The Sizes of Chinese Type

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John Savard's picture
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Joined: 23 Nov 2009 - 8:42pm
The Sizes of Chinese Type
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I am sure this information ought to be, or ought to have been until recently, easily enough available in books... although those books might be in Chinese.

But all I could find on the Web were tantalizing hints.

[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_%28typography%29|The Wikipedia article]] on the typographical point noted that there was a Chinese system of type sizes labelled with numerals... and noted the modern type sizes assigned as approximations to them in Microsoft Word!

I had thought there must be a better source of information than that.

I found [[http://www.tug.org/tugboat/Contents/contents26-2.html|an issue of TUGboat]] in which a Chinese printer, reminiscing, gave different values for the numbered sizes - the article of interest is "Typesetting Chinese: a personal perspective".

And then, on Google Books, I found a preview of the book "Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Captialism, 1876-1937" by Christopher A. Reed, which had, on page 54, an illustration of a short specimen of the four indigenous Chinese styles of modern movable type, in the numbered sizes.

I am now speculating that the sizes may be based on a common unit, nominally 1 3/4 points in size, but actually slightly smaller, perhaps exactly 1/42 of an inch.

Two-line Double Small Pica Initial 42 24
Double Pica #1 28 16
Double Small Pica #2 21 12
Two-Line Brevier #3 16.5 10
Three-Line Diamond #4 14 8
Small Pica #5 10.5 6
Brevier #6 8.25 5
Ruby #7 5.25 3
#8 5

The second-last column is the presumed size in slightly shrunken points, the last column the size in the basic unit.

If anyone knows the real facts here and can reveal them to me, so that I can replace my guess with the truth, I would be very happy.

Dr. Ken Lunde's picture
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Joined: 17 Sep 2006 - 8:31pm
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Check your email.

John Savard's picture
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Joined: 23 Nov 2009 - 8:42pm
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Thank you very much.

Incidentally, I was able to do some further web searching with the information you gave me, and that allowed me to find [[http://tonan.seesaa.net/article/239086453.html|this blog page]] in Japanese with a nice table giving the exact dimensions I sought.

Dr. Ken Lunde's picture
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Joined: 17 Sep 2006 - 8:31pm
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Excellent! I am glad that I was able to help, and to lead you to the information you were seeking.

John Savard's picture
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Joined: 23 Nov 2009 - 8:42pm
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Incidentally, [[http://www.um.u-tokyo.ac.jp/publish_db/1996Moji/05/5901.html|this page]], also in Japanese, turned out to be even more informative, finally giving me the exact sizes I sought.

It did take some effort to distinguish the sizes for the Japanese version of this scale from those for the original Chinese version, but I think I managed it despite Google Translate being only of limited assistance. Perhaps the Korean scale is in one of the tables too, but for now I am defeated there.