Design Sources

Technically, not Asthetically

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The truth is that every sheet of blank paper by its very emptiness affirms that nothing is a beautiful as what does not exist. - Paul Valéry. "La Feuille Blanche" [1] .

[This section isn't really done; I've just outlined it so that some of the links to it from other chapters will work.]

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Original Designs

[This is just a placeholder, and will likely remain so for a while. True originality does not exist outside of the world of press releases. "original" designs have many sources. Here I'll just catalog a few, when I get to it - e.g., Morris' photographic enlargements, Goudy's rubbings for Hadriano.]

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Existing Printed Works

Working in a literal way from the printed results of historical types (by tracing them to one degree or another), as opposed to simply studying them for inspiration, presents a number of difficulties. Each instance of a printed type is a unique interaction between a particular piece of type, a particular paper, the press, the printer, and sometimes hundreds of years of the alteration of the printed sheet by time and conditions. Reconstructing a type from this is a nontrivial technical and interpretive exercise.

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Existing Metal Types, Pantographically

If you have existing metal types and you wish to make matrices from them, the easiest way is to electroform the mats. This may not be possible or desirable (e.g., for reasons of conservation). Making new drawings and patterns from them is much more difficult.

The only instance I know of this is in Benton's US patent 790,172 (1899/1905) for a pantograph used by ATF for design work (but this is a patent reference - I don't know if they actually did it).

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Existing Metal Types, Optically

The Monotype Corporation Ltd. (UK) documented this in the 1950s as one of their three processes for working from historical originals.

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Existing Metal Types, Electrolytically

The easiest way to duplicate a type is to electroform a matrix from it. The only downside is that while this gives you a new matrix, it does not give you a drawing or pattern from which to make additional matrices or modify the type design. This is really a subject not for these "design sources" chapters but rather for the Electroforming Matrices chapter.

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Existing Offset Types

Russell Maret has pointed out (in a "Book Artists and Poets" podcast hosted by Steve Miller, 2011-03-29; that just as metal type is designed so as to produce a printed image on the paper which is not identical to the type itself, so also is type designed for offset lithography - but that the differences between letterpress printing and offset lithographic printing mean that these accomodations for process differ in each case. In this section [if I ever get to it; don't hold your breath] I'll discuss phototypesetting and photolettering sources, not digital sources.

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Existing Digital Types and Lettering

Both digital type and digital lettering have the same issues as phototypesetting and photolettering. The are (or should be) designed to appear differently on their intended output media. This is made more complex by the fact that some of these media involve ink (and thus ink-related compensation in design) and some do not.

The whole area is made much more difficult for the maker of metal type because while the world is full of digital lettering, it contains almost no digital type. In almost every instance where a maker of matrices tries to work from existing digital lettering sources they'll have to spend substantial effort to turn it into digital type first (by establishing lining and fitting information). See Digital Lettering and Type Formats for the technical details and Digital Typography and Computer-Aided Lettering for the philosophical discussion. See Software Methods for practical (I hope) notes on how to use software tools to create real type.

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1. Trans. by Prof. Ramon Guthrie, Dartmouth College. Quoted in Ruzicka, Rudolf. Studies in Type Design (Hanover, NH: Friends of the Dartmouth Library, 1968).

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