Tombstone typography

Chris Dean's picture

When you're wearing your pine pyjamas, what typeface do you want them to use on your tombstone?

I'm going with Linotype Univers® 530 Basic Medium.

And Adrian, if you're out there, please design some small caps and old-style figures for Univers.

JamesM's picture

> I'd like to go straight into the earth in my birthday
> suit. But it's probably illegal

hrant, I've heard of some burial societies that will bury folks just wrapped in a sheet. But I don't think that's widely available due to burial rules.

Some burial rules are actually cemetery regulations, not laws. For example, many cemeteries require that caskets be enclosed in a burial vault (typically a concrete box with a lid) in order to prevent the grave from sinking when the casket decomposes.

Cemeteries don't want sunken graves because its unsightly and families complain. It can also cause headstones to tip.

hrant's picture

My father is a foundations engineer, and I remember how fond he was of sheepsfoot vibrating compactors. But I guess that would be a bit... unsettling.

hhp

Chris Dean's picture

@quadibloc: “…in general, one does not have tombstone typography…” and “Tombstone Monumental Lettering.”

Really? *sigh* OK then, what’s your definition of “typography?”

Figure 1: Bring it on!

Chris Dean's picture

Feel free to consider that a rhetorical question.

quadibloc's picture

Having taken another look at this thread, I will say that typography involves type.

I'm easy - I'll accept a typewriter (after all, it could be a Selectric Composer) or Letraset.

But calligraphy is not typography. And so the typical or at least traditional case of headstone preparation, where letters are carved by hand isn't typography either. And, even if you were referring to the cases which are typography, I was referring to that other case.

eliason's picture

Of course not!

hrant's picture

Christopher, come on.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

No, it isn't. But it's certainly strongly related to typography. Calligraphy, or other lettering arts where care and attention is applied to the form of letters, are the fundamental sources on which type design draws. (Yes, I recognized the Trajan column there.)

Of course, in calligraphy - or inscription engraving - one doesn't just apply care and attention to forming the letters, one also places them on the surface. So calligraphy embodies both the same basic creative processes as type design and typography.

Since calligraphy and similar arts resemble type design and typography both, and not just typography alone, the distinction between them and typography is one important to retain.

hrant's picture

Calligraphy embodies almost nothing that type design does.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
That is true of calligraphy as usually practiced, since most of the time established writing styles are followed. But in principle, since the calligrapher forms his or her own letters, calligraphy can include a portion of what type design involves.

And, indeed, many type designers were also calligraphers, and used this skill in the beginning stages of designing typefaces. Of course, they then had to involve themselves in certain explicit processes alien to calligraphy, such as allocating the space between pairs of letters to the individual letters on each side... I am willing to split any hairs that are needful to split, but before the need is discovered, I will not delve too deeply.

hrant's picture

The essential things that make type design relevant are absent in calligraphy.

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

TYO363: Redundant reply.

Chris Dean's picture

From Ralf Herrmann via Facebook.

miles's picture

I've told my children that I'd like this as my headstone.

Té Rowan's picture

I think I'd want the 8×16 bitmap from the ATI VGA Wonder set in square mosaic tiles. What I'd want on the stone would fit in a 16×16 square anyway.

typerror's picture

Let's see Hrant.

The calligrapher is always concerned with letters that are suitable to the text, forever concerned with spacing and interlinear spacing, knowledge of layout and placement, the ability to intermix styles effectively, etc. ad nauseam. Absolutely no relation to typography :-)

Stop showing your myopic, bigoted and shortsighted arrogant ass!

hrant's picture

No need to be yoursel... I mean... rude, Michael.

There's definitely overlap between any two activities concerning the visual representation of language. But the things that make type design worth having invented are not things present in calligraphy (or even lettering). Otherwise why invent it? Unless you -like Noordzij- believe that printing was a "fall from grace"... In fact now that calligraphers are largely useless for the rendering of highly-readable text* I believe calligraphy is most valuable when it doesn't worry about legibility, even color, etc.

* Something that's been true for centuries, so it's not like it happened after anybody currently alive made their career choice.

hhp

typerror's picture

Not being rude Hrant
Just telling it like you do not want to hear it.

You are a broken record.

hrant's picture

I guess I wouldn't want to find out what counts for rude in your village of broken men.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: But the things that make type design worth having invented are not things present in calligraphy (or even lettering). Otherwise why invent it?

Um, speed of production? Setting pre-cast moveable type massively speeds up the production of texts, not only is it more massively more efficient than writing by hand each individual copy of a text, but also faster than other printing methods such as block printing, and the metal type is more durable than other printing materials so can be re-used again and again. Even if typography had never progressed beyond Gutenberg's carefully emulation of the formal manuscripts of his text culture, it would have been worth inventing for those reasons alone.

The secondary breakthrough was the realisation by Aldus and others that type could consistently produce smaller text than scribes habitually wrote -- which is not to say that a good scribe couldn't write at those sizes, only that they tended not to --, and that this was still readable. This is where type becomes interesting in its own right, independent of writing, because small sizes require optical adjustments in order to obtain good legibility. The Elzeviers got a bit carried away with this idea: I have one of their small format books set in pretty excruciatingly small type.

So, speed of text production and copying is the primary reason for inventing type, and later other benefits are identified. And then some important distancing from chirography starts to occur, as a cultural and technical response to the capabilities of type: these developments were not intrinsic to or even evident in the original invention.

And for most of the history of typography, it exists alongside a vibrant and important scribal culture. A lot of people imagine that Gutenberg killed off scribal culture, but it simply moved out of book production and into secretarial work, from whence it continued to influence text culture and typography. Scribal culture didn't die until the typewriter. So we've had a very short period of history, a little over a hundred years, in which our text culture has been predominantly typographic, rather than a mix of type and writing, preceded by almost 500 years of mutual development, and a much longer history in which writing was the only game in town. I'm frankly not surprised that type is only recently easing itself out of its long relationship to writing. And I think it is noteworthy that 'script' fonts are perhaps even more popular today than ever before.

hrant's picture

Well explained.

So we've had a very short period of history, a little over a hundred years, in which our text culture has been predominantly typographic

OK, I can grant you that - although the invention of printing did nonetheless make scribes much less important. But anyway that's still before anybody currently alive had to make a career choice. Ergo: no excuses about confusing the contemporary [ir]relevance of calligraphy.

As for the modern popularity of script fonts: part of it is that we now have the technology to do it justice (the magic that Excoffon pulled off with Mistral is now ho-hum); and people value what they no longer have, even if it's pretend.

hhp

bartd's picture

Calligraphy versus typesetting seems to be an inflamable subject in this forum... I don't quite see why that should be, but that may well be because I'm neither a calligrapher nor a type designer.

I will thow in a analogy -- please show me where I take a wrong turn.

There used to be a time when, if you wanted to have your portrait done, hiring a painter was the obvious solution. Then photography was invented, and since then you had a choice. Over time, photography proved to offer many great features. It became more affordable than painting, reproduction became easier, you name it. For some time it may have offered fewer creative or expressive possibilities then painting, but that changed too, and today's software enables the photographer to almost work like a painter. Likewise, painting has borrowed a thing or two from photography.

I think no one would claim that painting has become irrelevant.

Now, substitute calligraphy for painting, typesetting for photography and text for portrait, and -- at least to me -- all of the above still makes sense. What am I missing?

Bart

Chris Dean's picture

Perhaps we could re-direct our conversation about the relationships (or lack thereof?) between calligraphy and type design to another thread, so we can keep this one focused:

How are calligraphy and type design related?

It has been mentioned that one of the reasons people may think Typophile is slipping is that all to often threads enter a downward spiral of infighting between the same long-standing members that goes wildly off topic, eventually killing it.

Chris Dean's picture

Eric Gill’s tombstone

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: ...although the invention of printing did nonetheless make scribes much less important.

Actually, I think a very strong case can be made that the opposite is true. Print publishing contributed the growth and spread of the renaissance, of new kinds of texts, and the age of European exploration, all of which resulted in a huge increase in written materials. By the 18th Century, the call for professional clerks was such that entire orphanages in London were dedicated to training their charges in the twin skills of writing and accountancy.

It is only in the specific field of book publishing that scribes ceased to play as important a role as they had prior to Gutenberg's invention; in every other field their role increased in importance.

John Hudson's picture

Sorry, Chris, once a conversational tangent has started, I think it is better to continue it where it is unless you can persuade each participant to re-post their comments, in sequence, in the other thread.
_____

But here are some thoughts that tie the two subjects together. As some of you know, I've been doing research over the past couple of years on what might be termed the 'pre-history' of Baskerville's types. I've got a pretty well documented narrative now for the development of what I call the 'English Roman' in writing and engraving from 1690 onwards, showing how, by the time Baskerville asked John Handy to cut it in type, the style was a standard part of the repertoire of any writing master. I'm now looking at the expression of the style in stone cutting, some of it also pre-dating the type but, alluringly, possibly involving Baskerville himself. And just last week I was startled to find an example of a French pen written and engraved roman that predates my earliest English example; it is distinct in style, but important at least as a parallel development.

Anyway, here are some fine -- slightly later -- examples of the style cut in stone, all from a single graveyard in the English midlands:
William & Jane Cave
George Dawkins
Elizabeth Essam
Robert Iliffe
Ann Nursey

I think it is entirely likely, considering the way in which engraved designs of similar style were produced, that the layout of these stones was first produced by writing (at reduced scale of course).

hrant's picture

I presume you'll be presenting at the Baskerville event in April? If so, I hope they will be providing video proceedings (since I can't make it).

hhp

John Hudson's picture

No plans yet. My thought is to write it up for publication eventually. You saw a snapshot of the research at ISType, during the history panel.

eliason's picture

What's the Baskerville event in April?

I too am eager to hear more about your research, John. Thanks for posting the pictures. The Dawkins looks a bit like proto-ITC design!

One thing I notice about most of these: the outstroke (or whatever you'd call that "tail" at the lower right) of /a/ is substantial in size and is given generous spacing. It's far closer to to the analogous part of a /t/ than that of a /d/.

oldnick's picture

@JonhHudson—

Actually, I think a very strong case can be made that the opposite is true.

And you would be, of course, gravely mistaken. What movable type actually did was to vastly expand the base of literacy, since manuscripts of all kinds could be mass-produced. It took the invention of the typewriter, several hundred years later, to transmogrify the process of personal correspondence, as well. Duh.

Té Rowan's picture

Furrfu! First you claim Mr. Hudson to be wrong, and then you immediately agree with him. As a penance, listen to The Stranglers playing Golden Brown, then sin no more.

John Hudson's picture

Um, yeah, Nick: you say I would be gravely mistaken, and then you paraphrase exactly the point that I made.

hrant's picture

John, give it up. Don't be a Hrant.

hhp

oldnick's picture

Hey, Hrant! Cut the guy some slack! You set the bar awfully high. At best, John may be said to be mildly Hrant-like, but it a far more confusing and—oh, I don't know—whimsical way…

Chris Dean's picture

Steve Jobs. Unmarked grave to avoid attention.

Chris Dean's picture

@John Hudson: “Sorry, Chris, once a conversational tangent has started, I think it is better to continue it where it is unless you can persuade each participant to re-post their comments, in sequence, in the other thread.”

Totally true, I did create another thread (which you have already participated in), and I’ll still make the same point. Tangential conversations that tank a thread are a deterrent to new users. They see it as meandering in-fighting and perceive the site as having less value because of it.

I trust you have noticed its always the same 6 guys, and that ~80% of the site has turned to "whats this font?" by users with accounts that are <24h old.

Obviously its self-defeating to try to control others behaviour in a public forum, but its just something people might want to be mindful of.

hrant's picture

Chris, you're speaking too broadly and loosely.

hhp

oldnick's picture

They see it as meandering in-fighting and perceive the site as having less value because of it.

Sad, but true. Plus, is there really a point in trying to control's Nick Shinn's “behaviour”? He’s just going to flip you the bird when he runs out of trite shit to say…not unlike Ryan, but with British spelling, don’t you know.

Chris Dean's picture

Awesome. I trust I’m not the only one that sees the irony here (as well as proof of my previous point).

Chris Dean's picture

This is the tombstone of Jack Dawson, the guy Leonardo DiCaprio played in Titanic. It’s in a graveyard in Halifax (where I am from). As you can see, the ground in front of it is worn bare. Wanna know why? Japanese tourists actually think DiCaprio is buried there.

Chris Dean's picture

Duh. Khufu’s tombstone.

Chris Dean's picture

And his inscription.

John Hudson's picture

This article has some good photos of the tombstones of 'dissidents row' at the old Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago. The memorial to the Haymarket Martyrs was erected here, and numerous American anarchists and labour activists were buried around it.

dberlow's picture

If I can still change my mind, I want the "duh" glyph, and then below it, the "ed" glyph.

Chris Dean's picture

Didn’t someone here say something about QR codes on a toombstone? I can’t find the comment.

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/qr-codes-on-your-headstone-theres-...

Syndicate content Syndicate content