Faithful revivals from early printed pages

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George Horton's picture
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Faithful revivals from early printed pages
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I hope to spend next academic year producing a faithful revival of Griffo's last roman in its 1499 state - the font, in adulterated form, of the Hypnerotomachia - and his 1503 italic for Soncino. 'Faithful' here means avoiding the potentially banalising effects of human interpretation; with incunables, it can't really mean the copying of selected printed letter-forms. That worked better for Justin Howes with the relatively limited variation of Caslon's printed letters than it would for the mess of an Aldine page.

So I've written a little program which takes a large number of copies of a letter, normalises their colour, finds the right offset at which to superimpose each on a master-image, blends each with the master, repeats the process with the completed master from the first round as seed-image, and then thresholds the result to give a monochrome image around which to draw an outline. The degree of boldness from inkpress one wants determines the threshold. But I had previously had a very helpful exchange of emails with Sergei Egorov on his own method, by which tracings from a smaller number of characters were superimposed and an outline for the font drawn through the resulting blur. Still another method would be to try to model in software the Aldine printing process from punch to paper, which, run in reverse, could get to the punch - a thing at least of interest, even if an averaged character better represents Griffo's expectation of how the letter would look. The question: which method is best, and why? Would another method be superior?

A 'p' from the 1501 italic for Aldus is shown here, with Sergei's method shown in the second and his end result in the third image. My blended composite is fourth, and final image for tracing is fifth. This p shows, I think, something which I suspect Griffo practiced pretty consistently in his later work: rotation of the counter. I don't have enough data to be sure yet, but it's finding that sort of thing which makes painstakingly literalist revival interesting.

George

Stefan Seifert's picture
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Hi George!

I have seen your posting today for I was in holidays.
Actually I do not know much about how often and where Giovanni Mardersteig used this type.
Yet, it was not a Bembo recut (at least if you didn’t refer to the book of „Bembo“ that gave the name of Monotypes recut of Griffo). Actually Bembo was cut later as far as I know under the direction of Morrison and he himself admitted that it was inferior to Malins cut. I don’t like Monotypes Bembo because its so stiffy. Serifs like knifes it lacks softness, but thats another story.
What comes to Mardersteig family, Martino Mardersteig (for who I worked) is quite closed (I am missing the right word;-) about all the creations made for the Officina Bodoni. Castiglioni and Jane Patterson, as far as I know, offered him to make a digital redesign of Griffo years ago but Mardersteig categorically refused when I was there. (Broke my heart to leave Verona;-)

Looking to hear from you
Stefan

Stefan Seifert's picture
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PS.:

George, do you write books about typefaces?
I have seen in your profile that you are a professional author.
I am trying to do so right now but its a mess so far.

Stefan

Gerald Giampa's picture
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HRANT

"Basically I guess I don’t think anybody (short of a medium :-) is capable of subverting his own preconceptions to allow what was in the mind of another person to surface - especially not centuries apart."

I hate to agree with Hrant on anything. Far too often this happens.

HINT; Was the punchcutter left handed? Did he/she cut counter punches?

HINT; Find earliest specimens of use, and/or first pages of book. This may or may not be useful. Type wears out. But beware, different hands may set different pages, different hands my have pulled impressions for different pages. It can become even more complex, easily.

I do not lean towards averaging. I look to see what I see, and feel what I feel. That is when, "pure source"is not available.

I would not pressume to improve, merely to find.

That said, any result will not meet "every ones" criteria. Unless "we all" are merely "averaging". But I don't think all of us are.

Giampa

Zach Risso's picture
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Forgive me for reviving such an old thread, but I've been keeping an eye on this project for years. Can anyone tell me if I got any further?

Eben Sorkin's picture
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Re-reading some of this I want to add that having looked at lots of incunables and Aldine ones in particular, the most exciting thing to me was to find a copy that was printed too lightly. An overly light printing shows a huge amount about the metal. I am not in any way suggesting that the metal is somehow the thing to be emulated in a project like this. But I think it is a kind of information that should be given close attention and potentially guide interpretation of the the other data. It can be very hard to find light copies of the thing you want. Indeed none may exist. But if they do it can be especially enlightening to observe.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Indeed - it helps you get closer to what the type designer was thinking,
which you can use as a springboard. And this is related to a belief of
mine that in a letterpress type specimen even a kiss impression is
too much; to that end I've coined the term Platonic impression. :-)

hhp

George Horton's picture
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Thanks Stefan; I've seen only two or three scans of Mardersteig Griffo. I think it was meant to be pretty much a recut of the Bembo type, though with lightened caps. Mardersteig hardly used it himself, did he?

Antonio Cavedoni's picture
Joined: 27 Aug 2005 - 10:32am
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I think it was meant to be pretty much a recut of the Bembo type, though with lightened caps. Mardersteig hardly used it himself, did he?

George, I went and had a look in my copy of L’Officina Bodoni : I libri e il mondo di un torchio : 1923–1977 by Giovanni and Martino Mardersteig. These are the occurrences of usage of the Griffo type I found:

  • Due episodi della vita di Felice Feliciano, sep. 1939 (first proof)
  • Aminta di Torquato Tasso, dec. 1939
  • Lettres à une amie Vénitienne par Rainer Maria Rilke, oct. 1940
  • The reluctant dragon by Kenneth Graham, dec. 1941
  • Marco Polo · Il Milione, dec. 1942
  • Cecco Angiolieri · Sonette, apr. 1944
  • Rudolf Hagelstange · Venezianisches Credo, apr. 1945
  • [Lucius Annaeus Florus] · Pervigilium Veneris, sep. 1948
  • Dylan Thomas · Twenty-six Poems, dec. 1949
  • Rudolf Hagelstange · Die elemente, nov. 1950
  • The Nymphs of Fiesole, dec. 1952 (Griffo «secondo stato», revised)
  • Maurice de Guérin · Poèmes en prose, jan. 1954 (already published in Bodoni in 1923, Mardersteig wanted to test Griffo on the French language)
  • [Vincenzo Fagiuoli] · Allocutio, nov. 1957
  • Hugh Macdiarmid, The Kind of Poetry I Want, sep. 1961
  • Rudolf Hagelstange · Venezianisches credo, sep. 1965 (Griffo «primo stato», original cut)
  • Il principe di Niccolò Machiavelli, may. 1967 (Griffo 14 regular uppercase)
  • Petri Bembi De Aetna Liber & Pietro Bembo · Dell’Etna, aug. 1969
  • Petri Bembi De Aetna Liber & Pietro Bembo · On Etna, sep. 1969
  • Lo alphabeto delli villani, sep. 1969
  • Petri Bembi De Aetna Liber & Pietro Bembo · Der Aetna, mar. 1970
  • ΔΕΛΦΙΚΑ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΑ, Sentenze dei sette sapienti greci, feb. 1976
  • ΔΕΛΦΙΚΑ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΑ, The Sayings of the Seven Sages of Greece, apr. 1976

I wouldn’t say he hardly used it, but it sure is true that he never had Malin cut a body smaller than 14pt and that by a quick survey of the Officina Bodoni’s later work he tended to favour smaller bodies to set text, like 11pt and 12pt. For these, he had already the Dante type at his disposal, which makes me wonder whether he didn’t feel like Griffo was suitable to be reduced any further.

Initially the Griffo type was indeed meant to be a Bembo recut (the idea was of Stanley Morison but Mardersteig wrote he wasn’t particularly looking forward to confront himself with a type already very successful at that time as Bembo), but then he began studying more closely an original De Aetna and came to the conclusion that he could indeed get much more close to the original.

He then asked Malin, of whom he had been an admirer for a long time, to cut for him this new Griffo type. Malin moved to Mardersteig’s house for three months to do the job, and they would critique together his rough cuts every night. The Griffo type is indeed very different from Bembo; for one, it includes several alternate characters that were there in the original but had been removed from the Bembo cut. Mardersteig, Morison and Malin initially thought De Aetna was some sort of specimen of types by Griffo, but later on Mardersteig came to the conclusion that Griffo cut these alternates (as many as five of them for the e glyph alone) to try to imitate the works of calligraphers.

Malin and Mardersteig didn’t cut every single one of the alternate glyphs by Francesco Griffo, though, prefering to choose the base glyphs that looked best to them and some swash alternates as a complement. They also tried to choose the ones more different from Bembo, and that should explain the difference in how the capitals look.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Show & Tell, I cannot resist:

With apologies to Olivia Newton-John: "Let's get Pla-to-nic, Pla-to-nic..."
The charset of my Pascal 60 (and a bit of the 30) at 20% of the original scan,
with a "w" at full size.

hhp

John Hudson's picture
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Hrant, I'm not sure how I should interpret 'Platonic' in this context. Do you mean Platonic in philosophical sense, i.e. that while there might be no actual impression at all, there is the idea of an impression? Or do you mean Platonic in the popular sense, i.e. that the type and the page are only good friends and never actually touch each other? I suppose the visible result is the same in each case, but I'm intrigued to know whether you are a nutter or a prude. :)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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A purist. Or at least I try.

In a practical sense (because strangely enough there is one) "Platonic impression" means that the blackness of the body of the letter is secondary to its outline, which is what must be revealed; in fact this is what I did back when I was intending to digitize Pascal (BTW I also printed rules* between each letter to extract the sidebearings).

* Had to chop some of those up to let kerns through.

Of course a true idealist would not even use ink. That would be yucky. ;-)

hhp

Stefan Seifert's picture
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Hi George!

If you do like Griffos work so much, are you familar with the version cut by Charles Malin for Mardersteig? Sorry if I asked a stupid question, I am sure you do. I appreciate this version very much I have to admit I like it even more than its original from which it was made. It seems to me more femminine (right word?) more lovely. I think its beautiful. I did work for Mardersteigs son in the past but never got the chance to see it. Neither to redesign it from original matrices. I think its the best redesign of a Griffo character ever made.

Good luck to your work George
by the way
thanks William, thanks raph for your most interesting postings you seem to me one of the few to understand something about storic characters

Stefan

George Horton's picture
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Thanks very much Antonio, and also Gerald. I had no idea Mardersteig's Griffo project began with any kind of intended recut or rethink of MT Bembo. To me MT Bembo doesn't look its best in Italian; perhaps that provided a little of the motive for wanting to move away from it? By the way, I've several times tried to send you scans, but they've been too big to get through. I'm getting a better internet connection soon and will try again.

Gerald, your second hint and concerns I had thought about; would you be able to enlarge on the left-handed idea? There are no repeated counters, so no counterpunches.

John Hudson's picture
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Hrant: the blackness of the body of the letter is secondary to its outline

Got it. Yes, it makes sense that if what one is interested in is the underlying letter shape then the ideal impression might be quite different from what one wants for reading purposes: insufficiently inked and impressed.

On the subject of getting at the underlying shape, have I explained the method that Mike Parker recommends for obtaining images of the face of punches? You dip the punches in ink so that the shank is black, and then wipe off the face so that the letter is bright relative to the background; then you photograph it (in a light diffuser, so that you don't get a strong directional light; I believe Mike's setup involved a ring of lightbulbs diffused through a circular wall of paper), and print the image in negative for black shapes on a white background.

George Horton's picture
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Hi Stefan,
Yup, I meant that the De Aetna type was Mardersteig's model for his Griffo. As for "author", that was for want of anything else - it's the long-term assumption.

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As far as original metal shape, someone here on typophile reported a clever computer averaging technique that got pretty good outlines from the printed page. It is also possible to see a grayer portion where the edge of the type is, compared to the face and the squeezed out ink, under sufficient magnification. This may be instructive to learn what the old folks did. But [[http://ilovetypography.com/2010/07/26/reviving-caslon-the-snare-of-authe...|I think the pursuit of authenticity is a trap,]] as this thread in a way indicates.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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But the pursuit of "What was he thinking?" is not.
For example we have yet to fathom the genius of Fleischmann.

John: Mike's method is clever! As thinking "backwards" usually is.

hhp

William Berkson's picture
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Something like Mike Parker's method was already used by Merganthaler Linotype in producing their Caslon Old Face, from something like 1919-1923. In England they projected enlarged images of the face of each piece metal type on a wall. This was traced, and then the tracings were sent to Brooklyn, where they were redrawn in a standard format and dimension, to go to the panto-graphic punch cutting process.

John Hudson's picture
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Hrant: ...we have yet to fathom the genius of Fleischmann.

This helps.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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BTW, here's a somewhat related "backwards" thing I thought of myself once:

It's a collage from one of those Octavo digital books - on the left
is the actual letter, while on the right is the... back of the page! :-)

So you take the one from behind and flip it to see the "inkless impression":

--

John: nice.

hhp

John Hudson's picture
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Bill, do you know how Mergenthaler produced the images of the punch faces that they projected?

The wall projection method is notoriously problematic: you can't always see the line you are tracing at the point where you are tracing it, because the hand and the pencil block the light from the projector. I tried it many years ago, with an opaque projector that Gerald Giampa lent me. It is a very frustrating process requiring physical contortion in an attempt to get parts of one's body out of the way of the projection. It's an elaborate way of producing wobbly outlines for that faux distressed look.

William Berkson's picture
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John, I don't know. As I remember, there is a note in with the many volumes of drawings of the different sizes of Linotype Caslon Old Face, at the Printing Museum in Andover Mass. They may well have named the projecting device, but I don't remember. Also, note that everything was redrawn. All people drawing type in this case I believe were women, though the supervisor, who signed off on each drawing, was a man. Chauncy Griffith was in charge of the whole thing. The paper is crisp and fresh, and the drawings look like the ladies just finished doing them, and stepped out of the room for a moment. Extraordinary stuff.

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Hi George!

>As for “author”, that was for want of anything else - it’s the long-term assumption.

Sorry, would you explain to me the last sentence? ;-)

Stefan

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John: It is really nice to hear about the very hand on stuff. Thanks!

Hrant: That digital inkless impression would suggest the serifs are larger and heavier than they logically could be given the inked image and the reality that there has to be some ink again.

Bill, I agree - it is utterly worth while making the trip to the Printing Museum.

I do think that the value of these things is in spending time looking and feeling what the spirit of the stuff is. I suspect that many sorts of automatic process will produce type which is merely OK that is serviceable/passable . But it is the process of making that thing alive by interpretation of the feeling or charisma of the shapes, and by an interpretation that is keenly aware of pros and cons of the medium and likely purpose to which it will be used; that has the greatest potential.

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Bill: The paper is crisp and fresh, and the drawings look like the ladies just finished doing them, and stepped out of the room for a moment.

Wonderful!

When Fiona, Gerry and I were sorting and packing the Linotype non-Latin archive for transfer to Reading, it was delightful to watch Fiona's reaction as she pulled sheaves of drawings from folders. Most often she could tell which of her former staff had made the drawing based on the qualities of the line.

The biggest thrills for me were finding the Kodak paper box filled with Matthew Carter's original drawings for Linotype Devanagari, and gathering together Tim Holloway's immaculately inked artwork for the famous Bengali, Qalmi nastaliq and other designs.

Stefan Seifert's picture
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Hi,

I think the main problem in Bembo, at least for my eyes, isn’t so much the design of particular characters but that serifs are too thin and look like knife blades. As you said above its the contrary of organic form. Malins punchcutting brought nice and more feeled forms. It is softer and has more colour.
And at last I really believe its nicer than its storic forefather! (One of the rare cases if not the only one at all!)

Stefan

Antonio Cavedoni's picture
Joined: 27 Aug 2005 - 10:32am
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George: I never particularly analysed how Bembo looked in Italian vs. any other language but it sure is something to keep under consideration. The main issue with Bembo to me is that who did the redrawing chose very nervous versions of the glyph variants, whereas Mardersteig and Malin tried something more organic.

I should note that I can’t claim any authority over any of this, it’s just what my untrained eyes tell me: some glyphs look really odd in Bembo, like a (curve at the top of the counter, uneven shape at the top), e (continuing stroke at the bottom of the counter), g (unbalanced link stroke, odd, sudden turn in closing of the loop, r (slightly swhashy arm), f (very long, leaning-to the right main stroke at the top), s (looks a straightened up version of the original, slightly leaning to the right s).

Other glyphs seem a bit too wide, as well: consider f, j, p, o, c. It may well be that these are feature that help increase legibility, improvements made by the savvy Monotype designers, but when I look at Mardersteig and Malin’s Griffo I can’t help but notice that these are exactly the features they got rid of in their interpretation (compare Griffo’s r, a, f, e, s with Bembo).

That doesn’t mean Bembo is not a successful typeface in its own right, or that there’s a race to get closer to the original source that somehow Monotype lost against Malin and Mardersteig, it’s just a different interpretation; I tend to lean towards Griffo, myself, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more interpretations of the De Aetna type. If I remember correctly, James Clough teaches a type design class where he gets student to redraw the De Aetna type over and over again, and has been advocating getting intimate with these letterforms for a while now.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Would another method be superior?

I think the best way to do a revival is by eye, with a magnifying glass.
Whatever method of revival you choose, you are making an interpretation, by the mere act of choice. IMO, it is not "human" interpretation that is banalizing, but attempts to automate the process of interpretation.

By using any system of averaging, you are opting for a composite which is softened and blurred, which is counter to the visually arresting effect of a letterpress impression. A flat two-dimensional photo-reproduction can never convey the bite of letterpress into paper, so the digital revivalist has to find some way of compensating, of adding an ingredient. But averaging does the opposite. The end result looks crude and ugly, whereas Griffo's intent and sense of style is clearly apparent in most impressions -- the calligraphic ductus underlying the form -- which averaging obscures.

...even if an averaged character better represents Griffo’s expectation of how the letter would look.

It doesn't. Griffo was well aware that the individual impressions of a particular character would vary, and would have designed his glyphs accordingly, to account for that variation of the final image. Had he been assured of a uniform reproduction of letter shapes, he would have designed them differently. More like Bodoni.

The variety of serif treatment in Incunabula type accomodates the fact that had they been made the same, they would have ended up different, due to the vagaries of the printing process. So the reader's attention would have been drawn to this deviation from the ideal. However, to make them varied to begin with is logical, it disguises the depradations of the printing process.

There is something disconcerting about a page of Poliphilus, especially when it is digitally set. Perhaps not if one only reads it once. But if one is to savor the text by rereading, and if one is reading the typography as well as the content, it palls. Hence Monotype Bembo, the antithesis of banality.

So if you want to use digital technology to reinterpret old letterpress printing, I think you would be better off exploring the possibility of contextual alternates in an OpenType font, to capture the variety of impression, which is an integral part of the original design. I suspect that Incunabula printers used textual context to inform their selection of a particular sort of a letter, and may even have physically "fine tuned" some of them, especially the lower case "r".

The long left side of the main stroke has acquired a texture (of paper?) in the original, but in both the derived versions shown it is straight. This texture is part of the design, like the resonance of the room in which a piece of music is performed. You cannot produce a "faithful" copy without finding some way of paraphrasing this quality of the printing.

Perhaps you could start with an idealized glyph -- clean, sharp and simple outline -- then apply a "letterpress" filter to it, similar to the way that the texture brushes in Illustrator can be applied to a glyph outline. This, and my comment about contextual alternates, is along the lines of your thought "to model in software the Aldine printing process from punch to paper".

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Further replies to Nick:
To make [glyphs] varied to begin with is logical, it disguises the depradations of the printing process.

Even the dullest reader could hardly have been fooled. I doubt that this was the primary motivation, when variety of seriffing has so many other virtues. I think the 1499 caps are the best proof of this: the serifs are designed to scoop white into a convincing counter (L) or eject it (C), thus making perceived counter-size sufficiently similar for the caps to make a readable text face - something not repeated by Garamond and the later tradition, and certainly not by Bodoni!

Texture is part of the design, like the resonance of the room in which a piece of music is performed. You cannot produce a “faithful” copy without finding some way of paraphrasing this quality of the printing.

I could take the averaged letterform, toughen it, and then consistently waver the outline, paraphrasing the texture without simulating the actual and extreme variations of the printed letters.

As for Poliphilus, in 13+ point letterpress on suitable paper the only problems I see are in the consistently inconsistent weights of, for instance, h compared to m, resulting from Monotype's own attempts to paraphrase this texture. In fact I think letterpress Poliphilus is nearly one of the very finest typefaces - letterpress Bembo is the finest of all, but some of its letters are too wide and so too white (above all y) and its caps are a little too Garamondian.

George Horton's picture
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Thanks Nick, all very interesting.

A flat two-dimensional photo-reproduction can never convey the bite of letterpress into paper, so the digital revivalist has to find some way of compensating

I think this is true: averaged forms should be toughened up by removing the glutinous deposite from inside the crannies and hardening up angles.

Griffo’s intent and sense of style is clearly apparent in most impressions — the calligraphic ductus underlying the form — which averaging obscures.

I think this begs the question rather. The calligraphic ductus is partly your imposition on the actual form, though it's probably the interpretation Griffo wanted his readers to impose: in 1500 departure from calligraphic ductus was thought of as simply erroneous. But Griffo was clever, and made small (in this p's case not so small) deviations from calligraphic ductus, presumably in order to better unite the word-image. My averaging makes this this very clear - perhaps too clear, because the illusion of calligraphy necessary to the total effect is weakened.

Must sleep now, more later.

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Very interesting. I think I've written approximately the same program. I've wondered what would happen when applied to very old samples - I know I've been pleased with the results I've gotten from originals in the 100-year old range.

My own approach is simply not to threshold. In my curve editor, I use the grayscale averaged image to trace from. In my opinion, there is valuable information present in the grayscale which is lost in thresholding.

Look closely at two places you have grayness - the top join of the bowl of the 'p' to the vertical stem, and the spur that protrudes to the left. In the first case, it's reasonable to conclude that the grayness is caused by varying amounts of "glutinous deposit". Arguably, the truer shape of the metal can be recovered by tracing towards the light side.

On the spur, the grayness represents the probability of damage to the metal type - much, much higher for delicate projections such as this spur than, say, along the edge of a stem. With this interpretation, it should be clear that the truer shape of the metal is recovered from a trace of the dark side.

So when I'm tracing, I leave the image in grayscale, and make these judgements by eye.

A couple of other notes about my "recipe".

1. Start with a really high resolution scan. I almost invariably use 2400 dpi.

1a. Use as many impressions as humanly possible. I'm astonished by the difference in clarity between a handful and dozens, and again in the jump to hundreds.

2. I do my contrast adjustment after the averaging. There's no need to get the paper white pre-averaging, because the contrast of the paper texture will be dramatically reduced. In my opinion, this increases the chance of being able to see subtle gray variations.

3. After averaging, I sharpen the image pretty significantly. I believe this compensates for the blurring caused by the (inevitable) errors in aligning the individual impressions to the master template.

4. After sharpening, I tend to lighten the image so I can see the subtleties in the darker gray shadings more accurately.

Nick has a point about variation - you're likely to get results similar to what printers would have produced had they combined Griffo's punches with the type founding, paper, and printing technologies of, say, the 1912 ATF specimen book. If Griffo lived 400 years later, he may well have designed his letters differently to suit, but then again, perhaps not.

I disagree that averaging obscures the calligraphic ductus of the original letters. I think it lets you visualize an image much closer to the actual shape of the metal than can be seen in any of the individual impressions. In some ways, I think it's even better to work from the averaged image than if you knew the shape of the metal, because the latter was probably overthinned to compensate for the ink gain on the press.

Note, though, that in saying this I'm assuming that there was one punch, so each individual letter is a fair copy of the same original shape. Averaging together impressions from different punches would, I agree, be a travesty. If I recall Sergei Egorov's research correctly, part of what he found is that, for many letters, there may have been two or three similar, but subtly different, punches. If you carefully classify the impressions so that the vast majority come from the same punch, that should take care of that issue.

A "letterpress filter" for type is a very, very interesting idea. I've been toying with the idea of building such a thing, but the research, both into characterizing the letterpress process, and into getting usable digital outlines of the results, is nontrivial. How strong would be the demand for such a thing?

Anyway, George, very best of luck with your project. It sounds very much worth doing.

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Hello Raph,
Thanks for your help, and there goes my patent. Tracing from a sharpened version of the blended master sounds like a good idea. To clarify what you say about tracing the light side and dark side, presumably you're urging that I trace hard against the black at the top join of bowl and stem, but trace around the paler grey of the spur, on the understanding that it has been often blunted by damage. That would make sense - though it would be nice to investigate just how this damage characteristically operated, because I want to avoid unfounded interpretation. And Aldine type-metal was unusually good for the time, though the press-work was of course generally far below the level of a Ratdolt performance.

Failing to normalise the colour in advance means each letter contributing very different amounts to the blend, and also increases errors in superposition. It's a compromise: with these scans I think careful normalising is a good thing. I've tried without, incidentally. I'm careful not to mix punches - and that's something software is very good for. Sergei's conclusion was that mixing of punches was not done in a form consistent enough to be aesthetically motivated - more likely an all hands on deck response to a big job, or large number of concurrent jobs. And the compositors were, according to Aldus himself, a pack of dunces, while nothing but good came from the 'daedaleis Francisci manibus Bononiensis'.

Finally, is there a way to automate the selection from scans of all the letters from each punch? Cutting them out one by one is a bore.

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If your aim is to capture something of he 'mess of an Aldine page', then I think Nick's suggestion of making multiple versions of each letter and using contextual substitution to vary their use makes a lot of sense. I think the peculiar sensation that I sometimes get when looking at a page of Aldine italic type comes from the tension of variation constrained by the typographic identity of each sort. The italic text seems to hover somewhere between the chirographic and the typographic, in way that the roman doesn't and which later improvements in printing technology gradually diminished and erased.

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As you say, John, the degree of mess varies: in the 1499 Scriptores Astronomici Veteres, which I expect will be my roman source, inkpress is less noisy than in most pages from a Hypnerotomachia, and much less noisy, simply because of font size, than in a page of Aldine italic. Meanwhile the Soncino italic, though approximately the same size as its predecessor, received better treatment than the Aldine: UPenn page. So in neither of my sources will there be the sheer randomness of the Aldine italic, such that using alternative glyphs to represent the same punch might look like affectation, if only because of the obvious artificiality of the simulation. On the other hand some Beowulf-style postscript coding to provide a letterpress filter would be valuable - as it would be, in carefully regulated doses, for almost any text face. Minute variation is good for orientation on a page, and the sense that the reader is making progress through the word-stream.

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there goes my patent

Ah well, and the untold fame and fortune that goes along with.

I finally remembered the thread in which I first posted real results from this method: Christian Gothic. In that thread, you'll find a bunch of sample images, a heated discussion about the merits of the averaging technique and the process of designing revivals, and of course the inevitable flamewar in which Hrant labels others as "fascist-apologist".

Finally, is there a way to automate the selection from scans of all the letters from each punch? Cutting them out one by one is a bore.

Yes, I wrote some code to segment the image by bounding boxes, then to do a pairwise correlation between all samples of approximately matching size. I can post my code if you're interested, but it's quite unpolished and often requires manual touch-up of the results.

That Soncino sample is indeed gorgeous. Any way to acquire a higher resolution scan?

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Hi Raph, I've just read the thread containing your prior art, and both your method for automating glyph selection and this 'deconvolution' stuff sound interesting; I'm not much of a programmer, so pseudo-code in words of one syllable or Python would be nice, unless you have a windows or linux binary you'd be prepared to share.

I may find my vocation in this forum as a lightning conductor for political attacks - I'm a genuine Scrutonian conservative, something pretty rare in these circles, and for want of which all sorts of mild liberals have had to dress up as fascist apologists.

As for high-res Soncino: if only I had some myself! I might need to take a trip to Pennsylvania: can't find anything in the Bodleian, though All Souls has a Soncino omnilingual thing which might have some italic. (If I'd known sooner, I wouldn't have walked out of the Fellowship exams there in September: they maul with tigers any strangers who get too near their books). One thing I do have is a scan of the not-very-good repro in Mardersteig's Griffo book, provided along with many other goodies by the kindly Sergei, which I'll gladly email you if you'd like.

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...attempts to paraphrase this texture
...faithful revival

George, I'm not critical of your project per se (technique), only of your mission statement, and the word "faithful" in particular (philosophy).

Those who keep the faith are still printing letterpress -- fundamentalists. What you are planning is a convincing deception. Nothing wrong with that, as it one of the destinies of new technology to perpetuate the virtues of the old, and mimicry is the sincerest form of respect. But the idea that new tools remove the element of interpretation is mistaken.

...it can’t really mean the copying of selected printed letter-forms.

It's a pity Justin Howes isn't around to explain his method. Copying in this instance is not like duplicating a digital file. He was digitizing an analogue 3D image, for offset reproduction, which requires not just selection, but interpretation. For instance, every digitiser has to decide "how long to make the coastline of Britain" -- and you too are doing that by picking a certain number of specimens to average. The more you choose, the shorter the coastline.

I just had a look at "The Well Made Book", Updike essays, published by Mark Batty, which is set in Founder's Caslon. Read for content, nice. Looked at for typography, one thing that stikes me is the bounce, i.e. the deviation from baseline. Howes has incorporated this quality --- I first noticed that the "o" rides high. That's not mere copying, it's a design specification. En masse, it adds to the personality of the page, but damn my typographic reading, (which must come into play when passages are re-read, certainly in a book for typophiles!), I'm thinking, "why is the 'o' always up? -- contextual alternates could fix that".

It's all about the mise-en-page.

There are two approaches to "redoing Griffo's last roman", engineering or design. The engineer would perhaps provide a tool that gives the font-user sliders to control simulations of:
- alternate character shape (corresponding to variable wear and sorts from different punches)
- paper texture
- ink spread
- bounce

The designer would work from an exemplary specimen (or edit several), choosing specifics for the above variables.

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OK Nick: the mission statement is essentially an expression of piety. I am not as wholly naive about revival as I may, for brevity's sake, have given you to understand; and I know the complexity of Justin Howes' superb work, about which I recently spoke with a mutual friend.

To be more explicit, and perhaps more honest: I want to produce a set of letters as close as possible to the printed images Griffo while working can most reasonably be conjectured to have predicted, from type freshly cast from the first matrices struck from his new punches, evenly inked, and pressed into paper consistent in texture and thickness with zero bounce (not the same thing as a consistent apparent baseline/x-height - indeed I think Griffo, perhaps following his experience of making Greek type, cut variety in vertical alignment into his latin punches). What I am not trying to do is simulate Aldus' or Soncino's page, which I agree is not remotely possible without (as would be very pleasant) making a separate version for matrix engraving (and even then...). So: I've got to interpret, but I want to avoid selecting specimen letters. Now perhaps Griffo's expectations for his letters were so irreducably plural that modelling them in their most characteristic forms (ie averaged, then drawn rather than traced to take into account damage, clean out inkpress, and harden angles) would be pointless. But would he really, with his graver, have excitedly anticipated all the splodges and blurs given his work by second rate press-work? If so, I will misinterpret him fatally, but I would still like to see what comes out of the other end of this project.

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Although human interpretation is indeed unavoidable, wanting to tame it is a great and often useful act of humility - very Craft, as opposed to Art. As a result, even though you never -or at least very rarely- want to slavishly trace, good Method (like your technique, and Raph's) is central. Anybody who tells you otherwise simply wants to feel more... relevant than one could ever really be.

> A flat two-dimensional photo-reproduction can
> never convey the bite of letterpress into paper

The two are unrelated. This fact hits home especially when you consider
that digital fonts can be printed lettepress too! In the end, averaging is
not necessarily soft.

> he would have designed them differently. More like Bodoni.

I personally can't see Aldus/Griffo going for that junk at all.
And it's quite untenable to claim to read another designer's
mind, especially when he's so dead.

> contextual alternates in an OpenType font

That cannot substitute for true irregularity, it can only be a caricature of it.
Remember again the words of Von Neumann. The only way to really emulate
the original is through letterpress (although not necessarily metal type).

> Those who keep the faith are still printing letterpress — fundamentalists.

This is untrue. I print letterpress (again, not
necessarily from metal) because there's really
something there to revive. Although I don't
know exactly what it is yet.

> What you are planning is a convincing deception.

Like using OpenType to mimic true variance...

> There are two approaches to “redoing Griffo’s last roman”

1) There are always more ways.
2) Everything exists not in any pure state, but within extremes.

--

George, I'm certainly not a fan of revivals, especially not literal ones. But when I see somebody applying good craft -as opposed to merely his emotions coupled to a loupe*- to an effort, I dearly want to buttress that against discouragement.

* And why the loupe, really? :-/

hhp

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Oh, and Raph, yet again: "fascism-apologist".
Huge difference. But it's OK, I won't ask for
an apology.

hhp

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I dearly want to buttress that against discouragement. :-/

I wasn't critical of the project, only that expression of piety which was the mission statement.

And why the loupe...?

(A magnifying glass actually, which may be used with two eyes)

For the same reason one would draw from life, rather than a photograph.
It was in answer to the question "would another method be superior?"
The context was about being faithful.
If one is attempting to make a two dimensional version of a three dimensional artefact, why not work directly from the three-dimensional impression?
It seems to me that the more intermediate elements that are removed, the more opportunity for the process to be faithful to the intentions of the original type designer.

...as opposed to merely his emotions coupled to a loupe*

Why do you consider the more direct approach, without tracing over a simulacrum, more emotional?
I would say the opposite is true. The conscious effort required to work from life is more difficult than working from a tracing; one becomes immediately aware of how incorrect one's initial, spontaneous drawing is, and works to modify that, in order to get one's glyphs to look right. So the repetititve process of drawing, comparing, and redrawing is one of suppressing emotion. It gives a better understanding of the original, of why the forms were made the way they were, and of one's preconceptions. This enables one to better address the grey areas that are open to interpretation (caused by loss of resolution between metal and impression, and variablitity of impression). It's here that interpretation is unavoidable, and the draughtsman's personality may be expressed decisively, because he has acquired a knowledge of the original designer's intentions by going through a similar working process of trying to get all the design elements to come together as a balanced whole.

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> I wasn’t critical of the project, only that
> expression of piety which was the mission statement.

It seems to me -through both this thread and Raph's- that you're critical of the method - in fact I think Method in general. And this project being centered on Method, I think you're critical of a lot more than a supposedly tangential "expression". I don't want you to hold back the criticality - that would be unnatural; but I in turn need to counter it when it shows up.

> For the same reason one would draw from life, rather than a photograph.

But I'm saying why bother with magnification.
Scale affects the essence of something, and it
seems to me that shunning George's (and Raph's)
methods requires shunning the magnifier as well.

> the more intermediate elements that are removed, the
> more opportunity for the process to be faithful to
> the intentions of the original type designer.

If that's true, then the magnifier's gotta go.

> Why do you consider the more direct approach,
> without tracing over a simulacrum, more emotional?

Because it assumes the reviver is infinitely gifted.

I would say that shunning Method is emotional. Don't get me wrong, I think emotion is indispensable in anything a human does, but wallowing in it, for example to the point of shunning Method, is anti-Craft.

> It gives a better understanding of the original

I don't think so. I think mostly it causes the reviver to express himself more, to tap what's in him more than the source; this confuses the -intended- results. Unless one's intent isn't to do a literal revival - which is great by me, but not the same thing, and not what George wants. I find that the best crits are the ones that take into account the creator's highly personal desires - not those of the person giving the crit. For example, I don't have to like humanist sans fonts to be able to make Ricardo feel like I helped him improve Lisboa. In giving a crit, I have to separate emotion and method, and focus on the latter. Trying to get people to make fonts I would make just makes everybody miserable. Like when I once showed a "progressive" design to a Famous Designer, and I told him the intent is such-and-such, and he come (sic) back to me with a ton of details of how to make it all homogenous like him (sic) own fonts, that's just a waste of everybody's time (not to mention arrogant).

Basically I guess I don't think anybody (short of a medium :-) is capable of subverting his own preconceptions to allow what was in the mind of another person to surface - especially not centuries apart.

hhp

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What can [re]surface though is the outward forms.
Which is exactly where Method helps.

hhp

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It seems to me -through both this thread and Raph’s- that you’re critical of the method - in fact I think Method in general.

George wondered if there was a better way to be faithful to Griffo's last roman than averaging. I suggested a magnifying glass, and contextual alternates, which to me are better methods than averaging. But as it transpired, I was thinking more of the effect of the Aldine page, and he of the type. He clarified his position as an interpreter, rather than a simulator, which is fine by me. End of that part of the thread.

But I’m saying why bother with magnification.

My eyes need a little help.
The magnifying glass is far less of a mediation than a scan.

Because it assumes the reviver is infinitely gifted.

Not at all. The reviver can never be photo-exact, but that's not the point, as such exactitude can't cross the barrier between the imperfect, varying impression, and the ideal piece of type. The reviver can only be relatively gifted, compared to the designer.

I think emotion is indispensable in anything a human does, but wallowing in it, for example to the point of shunning method, is anti-Craft.

I don't think you got my point about drawing from life being a process of un-learning emotion. The "magnifying glass" method is this: Look at the original specimen(s) through the lens, draw part of the glyph (with beziers), look at the original again and refine the glyph, as many times as necessary. Then do a print-out of the same text as the specimen at the same size, and compare them. Then go back to the glass and the beziers. And so on.

Trying to get people to make fonts I would make just makes everybody miserable.

I would hope that by answering my criticisms, George could be a little clearer in his own mind of what he's doing and why. Especially as this is an MA project, and he can expect some harsh crits there. I also made a number of what I consider to be constructive contributions, rather than criticisms, such as the contextual alternates for varying wobble thing, and the outline texture filter idea. I've used the outline-filter technique, but not the contextual.

Basically I guess I don’t think anybody (short of a medium :-) is capable of subverting his own preconceptions to allow what was in the mind of another person to surface - especially not centuries apart.

But don't you feel that you have a different understanding and greater insight into why Baskerville's type is the way it is, now that you have been working on a revival? And why wouldn't such an understanding correspond to what JB had in mind?

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Arggh. I wrote a detailed response, but the flaky internet in the United lounge ate it. In brief:

Hrant: sorry for the innaccurate characterization.

George: I'll be happy to send you the code. I'm on the road at the moment, and would like to package it up with instructions and so on as soon as I get home. Bug me if I let it slip my mind.

Thread: the averaging technique is a tool. Having more and better tools avaiable is a Good Thing. Whether typographers prefer reproductions faithful in detail or modern interpretations inspired by historical models is up to them. In either case, the averaging technique can be very useful for visualizing much more clearly what the original type designers did.

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> My eyes need a little help.

And those of Griffo's readers didn't?

Nick, you claim your methods allow you to get inside Griffo's head.
I guess I can't believe you.

> ... why wouldn’t such an understanding correspond to what JB had in mind?

It might. But the chances are slim enough that my own ideas are sure to overpower what I think JB might have been thinking if I look too far beyond the forms themselves. Thought patterns are not some mathematically pure, eternal things; they're entirely individual, highly dynamic and contextual to boot; there's no way a 21st century Armo is going to get inside an 18th century Brit's head (at least not enough to make type like him).

I think that in a revival it's important to distill the essence of a design, which comes from the forms, not what happened to be in the original designer's head. For one thing, stuff in people's heads changes. Should I revive the JB on the morning he decided to get into typography? Or the JB the night he finished printing his Virgil? Or maybe the JB on the verge of giving up on typography in disgust? It's hopeless to approach it that way. So for example when I'm making the British Pound character, I can look at what JB made and say "that was wrong", and make one that fits the design, as opposed to JB's perceived mindframe, better. Also, a key difference here is that my revival is not literal.

Raph, I know how it feels to lose a long post - sorry to hear it. More than the lost content I think it's the combination of improvidence (for not copy-pasting it periodically) and guilt (for rambling on so much in the first place) that makes it so frustrating, and the ensuing decision of how far to take the replacement post so unnerving.

> the averaging technique is a tool.

One problem is that powerful tools can be overly challenging, even scary.
Like how I'm much less inclined to learn now software these days.

hhp

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I'm sort of with Nick on this one, at least insofar as I consider the human eye and brain to be a powerful analytical tool. I find it bizarre that 'emotional' and 'expressive' are instantly assumed to be the predominant characteristics of human interpretation, as if we are somehow unable to actually see what we see and perform a rational analysis, but must rely on machines to get past our overriding emotional and expressive faculties. This is bollocks. I also think Hrant is wrong to attempt to try to frame this in terms of his favourite 'art vs craft' dichotomy, as if craft cannot come from the eye and hand: where else has it come from for the millennia of human making? We have an analytical faculty and the ability to make rational judgements regarding what we observe. Among other things, we have an obligation to employ this faculty critically in considering the value of methods and tools. Looking at the images in the first post of this thread, the first thing I immediately see is that all of the derived forms based on averaging have a large black bump in the lower left, while the one photographic image shows something quite different; this seems to me to be a problem of method, because the averaging does not take into account relative lightness and darkness of the type image. Similarly, in the photographic image, there is a clear but very faint indication of the full extent of the terminal of the upper bowl where it crosses the stem, and this is completely lost in the derived shapes, presumably because it was too faint to be preserved in the threshold conversion. So these are just two places in a single letter where the human eye tells us more than the proposed methodology and tools. This is not to say that the methodology and tools are without merit or promise but, ironically, that they must be subject to the same critical and interpretative analysis that we can also apply to the subject.

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> as if craft cannot come from the eye and hand

It's certainly not that it can't come from there, it's that it can come
from elsewhere as well; shunning other sources is what's anti-Craft.

> Looking at the images in the first post of this thread ...

Looking at them with magnification.
With a method not unlike George and Raph's averaging.

> they must be subject to the same critical and interpretative
> analysis that we can also apply to the subject.

Totally. And maybe it's this extra burden of thought that
causes some people to avoid new/elaborate methods outright.

hhp

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Right on, John. And good eye!

George, I seem to recall that in the original Raph thread, I suggested that a good (and scientific) way to test the veracity of the averaging technique would be to recreate it now. ie take a typeface where you actually have a clean master, then produce a letterpress page, average the impressions, and see what divergence there is between the result and the original. Are you up for it?

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The problem of course is that evaluating the veracity of something requires much objectivity and humility. People will see what they want. Some people more than others. Ergo: it's not a test that can really work (at least not in this case).

hhp