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« Dictionary Index « Definitions under B


With letter founders, a specific proportionate number of types, the datum from which the proportion is estimated being 3,000 lower case ems. A bill of Pica weighs 800 pounds, including italic, which is in the proportion of one tenth of the roman. The term “bill” is not used among printers, although it is by the letter founders; this would be styled by printers, a fount of Pica of eight hundred weight.

Smith is, as far as I am aware, the first writer who published the number of each sort that the founders cast to 3,000 ems; and he also made some alterations in the numbers previously cast by the letter founders, “by enlarging the numbers of some sorts, and by lessening the quantity of others,” “to try whether a fount of letter would turn out more perfect than it sometimes does.”

Later writers have copied Smith's numerical list of sorts, as well as his altered numbers, and by copying his words without mentioning his name each of them appears to the public as having suggested an improvement, while, in fact, the founders pay no regard to these proportions, but cast from a scale of their own.

The late Earl Stanhope gave another scale of numbers, produced by counting the letters and points to a certain extent in Enfield's Speaker; but as he discarded the ligatures, and added what he called “Logotypes,” his numbers are not followed.

I do not know on what datum the number of each letter was originally obtained, as cast by the founders; but it is well known in practice that a great number of imperfections are always wanted in a printing office; and from the construction of language it appears there always will be a great number of particular sorts deficient, whatever the proportions may be at first. In proof of this it may be stated, that a new fount of letter shall be cast for the purpose of printing a work; in composing this letter it shall be found that there is a great deficiency of some letters, and a superabundance of others: to bring the whole fount into use, for the purpose of composing as many pages as possible, the deficient sorts are cast, till the proportions answer to each other. When this work is finished, another author's work is to be printed with the same letter: the disproportion is again felt; those which at the first were deficient are now superabundant, and those which were abundant will be deficient; so that the master printer, to keep the whole of his letter in use is obliged to be continually casting those deficiencies and thus enlarging his founts.

The disuse of the long ſ, which took place some years ago, and also of CT ligature, has varied the proportions considerably of the letters composing their combinations, b, h, i, k, l, and t.

The following “Table shows the old numbers, also Smith's and Earl Stanhope's; those at present cast by the letter founders, I give on the authority of Messrs. Caslon and Livermore.

A Bill of Pica, containing 3,000 lower case ems. Weight 800 Pounds.
Italic One Tenth of Roman. Bill of pica 1

Bill of pica 2

In Lists of Names, Indexes, and similar matter, the number of capitals specified in this Bill would be greatly deficient; as would also be the case with the accented letters for works in the Latin and French languages. The figures and the em and en quadrats would be found very inadequate for table work: in fact, in all these cases it would be imperative to cast additional numbers.

Earl Stanhope introduced the following sorts, each in one piece, of which he gives the following numbers to be cast for a fount of the preceding weight: — an, 1,620 — in, 1,731 — of, 1,035 — on, 897 — re, 1,509 — se, 1,152— th, 3,024 — to, 1,095. — See Logotype.

His Lordship, in fact, attempted to introduce too many alterations in printing. I had the honour of knowing him for some years, and he frequently described to me his intended improvements: one was, to make the bottom of the boxes in the cases concave, so that the types should always be convenient for the compositor to pick up; another was, to lay four different sized types in the same pair of cases; another, to alter the curve at the top of the f, and discard its ligatures; another, to cast certain Logotypes. Some of these were not improvements in practice; and the others, except they had been generally adopted, would have destroyed uniformity in works that were printed in different houses, in addition to the great expense and inconvenience both to letter founders and printers. In attempting too much, none of his plans were adopted, so far as related to composing.

Discarding the long ſ has also abolished ſb ligature, ſh ligature, , ſk ligature, fl, ff, ffi, ſt, and has consequently increased the number of the round s, and the connected letters.

Canon 20 em Bill, for Job-work
a 40
b 14
c 20
d 24
e 60
f 20
g 16
h 30
i 40
j 10
k 10
l 24
m 20
n 40
o 40
p 15
q 8
r 40
s 40
t 40
u 20
v 12
w 14
x 8
y 14
z 4
& 4
ffl ligature 3
æ 3
œ 2
, 30
; 16
: 14
. 24
- 16
? 6
! 6
' 16
* 3
§ 3
|| 3
( 6
[ 4
1 12
2 10
3 10
4 10
5 10
6 10
7 10
8 10
9 10
0 12
A 14
B 10
C 10
D 10
E 14
F 10
G 10
H 10
I 14
J 8
K 8
L 10
M 10
N 10
O 10
P 10
Q 6
R 10
S 12
T 14
U 8
V 8
W 10
X 6
Y 8
Z 4
Æ 3
Thick 120
Middle 80
Thin 60
Hair 30
m qds. 20
n qds. 40

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