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Old 03-24-2007, 01:09 PM   #1
ktinkel
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Default An A-Z of Type Designers

Neil Macmillan’s An A–Z of Type Designers is an illustrated listing of important type designers from Gutenberg up to the present time. It is not complete, of course — too many new typefaces (and new designers) emerge every few months for anyone to keep up with all of them. But this book does include many recent contemporary designers — including Peter Bilak, Frank Blokland, Mark van Bronkhorst, John Downer, Dave Farey, Tobias Frere-Jones, Jonathan Hoefler, the late Justin Howes, Akira Kobayasi, Martin Majoor, Jim Parkinson, Albert-Jan Pool, Fred Smeijers, and more — who are otherwise known mainly through type catalog listings, magazine articles, web zines, and other transitory references.

The author describes this as a successor to Rookledge’s International Handbook of Type Designers (published in 1991). (The Handbook reappeared in an updated 1994 edition, renamed Rookledge’s International Directory of Type Designers, published by Joe Freedman’s Sarabande Press, but that edition may not have been consulted for Macmillan’s book.) The earlier books were mainly text, with limited type specimens, a few photos, and lists of the type designs.

Macmillan’s A–Z is much more graphic, with color illustrations that include type specimens, type in use, and sketches by designers. It is a large-format book very much in the modern picture-book style. If you want to see comprehensive examples of each designer’s work you will have to dig further. But the book would clearly become an unliftable tome if it attempted to show even 12-point examples of every typeface.

I was intrigued by some of the missing entries. For one thing, there seemed to be a bias against script designers — there was no mention of Gillies, Kaufmann, Robert E. Smith (Park Avenue), or Trafton, for example. And the coverage of English and European designers was better than the North American. (For those, you need to consult David Consuegra’s American Type & Designers, which I describe briefly in this thread.) On the other hand, Macmillan corrects what was an extremely odd omission from the Rookledge volumes — he includes Adobe’s Rob Slimbach (Carol Twombly appears in all three).

There are also eight essays by various authors (the most interesting to me was John Downer’s piece on typeface revivals).

The book is a high-quality paperback with foldover covers; $35, Yale University Press, 2006. (About $26 from Amazon and other sources.)

A good companion (so you can see examples of the fonts): FontShop’s big yellow catalog, FontBook (hard cover, $100, 2006). It lists most of the fonts available in digital format, shows character sets, and includes designer, foundry, abridged historic information, and more.

   
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Old 03-25-2007, 07:51 AM   #2
George
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Kathleen,

Do you know how common typesetting mistakes were in the first centuries?? I was reading yesterday on revisions of texts, and I found an author referring to some as being based on merely correcting the typesetting mistakes, which he held was common, especially spelling errors. If typesetting mistakes were common, that is a very significant fact for assessing bases for making revisions. This author noted one revision which he asserted was largely for typesetting correction, and other textual considerations were secondary.

Hmm-- I can see how these errors might be common in Greek and Hebrew on presses in England, but it was being alleged they were just as common in English -- and tracing the spelling changes can be hard enough without considering the typesetting. OTOH, nothing was noted on Hebrew typesetting errors, but that could be a reflection of those typesetters being more familiar with the language, or having more respect for their work, or there just being fewer text issues in Hebrew.

Do you know of any sources that reviews typesetting errors in early printing?

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Old 03-25-2007, 09:15 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by George View Post
Do you know how common typesetting mistakes were in the first centuries?? I was reading yesterday on revisions of texts, and I found an author referring to some as being based on merely correcting the typesetting mistakes, which he held was common, especially spelling errors.

Do you know of any sources that reviews typesetting errors in early printing?
Not specifically, though I am no academic.

Early printing was usually in Latin (or Greek); it was not until the 15th century that much was published in vernacular languages, and they — or English, at least — did not have standardized spelling. (Not sure how standardized Latin was either.) So one critic’s spelling error might be just some printer’s way of spelling.

I have read that old texts very likely were altered, perhaps accidentally, perhaps not, during the scribal period, when a reader would dictate text to several scribes. Then (as now) people were in a hurry. Then early printers worked from the work of the scribes, which could transfer some errors into print.

I do not know much about printing procedures until the end of the 19th century. The trade was passed from master to apprentice, not written. So I am not really sure how much proofreading went on before relatively modern times. (A manual for compositors from the late 19th century says they must use standard spelling, even if the author did not.)

In fact, it is odd: most books on printing are about the type used or about the design of books and other materials. Very little about accuracy. You might enjoy a paperback by Harry Carter: A View of Early Typography up to about 1600. It does get into some pragmatic details, though I can’t find much about typos or proofreading.

I imagine scholars in specific disciplines would look at early books differently, and that is probably where you would find discussion of this topic.

   
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Old 03-25-2007, 03:33 PM   #4
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KT:

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Early printing was usually in Latin (or Greek); it was not until the 15th century that much was published in vernacular languages, and they — or English, at least — did not have standardized spelling.
I'm just reading a number of articles on William Caxton and the works he printed and published entirely in the fifteen century, when, of course, Gutenberg invented printing from cast metal type. Most of Caxton's work was in English, translated from popular French (mainly) works. But it is true that 'correct spelling' of vernacular languages was then unknown; Latin and Greek spelling though were pretty well standard though.

   
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