Monthly Archives: September 2014

More joy of text – Oliver Simon’s Introduction to Typography

Introduction to Typography book


By a Typographer, I do not mean a Printer, as he is Vulgarly accounted, any more than Dr. Dee means a Carpenter or Mason to be an Architect; but by a Typographer, I mean such a one, who by his own Judgement, from solid reasoning with himself, can either perform, or direct others to perform from the beginning to the end, all the Handy-works and Physical Operations relating to Typographie.

Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-works applied to the Art of Printing Joseph Moxon, 1683

Typography may be regarded as consisting of three parts: each distinct and indispensable, namely, punch-cutting, founding and printing. The practice of the different branches produces artists of three different kinds, the first punch-cutters, the second founders and the third printers, but he who combines a knowledge of all three branches is fit to be styled a Typographer.

Manuel Typographique Simon-Pierre Fournier, 1764

• the style and appearance of printed matter.
• the art or procedure of arranging type or processing data and printing from it.

Oxford Dictionary of English

This is the revised 1963 edition of Oliver Simon’s classic 1945 book – Introduction to Typography – edited by David Bland. The first two quotes are taken from the definitions of typography printed in the prelims of this edition. The third is the modern definition from the dictionary my Mac uses (the Oxford Dictionary of English according to my preferences panel). Oliver Simon was the typographer at Curwen Press from the 1920s until his death in 1956. This was in the days of the switch from physical type to film setting. I wonder what Oliver Simon would have made of things today.

Introduction to Typography book

Suitable typefaces for display type

Introduction to Typography book


I find it fascinating how processes, terminology, ideas, rules and even roles in printing and production shift and change meaning. One small example: we still refer to the author’s final ‘manuscript’, but it’s many years since I received a sheaf of typewritten pages from an author.
Another example: the role of copy-editor isn’t mentioned in this book, but what we would think of as copy-editing tasks are that of the compositor or setter. There is a section at the beginning of the book discussing what to capitalise, use of small caps, quotation marks, parentheses, italics, etc – things that modern copy-editors would concern themselves with. But the onus is much more on the author to supply a ‘carefully prepared MS. [which] must be strictly followed as to punctuation and spelling’. And Simon also notes that: ‘An intelligent interpretation of an author’s meaning by means of correctly placed punctuation marks is an art that can be acquired only by long experience, and for which no hard-and-fast rules can be formulated’. I assume that the copy-editor’s role developed as publishing increased in order to streamline the process and allow typesetters to set type quickly without having to consider the finer points of grammar and style as they went along (I remember seeing typesetters use photosetting machines – speed and accuracy were critical), and presumably as part of trade publishers’ services to authors – longer expected to supply ‘carefully prepared manuscripts’!
Today the copy-editor’s role has changed again – in many cases there is no longer a need to mark up a manuscript for the typesetter to follow – often the author’s Word document is directly amended by the copy-editor before it goes on to the typesetter (if it goes to a typesetter at all) – and sometimes these copy-editing tasks are undertaken by someone who can not only edit, but set the text professionally too. With the rise in self-publishing and small, independent publishers there are definite advantages to being multi-skilled in all aspects of putting publications together, be they print or digital. Maybe we are coming full circle? Perhaps again a typographer will be ‘…such a one, who by his own Judgement, from solid reasoning with himself, can either perform, or direct others to perform from the beginning to the end, all the Handy-works and Physical Operations relating to Typographie.’?

Introduction to Typography book


Introduction to Typography book

Discussing paper

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The joy of text … or fun with fonts

Alice cover image

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland cover image from my version.

I love typefaces, typography and typesetting and generally playing about with how words look. I spent many years as a non-fiction editor, but I always liked to typeset the books I was working on when I could. When I was at Scholastic Children’s books I worked on highly intergrated illustrated non-fiction mainly, such as Horrible Science, Horrible Geography and Horrible Histories, and we had found it was easier if the editors did the layout, because they knew the text, and the designers did the initial spec, detailing and the covers, of course. It was my favourite part of the job, and as I got more senior and had to give some of it up it was something I really missed. Since I’ve been freelance my work so far has been mainly on the typesetting and digital conversion side of things – so hurrah!

A few weeks back I made a couple of sample ebooks using InDesign CC2014 to test out its fabby new fixed-format export, and while I was researching that, I came across a brilliant InDesign script called Wordalizer (thanks, InDesign Secrets!). It makes word clouds like this:

spread from Alice in Wonderland

Or like this:

spread from Alice in Wonderland

Now I love a word cloud! Wordalizer can use words on the clipboard, scan the open InDesign file, or you can type words in manually. I made the clouds in these images by copying a chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the clipboard. You can tweak the list it generates, delete and add words – it will also accept short phrases and give an indication of the weighting of each word. Then you can assign up to four fonts, choose the colour scheme, word orientation, cloud shape, etc. Once the cloud is generated it is completely customisable. Each word is a separate outline object and can be coloured, stroked, deleted, resized, moved, rotated to taste. Or you can go back into the script and tweak to your heart’s content there – you can even recolour without changing the cloud itself. You can also export as an eps, jpg or png and take it into Illustrator or Photoshop if you want. Hours of fun for a type fan like me!

I’ve wanted to make a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a while, but I’m certainly not an illustrator, so I’ve used the Alice word clouds I generated as illustrations for my version. I did very little to these clouds once they were generated as I wanted to see what Wordalizer was capable of. More tweaking to be done to the book, but I’m pretty happy with the way it’s going. I’ve converted it to fixed-format ePub, and it’s set up in a Blurb template so I might get it printed too.

spread from Alice in Wonderland

spread from Alice in Wonderland

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Ooh La La! Sixties Pin-up Playing Cards

1960s playing cards

Four aces

Ooh La La! Not a book today, but a pack of gorgeous sixties playing cards. I got sidetracked down the road of playing cards recently and came across these on Ebay. And they are fifty-two pieces of utter fabulousness. According to The Internet the deck was called ‘Cherie’, and they were made in 1965, possibly as an advertising deck or possibly a version was put out as an advertising deck. The illustrators were Hans and Louise Neupert.

These come right out of the time of Sweet Charity, James Bond, Viva Maria and Cat Ballou – faux Wild West showgirls, Fosse, feathers, fans, sequins and ‘legs that go on for ever’.

The court cards and aces are illustrated in zingy, vibrant colour with a different woman on each card, the number cards have a line drawing for each number. Hearts and Diamonds are printed in Schiaparelli pink instead of red. They use a luscious, curvy script font. My set, unfortunately, came without the original box and no jokers (but I knew that before I bought them). I shall try to track down the jokers at some point.

Gin Rummy, anyone?

1960s playing cards

“Hey, big spender”?

1960s playing cards

Close up of number card

1960s playing cards

four suits

1960s playing cards

Card backs

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More Alice in Wonderland

concept Art Disney Alice

Alice cover

This time it’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with David Hall’s previously unpublished illustrations for Walt Disney Productions. First published by Methuen in 1986 and with an afterword by Brian Sibley. I picked this up in a YMCA charity shop for £1.50. Sadly it has slight water damage, but I’ve been able to separate all the pages and there is no staining.

In 1939 David Hall was commissioned to create concept artwork for Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The project was shelved at that time (because of the War) and didn’t go into production until 1948. Apparently these illustrations didn’t see the light of day again until this book was published. Hall’s illustrations are fascinating – you can see the slight beginnings of the final Disney film in some places and echoes of early Mickey Mouse in some of the characters (see the mouse below). But many of the illustrations are quite menacing and nightmarish. The court scene is particularly gruesome with its guillotine and vertiginous POV. Brian Sibley’s afterword is very interesting and covers the history of Alice on film up to and including the final Disney version.

concept Art Disney Alice

Drink me. The bottle is an animated character. In the final film the door knob was animated.

concept Art Disney Alice

Lobster Quadrille

concept Art Disney Alice

The court – complete with guillotine!

concept Art Disney Alice

Caucus race and the mouse’s tail

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