The book in its present form is a product of evolution, serendipity, and design. Its size and proportions accommodations to the human form: the length of our arms; the type size a concession to our visual acuity. Ostensibly, the form of the book has changed little in the past 500 years. The very first printed or typographic books resembled their manuscript forebears, but as printing spread rapidly throughout Europe in the fifteenth century, the printed book took on its own, unique characteristics. Page numbers, running heads, indices, colophons, printing in color – some unknown to manuscript book production – soon became commonplace.
I remember looking at this book cover every evening before falling asleep. I was perhaps 13 or 14, and I didn’t really know who Franz Kafka was, but this book with the weird ‘f’ on the spine caught my attention.
The process of drawing Vinter fonts began almost six years ago. The initial spark originated from one of the many magazines I regularly purchase for inspiration in my work as a graphic designer. Its headlines were set in an extremely thin sans serif, employing the thick–thin contrast commonly found in antiqua designs.
Welcome to this month’s roundup of type-related information and entertainment. Today, we go to a galaxy far, far away, take a typographic tour down Broadway, see what it takes to create a Chinese font, wax nostalgic about punctuation that never caught on, find the world’s most expensive-looking font, greet the public preview of FontLab VI, wonder if graffiti is fun or dumb, discover an amazing paper archive, learn about signcrafting and stone carving, ponder what’s next for magazines, see the beauty of quantum blackboard scribbles, learn about all sorts of different space characters, tour the secret libraries of London, and much more!
Both the Roman, Pliny (ca. 61–113) and the Greek historian, Herodotus (ca. 484–425 BC), mention gilding; the latter writing that the Egyptians gilded wood and metal. It has been used in decorating ceramics, in art, and at least from the fifth century in the production of illuminated manuscripts, reaching its peak in the especially exquisite illuminated Books of Hours produced from the thirteenth century.
The early history of illustrated printed books is also the history of woodcut. Woodcut illustrations long predate the mid-fifteenth-century introduction of movable type to Germany. They were used extensively in the printing of textiles many hundreds of years before in Europe and the Far East. Designs were cut in relief in wood, inked, then stamped onto fabric by hand. Woodcuts were also used in the production of playing cards, most notably in Augsburg. Prior to Gutenberg, woodcut or xylographic books, including Ars Moriendi and the Cologne Chronicle, – where entire pages of text and illustration were carved in relief – have survived in relatively large numbers.*
Anyone who has children understands that books are a crucial part of their development. Parents also know that children’s books are likely to have relatively short shelf lives; torn pages, chewed corners, and crazed crayoning conspire toward the book’s inevitable annihilation. Fifteenth-century children were no different, and so it is no surprise that most of the very earliest printed children’s books, despite being printed in relatively large numbers, have not survived. And, of those that have, many bear the hallmarks of accelerated wear and tear.
Welcome to this month’s roundup of type-related info and entertainment. Today, we turn to science to create type (bacteria and ferrofluids are the media of choice), bid goodbye to type legend Adrian Frutiger, talk about Amazon’s Kindle and its new typesetting engine, typographically critique Google’s new logo, remember Letraset, ponder the Turkish typewriter keyboard, play with a font that censors you as you type, examine sexism in the world of typography, welcome new type families from Erik Spiekermann, Tal Leming, and Red Hat, learn the lore of the invention of the Apple command key symbol, discover Arabic type anatomy, mourn the disappearance of Parisian street typography, sate our typographic hunger with America’s Shake Shack and Buenos Aires’ Masticar food festival, and much more!
For tens of thousands of years, humans have looked up at the night sky in awe, intrigued by the motion, manner, and nature of the stars. And with our propensity for pattern recognition and our proclivity for causal inference, or attributing meaning or significance to coincidence, we joined the dots, so to speak, perceiving in the stars’ contingent distributions, patterns, pictures, and amalgamations — reflections of temporal phenomena; as Hume wrote, “We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds…’. And of those armies in the clouds, we see a host of the animate: fishes, dogs, a ram, a bull, rabbits, a crab, a scorpion, a swan, and a centaur, spared by Heracles; and the inanimate: ships, a lyre, a triangle and a bow and arrow – all immortalized in the heavenly spheres.
Last November, I decided on a whim to spend a whole weekend dedicated to designing a full, new, Arabic typeface. All I knew was that I wanted to design a fat, display, Naskh typeface. Because of the speed required, I relied almost entirely on intuition and produced something I wouldn’t have been able to design under normal circumstances. I shared the progress during the weekend over social media; the process was so much fun that I proposed that we do this with our designers at Monotype. So last May, Jim Ford and Toshi Omagari met at our New York office and spent 3.5 days immersed in the process of creating two new typefaces from scratch. Below is a behind the scenes look.