Archive through March 07, 2003

matha_standun's picture

I think I prefer the italic. It works a tiny bit better. In both the italic and the Roman the 'h' keeps jumping out at me (same as in the nasty 'Dwiggins Uncial thing'). He could have used a 'h' with an ascender. Not many words in English with 'h' and 'l' next to each other. It wouldn't have messed up his plans too much.
The 'f' and the 'g' are wonderful.
In terms of readability, though, I don't know. But then I'm not a very logical person and I don't like tomatoes.

M.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Ah guilt. Here is a proper bibliography on the second picture which was posted.

Bennett, Paul A., ed. Postscripts on Dwiggins 2 Volumes (New York: The Typophiles, 1960)

Also, the picture previous was taken at St. Bride's Printing Library in 2000.
-----

What he said, makes sense ... to a point ... However, like Matha, I also had certain characters jumping out at me. I have a hunch that Dwiggins might have prescribed to Zuzana Licko's mantra.

matha_standun's picture

Guilt is good, Tiffany. Thanks

Kent, where can someone stuck in France get hold of examples of the other uncial designs?

Matha

Miss Tiffany's picture

Matha -- I might have more of that good stuff too. I'll look tomorrow. -- I wish I were stuck in France. :^)

jfp's picture

On the beautiful example show by Tiffany, I have really a problem with H on oncialized lc. It don't fit. Nobody else? Perhaps a Peignot style H will be better? or a true oncial h?

The face is still very good. and Italic is amazing.

jfp's picture

On the beautiful example show by Tiffany, I have really a problem with H on oncialized lc. It don't fit. Nobody else? Perhaps a Peignot style H will be better? or a true oncial h?

The face is still very good. and Italic is amazing.

kentlew's picture

Matha --

The only reproductions of the other uncial experiments that I'm aware of are two small photos in American Proprietary Typefaces published by the APHA (American Printing History Association). These images accompany John Kristensen's essay "The Experimental Types of W.A. Dwiggins." John runs the Firefly Press in Somerville and knew Dorothy Abbe. The extant materials pertaining to the uncials are in the Dwiggins Collection at the Boston Public Library.

Tiffany -- the 264 and 264a materials are cataloged with the Winchester stuff, Folio Box N; the proofs that John reproduced are from folders 29 & 30, I think, in case that helps you find anything in your collection.

-- K.

kentlew's picture

J-F -- I also have a problem with the H, among other things. Here is something Dwiggins said at one point (this was in reference to the earlier uncial 264a, but he always did this H):

"Damned interesting to see how easily you can take it, you swallow the D, B and G without thinking. P not bad -- better if the tail were longer. H is the only one that stops you -- and you'd get used to that."

I don't happen to agree, but I thought it was interesting to see his thought on the matter. (This quote is taken from John Kristensen's essay; he didn't give a specific citation for the source.)

-- K.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Making the connection from wooden figurines to subvisible type is all about intuition.

Okay, we have different definitions of intuition. In the case of the M-formula, I see a purely logical path, based on observation and experience, from the marionette to the typeface, as explained by Dwiggins in his own words. If this connection had been made by someone with only a passing knowledge of either marionette or type making, then I'd ascribe it to intuition. In the case of someone like Dwiggins, who was intimately and daily involved in the making of both marionettes and type, the connection might even seem to be an obvious one. Perhaps the lesson in this is that type designers benefit from having other hobbies.

Re. Dwiggins uncial: one of its bastard children has to be 'FF Disturbance', even though I'm pretty sure that Jeremy Tankard had never seen Dwiggin's original when he designed Disturbance.

hrant's picture

Wow, Tiffany, thanks for sharing all that.

>> "The gouts and agglomerations of tails give a jagged and stuttering look to the page

On the other hand, readability is all about contrast. Otherwise we'd read all-caps better. Conscious deliberative appreciation of the page is not strongly correlated to subconscious immersive reading.

>> "it would take our habit of reading roman as a starting point ....

Now that's the way to do it!

(And Kent, I'm touched... :-)

> maybe we are moving into an anglo-american world

Yes. And it's about the same as Benito's and Hitler's version...

> Peignot style H will be better?

Huh, that's exactly what I was thinking!

> intimately and daily involved in the making of both marionettes and type

What I see different here is that WAD was not in fact intimately involved in the making of very small type (where my "subvisible" came from), at least at that point - that's why the connection he made seems so impressive.

--

BTW, maybe "illogical" was the wrong idea. But he was still wrong about extenders, and he had enough information that he didn't need to be - it's just a matter of looking for it. Something lacking even more today! So maybe in comparison to us WAD was more analytical after all... :-/

hhp

kentlew's picture

The M-formula as laid out in the document of July 3, 1937, is a typically engaging expression of WAD's ideas along these lines; but it was not a sudden epiphany on Dwiggins part. Neither was it formulated specifically in relation to newspaper designs, as one might infer from Unger's article. I have evidence of at least two earlier documents outlining some of the same ideas -- although neither of these specifically mentions marionettes. One of these, in fact, from February of the same year, is essentially a proto-M-formula. I haven't tracked down the drawings to see whether he put these ideas into practice before the July document. The application of the theory to small, newspaper types came about a year later.

My point is that the M-formula is a culmination of thinking that WAD had been doing in this direction for about two years.

-- K.

Miss Tiffany's picture

As I look through all of my transcribed notes, which at one time seemed written in way that I would always understand, now look greek to me. But, I did manage to find the quote you mentioned Kent. Again below, you will see that my words are in brackets. These were thoughts I was having as I transcribed and studied the work.

-----

3/2/42 12 pt. Experimental No. 264 A
no. 1 bdghp (all half-uncial)

4/8/42 12 pt. Experimental No. 264 A
no. 2 bdgh (h.unc.) (special no. 1)
bd (h. unc.) (special no. 2)

[galley proof of type set using 12 pt. Falcon, 12 pt. Caledonia and 12 pt. exp. 264A using

Miss Tiffany's picture

With the idea of "where does intuition start and logic end" in regards to type design. I found this little ditty in my notes as well. Shame on me for not having a date attached. Maybe Kent can help with this one? I'm pretty sure Dwiggins wrote it though. Hmmm...

-----

Book Fancier
-- Type

Obviously, there is no reason for writing a thing if the
words are made up of characters that cannot be
deciphered. A letter is good if it is easy to read. No
concession that interferes with ease of reading can be
made either to beauty or to mechanical felicity.

Legibility is the first law.

The tests of legibility are use and survival. Laws governing
legibility may be deduced from a study of the characters
that have survived. Or may be evolved by experiment in the
laboratory. Knowledge from either source is deservable.

Legibility being granted the question of excellence passes
into the domain of art. It happens in the case of
letterforms--that artisitic excellence and art are never very
far apart. If a letter is well made in the true sense it is both
a beautiful design and a legible sign.

The quality of good proportion

matha_standun's picture

To get back to Dwiggins and logic/intuition (after a very short nap). I think the most serious attack we can make on him in relation to the above experiment concerns the serious anachronism inherent in his perception of the Irish-English/semi-uncial as an essentially 'English' letter. I'm wondering what the level of scholarship was like on that sort of thing in the 1940s? What sources might he have been using?

In the 8th and 9th centuries the 'English' he's talking about didn't exist yet. Letter frequency statistic are completely different for Old English and Modern English, so his theory about the suitability of semi-uncial is way off. On top of that, the letter forms he's talking about were developed for use in Latin texts and not English (or even Irish).

But I love it anyway. To hell with logic.

Matha.

kentlew's picture

Tiffany, Book Fancier is a Dwiggins text that, as far as I know, was never published. It was probably never completed. It comprised a series of essays on the various elements of a book. I have a copy of the section on Design, which was used in the first setup proof of Eldorado. I've seen little bits from the section on Paper that were used in some test proofs of the second Falcon.

I'd never come across this section on Type. This looks like it's an early draft (and seriously in need of an editor). Too bad you don't have a note on where you found it. I'm going to guess this was written sometime around 1942-44.

The rest of this manuscript has been on my list of things to track down next time I can make it over to the collection in Boston.

-- K.

kentlew's picture

Funny you should say that. I've already had thoughts
along those lines. 2006 will be fifty years since Dwiggins's
death. I have been thinking about getting the BPL to
mount an exhibition of some of his work in various
disciplines to travel around the country. I was going to
try to talk David Pankow into curating it.

But there's not a lot of time between now and then,
and I've got so many other things on my plate.

-- K.

hrant's picture

> Laws governing legibility may be deduced from a study of the characters that have survived.

But that's only half the picture.

--

WADfest isn't funny - it's a brilliant idea.

I nominate Tiffany to organize it (and give a talk), Kent to be the keynote speaker (and give a talk), and Unger, Highsmith (El Universal) and others to top it off in grand style. I'm not kidding.

hhp

Miss Tiffany's picture

If I could find a job in Boston, and I was there all the time, you know I'd be all over that idea

matha_standun's picture

Has anyone actually seen the 'King's Fount' desined by Charles Ricketts for the Vale Press. Dwiggins mentions it (see above) and there's a note or two on Google, but I can't find anything else.

Matha

John Hudson's picture

Yes, I've seen the King's Fount, but I don't recall in what books it is shown (perhaps the brilliant and eclectic Typographical Printing Surfaces?). I think I recall Matthew Carter showing it in his talk on experimental type design at ATypI 94 in San Francisco. It is truly hideous, and also very difficult to read due to the almost complete absence of extenders. Basically, Ricketts took the view that all legibility was in the x-height ergo one could dispense with ascenders and descenders. It is, perhaps, an object lesson in the importance of the distinction between legibility and readability.

hrant's picture

> .... the distinction between legibility and readability.

Yes!

hhp

matha_standun's picture

Thanks John. If you come across it again, let me know.

Matha

John Hudson's picture

Aha! I may be mistaken in my memory of the King's type, and might be confusing it with another experiment of the same period. I've tracked down an illustration of a type by Ricketts that may, in fact, be the King's type, and it is not as I remembered it. It is still pretty horrid, but does not display the bloated x-height and truncated extenders that I must be remembering from something else. Unfortunately, the illustration is not captioned, so I can't be absolutely certain that this is the King's type, but it makes sense in the context of Dwiggin's comments. Also, the title of the work is The Kingis Quair.

The King's Fount?

Additionally, I found mention online that the King's Fount is shown in Goudy's Typologia, but I don't have my copy handy.

matha_standun's picture

Bloody Hell John, that was quick.

Now that is interesting. Certainly worth the trouble. I think it works a bit better than the Dwiggins experiment, especially for this particular text.

Matha

John Hudson's picture

Bloody Hell John, that was quick.

:-)

I didn't get where I am today without research skills. Of course, where I am today is taking a break from positioning vocalisation marks on Arabic ligatures. Now back to the grindstone....

rcapeto's picture

Of course, where I am today is taking a break from positioning
vocalisation marks on Arabic ligatures.


Oh yes, I saw it there:

http://www.tdc.org/news/2003Results/Arabictype.html

Nice.

John Hudson's picture

Actually, Paul Nelson and Mamoun Sakkal did all the mark positioning for the Arabic Typsetting font. My contribution on that project consisted only of designing the Latin companion.

What I'm working on now is a different and, thankfully, much simpler Arabic project.

Stephen Coles's picture

I say the two of you, Tiffany and Kent, both venture
to Boston and organize the first WADfest. I'm not
kidding about this. They did it in SF for Hermann.

anonymous's picture

Is Electra available in digital form? That is such a killer font, but I only see it used in the
1940s and '50s.

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