Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Good Printkeeping

Photo courtesy Flickr

In the nineteenth century, mass education made scribes of us all, well, most of us. Every teacher of formal handwriting hears new students sharing recollections, and sometimes samples, of the fine quality of their great-grandparents’ hands. Mass computing has made typographers of us all, thanks to Mr. Jobs’ appreciation of his college course on the history of the book. See his Stanford commencement address for details.

Beatrice Warde defined the essential qualities of good twentieth century practice in setting type. The quotation cited above is cast in bronze and posted outside the entrance to the United States Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. Jobs’ italic handwriting coach recommended the GPO manual of style.

I mount a sticker with Warde’s quotation inside the cover of whichever printer I own. By the way, the desktop of the MacBook has exactly the feeling of the printshop annex in which Jobs studied typography. The digital type pioneers Sumner Stone and Chuck Bigelow (Lucida, with Chris Holmes) preceded him in that classroom by a few years.

Printers have the oldest union and, incidentally, the oldest technology of mass production. The first print shops were set up in side chapels of European cathedrals, and the union bodies are known as chapels.

Photo courtesy Flickr

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