposition and early digital. But, in essence, the
      disregard for correct typography principally came across for the first time
      with hot metal; photocomp and (early) DTP are but its even more degenerate
      offspring. Think of the typically Linotype truncated overhanging glyphs
      (notoriously the italic f), the bad kerning on Monotype by lack of necessary
      logotypes and so on. And don't even ask about marginal kerning. In regard to
      the quiet handwork at the stone, these boisterously products of industrial
      commercialism are responsible of the readers' getting used to bad spacing
      and mutilated type characters. This is why I am suspicious about those
      'Luddite' fine press printers claiming typographical excellence with their
      Mono's, at the same time haughtily denouncing digital letterpress. In a way
      digital typography is steadily restoring and emulating the handwork of those
      glorious days before Mergenthaler's however technically genial invention.

      Hot metal is dead: Long live the digital metal!

      (Perhaps a bit too charging, but nevertheless)

      yours kindly,

      Ludwig
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