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The Uses of Italic A Primer of Information Regarding the Origin and Uses of Italic Letters   By: (1860-1940)

Book cover

First Page:

TYPOGRAPHIC TECHNICAL SERIES FOR APPRENTICES PART VI. NO. 38

THE USES OF ITALIC

A PRIMER OF INFORMATION REGARDING THE ORIGIN AND USES OF ITALIC LETTERS

BY FREDERICK W. HAMILTON, LL.D.

EDUCATION DIRECTOR UNITED TYPOTHETAE OF AMERICA

PUBLISHED BY THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION UNITED TYPOTHETAE OF AMERICA 1918

COPYRIGHT, 1918 UNITED TYPOTHETAE OF AMERICA CHICAGO, ILL.

CONTENTS

PAGE

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION 1

RULES FOR THE USE OF ITALIC 5

SUPPLEMENTARY READING 16

REVIEW QUESTIONS 17

THE USES OF ITALIC

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION

The first types were cut in imitation of the Gothic or black letter handwriting employed at that period in copying Bibles, missals, and the like. It was large and angular and the lines were very coarse and black. These peculiarities gave it the name. Its characteristics made it easy to read even in the dim light of a church or by the failing eyes of the aged. This form of type, however, was only suitable for large pages. When reduced in size it became very difficult to read, being an almost indistinguishable blur on the page.

[Illustration: Type of the Mazarin Bible (exact size).]

The cost of materials and the unwieldiness of the great folio volumes soon caused a demand for smaller books. Gutenberg's 36 line Bible was almost immediately replaced by the 42 line Bible. A reduction of one sixth in the number of pages of a book as large as the Bible would effect a very important saving in the cost of material and labor, especially when we remember that the early printing press was a very laborious and slow affair. Gutenberg's press was capable of printing only twenty sheets an hour, or one sheet every three minutes. The invention of the movable bed, about the year 1500, increased the output of the press to two hundred sheets an hour. In 1786 the speed had risen only to two hundred and fifty sheets an hour. Cheap printing waited for the application of power to machinery.

The big book with the big type was well enough for churches and libraries. But the purpose of printing was soon seen to be the spread of intelligence through the popularizing of literature. Books were to be placed in the hands of the people, not simply of the priests, nobles, and professional men. That end could only be accomplished by making books cheap and portable, that is to say small. To this end the printers soon addressed themselves to the task of devising forms of type which should be smaller, so as to reduce the number and size of pages required for a book without sacrifice of legibility. A clear, clean cut type, with sharp lines and simple forms, capable of compression without loss of distinction, was the great need.

The first important departure was the cutting of Roman type. The capitals were imitated from the letter forms used in Roman inscriptions. In the earlier forms the lower case letters were rough and uncouth, much resembling the Gothic forms. The inventor of this form is not known, but it was certainly employed by the German printers Sweynheim and Pannartz at Subiaco, near Rome, as early as 1467. Their example was followed by several imitators and improvers, but its form was not definitely settled until Nicholas Jenson cast his fonts in Venice in 1470 or 1471. It is doubtful if any more perfect Roman types than those of Jenson have ever been produced. The superiority of this type soon caused its general adoption except in Germany... Continue reading book >>




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