Brackets in Baskerville (MT) Italic

At the introduction of a book are a few select quotes relevant to its themes. These were originally set in italic with quotation marks. The effect of the double indicators (italic and quotation marks) to set the section apart from the rest of the text is perhaps a bit redundant; italics or quotations alone would have been adequate, not both. The effect of the italics here, however, seems intended to render the section with something of a handwritten script feel. Some of the quotes which are paraphrased, contain ellipsis in the original English edition. In the German edition we're now working with, German orthography requires brackets for ellipses used for paraphrasing. (I believe English does as well, and our source text was simply not following the conventional rule). The issue becomes, that the hard, angular brackets of Baskerville (MT) are an abrupt contrast to the intended use of italics in this case to evoke kind of a handwritten feel.

Perhaps it's a minor "type crime" to try to use italics in this sense, but I would like to stay with them as they were in the original, and simply address the hard brackets in other way. I'm not clear whether it might be acceptable to drop them in this case (the original English did not include them, though it's quite clearly a paraphrasing use of ellipsis) which might be a greater grammatical/orthographic error in German, or to perhaps substitute rounded parenthesis (again not orthographically correct) or to find another Baskerville or other typeface with less harsh brackets to blend in with the rounded flowing italics. The Baskerville MT italic brackets are extremely thin, and contain perfect hard edges. They look appropriate for mathematical notation, but much less so for a quote from Goethe's work.

Thoughts or suggestions? Many thanks in advance - Luca

Joshua Langman's picture

Hm. First of all, though some people, like myself, prefer bracketed ellipses, this is not conventional in English. Also, if you're using the brackets, it would be more traditionally correct to use roman brackets even in italic text, though that might only exacerbate the problem in your eyes. I wouldn't worry about it too much. A much larger problem for me is the footnote number after the attribution — that looks a bit ugly, and there's probably a way around placing a number there.

hrant's picture

What about using curly braces? Or is there another Baskerville (that you'd be allowed to use) with nicer square brackets?

traditionally correct to use roman brackets

What about the correct behavior for a widow in the Indian tradition?

hhp

lucadelcarlo's picture

I've experimented with a selection of Baskerville fonts – most are thicker in the brackets, none are less angular. Do others find the current brackets disturbing in this context? Would use of curly brackets be extremely unconventional here?

kentlew's picture

Would use of curly brackets be extremely unconventional here?

Yes. Those would be braces not brackets.

If this is work for a publisher then the presence of brackets or not is an editorial decision, not a design decision, and you should discuss with with your editor. You may be able to influence a decision with sound reasoning, but you’ll have to meet the editor on his/her turf. There is meaning to be conveyed, and ultimately this is the editor’s bailiwick.

lucadelcarlo's picture

Yes, this ground has been covered, and the rest of the text is solidly adhering to the use bracketed ellipsis. It is just in the introductory quotes where the brackets pose a problem, visually and/or contextually. Consistency would require them to be in brackets, as much as I dislike their appearance.

hrant's picture

an editorial decision, not a design decision

It must be both (as always). It's not like the shape of the bracket is so strictly defined. And if it's soft, does it become editorially not a bracket? I can't see that.

Luca, might there be a very modest budget for customizing the brackets?

hhp

John Hudson's picture

traditionally correct to use roman brackets

I would phrase this differently, and say simply that traditionally there is no such thing as italic parentheses, brackets or braces. These punctuation signs were always upright, and I doubt if one encounters slanted versions of them prior to the typewriter.

When I was making the new types for the academic publisher Brill, I asked them specifically what their editorial style for these signs is in italic text. As a result, the Brill italic fonts contain upright ( ) [ ] { } appropriately spaced and kerned to the italic letters.

There are instances -- particularly in the context of display typography -- in which I can see a graphical use for slanted parentheses etc., just as in such situations slanted arithmetic symbols can be useful. But the norms of these signs should be upright, regardless of the style of the alphabetics.

Nick Shinn's picture

…traditionally there is no such thing as italic parentheses, brackets or braces.

That was a tradition that ceased a long time ago!
(Was Monotype/Linotype responsible?)
Surely slanted brackets etc. in italic fonts should be considered traditional, and upright brackets historical.

The norm is the norm, however wrong it may be for certain usages.

I’ve put upright brackets etc., in a couple of typeface’s italics, but as a Stylistic Set.
(That was an idea I gleaned from Adam Twardoch in a Typophile Build thread a few years ago.)
Brill is the first digital face I’ve come across that has them as default.

hrant's picture

Unfortunately there are others... including some Baskervilles.

hhp

George Tulloch's picture

Slanted parentheses from 1568! — Enseignements d’Isocrates et Xenophon, printed in Paris by Vascosan, type attributed to Garamond.

charles ellertson's picture

As a side note -- I don't see a "book" or slightly heavier weight for Monotype Baskerville.

Try this: Find a book printed with MT Baskerville from before 1950. That's what the type should look like, at least, if you think the folk in the drawing room at Monotype had any skill at all.

Now find a current book printed (offset, direct to plate) set in MT Baskerville.

Compare. Even better, scan in a few words from each, and do a side-by-side comparison on the screen at a large size. (Apparently how we evaluate type these days.)

If I were King, everyone who selects typefaces would have to read Fred Smeijers' Counterpunch and study how the type designers evaluated their type by how it put ink on paper. That was how the letterforms weight and proportions were evaluated and adjusted.

& still on that King model, there would be both an oral and written exam...

hrant's picture

George, great find!

To me it's pretty clear that upright glyphs in an Italic font were simply a result of not having slanted ones to use (for reasons of cost). We shouldn't turn that bug into a feature, especially since discriminating typographers in any era have gone to the trouble of doing it right.

That's what the type should look like, at least, if you think the folk in the drawing room at Monotype had any skill at all.

Well, I certainly agree they were skilled, but there are other factors (like cost and fashion) that can result in design decisions that we should no longer take. At Monotype for example there was the duplexing of Italic widths.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Yes, that is a good find, George. Thanks. And I still think upright parentheses etc. look better.

In the case of square brackets, it is worth remembering that these are most often meta-textual symbols in editorial use, so one of the reasons they are conventionally upright even in slanted text is because they stand outside that text.

hrant's picture

But what they do is pull the reader out of the text.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Got any evidence, either that that is the case or that it is significant? My guess is that the majority of readers have never noticed one way or the other.

hrant's picture

No evidence - it just seems like common sense. And readers don't have to be able to put their finger on a problem to be affected by it. Let me ask this: what would you say is the most subtle thing that does pull a reader out of the text?

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Spacing problems.

I think readers are pulled out of the text by things that make reading more difficult than they are used to for their level of competence. I don't think upright parentheses in italic text constitute such a thing.

Michel Boyer's picture

But what they do is pull the reader out of the text.

If the text that is being cited originally contains parentheses or brackets, then it makes sense to put them in the same style as the text, i.e. slanted, and avoid pulling the reader out of the text. However, in the citation of Borges above, the brackets are indication that something is missing from the text. Doesn't the reader need to be pulled out it to realize that?

eliason's picture

At Monotype for example there was the duplexing of Italic widths.

I think you mean Linotype?

In the age of multiple typefaces from foundries/printers, parentheses etc. were generic sorts, right? So in that era upright parentheses etc. matched (or didn't match!) every italic in the same way, whereas leaning parentheses etc. would only coincidentally match the slope of a given italic since it would presumably vary from other italic typefaces. The almost-but-not-quite slope differentials might have been judged more distracting than pairing upright ones with the leaning letters.

hrant's picture

Doesn't the reader need to be pulled out it to realize that?

That's a good question/point. I guess we'd have to nail down what "pull out" means. To me it's a pretty dramatic thing - it means the reader stopping the reading process, even if only momentarily. This can happen when a shape (or more generally a pattern) jumps out because it's unexpected, and I think an upright glyph in a stream of slanted glyphs is such a case. What you describe ("indication that something is missing from the text") I think can be "read" without such a disruption in the reading process.

I think you mean Linotype?

Sorry, I've historically mixed up the limitations of each system... Please correct me if I'm wrong: Linotype was limited in terms of kerning (meaning overshooting sorts) and duplexing, while Monotype was limited in terms of width unitization?

leaning parentheses etc. would only coincidentally match the slope of a given italic

That's a good point, and I think you're right.

However, parentheses being entirely curvy, might escape the sort of rejection you posit. Square brackets on the other hand would indeed pretty jarring if the slopes didn't match. But: more jarring than totally upright forms? Dunno. Consider the resultant looseness for one thing*. And I still suspect things like parentheses mostly only came in upright anyway.

* John, you mentioned "spacing problems"?...

hhp

quadibloc's picture

@Nick Shinn:
That was a tradition that ceased a long time ago!
(Was Monotype/Linotype responsible?)
Surely slanted brackets etc. in italic fonts should be considered traditional, and upright brackets historical.

I'm in favor of parentheses being sloped in italic fonts, and would find upright ones distracting under most circumstances. Linotype's duplexing might have not left enough room for parentheses to lean... but I would suspect that Linotype and Monotype are the ones that were responsible for the tradition of upright parentheses ceasing.

It used to be that a font consisted of

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
0123456789
.,:;-/!?&$

and the opening and closing quotes

and everything else was a sort, including parentheses. So upright parentheses were a foundry thing.

eliason's picture

(FWIW this old thread tread on some similar ground.)

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