5069RE: [PPLetterpress] Re: The King is Dead, Long Live the New King
- Dec 1, 2005Gerald and Jason
> I think it is essentially true that OT was developed for the AsianTake 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 likewiseGenerally speaking, typographical improvement in practical daily use _can_
> improved my or anyone else's typography
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 folksIt all depends from the default settings of the system. To take up the case
> will use them, or even know how to use them properly.
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 toNo doubt. Even with all these great techneutic features we cannot expect a
> typographers, a panache.
'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
> It really isn't until the 20th century that such concerns become fullyQuite so. Hanging punctuation and kerning can't be traced in the Aldine
> developed and stabilized.
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
> the vast majority of typesetting and typography gave way toFrankly, I guess hot metal typesetting is to be blamed a lot more. The
> 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]
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)
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