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The letters, marks, and signs, cast in metal, the larger sizes of wood, with which printing is executed.

The forms and proportions of types in the Roman character have undergone every change that the most capricious fancy could suggest. We have types of beautiful shapes and symmetrical proportions, but our type founders have diverged, for the sake of variety, gradually to a fatter face till the lines have become so thick that the letter has hardly any white in its interior, and when printed is nearly all black, with the outline only to guide us in knowing what it is; and on the contrary they have gradually gone to the other extreme, and produced what are called skeleton letters, which are formed of a fine uniform line; we have antique, the line being also of uniform thickness, but strong and heavy; we have letters with the strong lines and the fine lines reversed; we have tall narrow letters, and we have letters which look as if they had been pressed down, till they were considerably broader than they were high; we have letters drawn in perspective, with their edges towards us, as if they were marching away; and as for Italic, we have it now inclining to the left as well as to the right.

The Modern Gothic or Black letter has not escaped this rage for change and variety, and we have forms introduced into it which would have puzzled our ancestors to know what they were meant for when the Modern Gothic was the standard, character. These changes and varieties have not been introduced as improvements either in the forms or proportions of the letters, but to produce variety and what is styled effect.

The scale of sizes of the respective types can only be looked at and received as an approximation to truth, as the letter founders themselves acknowledge; in fact there is no precise standard, for they cast according to the orders they receive from their customers: the following scale is a proof of this; Mr. Hansard, in his Typographia, gives the number of lines of each size in a foot as cast in the foundery of Messrs. Caslon and. Livermore, which does not agree with the one I now give, which was supplied to me by Mr. Livermore in 1839, at my request, avowedly to publish, each fount having been measured to insure correctness; it was submitted to Mr.Caslon personally in August 1841, before printing, and revised, so that every precaution has been taken to prevent a mistake.

The scale of the foundery of Messrs. V. and J. Figgins, as also that of Messrs. Thorowgood and Besley, were kindly furnished me by the respective houses. I have also given Moxon's scale of sizes, which is the oldest that has been published, and which will show the variations in the depth of body which types have undergone. He prefaces it by saying, “And that the reader may the better understand the sizes of these several Bodies, I shall give him this Table following; wherein is set down the number of each Body that is contained in one Foot.” — See Nicks.

Number of lines of the different sized

Moxon, 1683 Caslon, 1841 V. & J. Figgins, 1841 Thorogwood & Besley, 1841 Alexander Wilson & sons, 1841
Diamond 204 205 210 204
Pearl 184 178 180 184 178
Ruby 166 165 163 166
Nonpareil 150 144 144 144 144
Emerald 128 128
Minion 122 122 122 122
Brevier 112 111 107 112 111
Bourgeois 102 101½ 103 102
Long Primer 92 89 90 92 89
Small Pica 83 82 82 83
Pica 75 72 72½ 72 72
English 66 64 64 64½ 64
Great Primer 50 51 51 52 52
Parangon 44½ 44½ 44½
Double Pica 38 41½ 41½ 41 41½
Two Line Pica 36 36 36 36
Two Line English 33 32 32 32¼ 32
Two Line Great Primer 25½ 25½ 26 25½
Two Line Double Pica 20¾ 20¾ 20½ 20¾
Trafalgar 20 20 20
Canon 17½ 18 18 18 18

It thus appears that in 1683, the date of Moxon's work, there were only ten sizes of types with specific names, while at the present time we have twenty-one; the following are our additional sizes — Diamond, Ruby, Emerald, Minion, Bourgeois, Small Pica, Paragon, Two Line Pica, Two Line Great Primer, Two Line Double Pica, and Trafalgar.

Canon is the largest size with a specific name; all above Canon are designated according to the number of Picas in the depth of the body; thus the next size larger is Five Line Pica, then Six Line Pica, and so on indefinitely. Twenty-four Line Pica is about the largest letter that is cast in metal, those above that size are generally cut in wood, as also any peculiar shaped letters. The German letter founders cast the face of letters in metal to a much larger size, and mount them on wood.

Minion used to be half an English; it has ceased to be so, and Emerald has taken its place, for English is now equal to two Emeralds: this latter is a size that was introduced about two years ago.

By an examination of the preceding table the relative proportions of the different sizes to each other will be ascertained; but to facilitate the reference they are here brought under one view.

  • Diamond = Half Bourgeois, also = ¼ Great Primer = ⅛ Two Line Great Primer.
  • Pearl = Half Long Primer, also = ¼ Paragon.
  • Ruby = Half Small Pica, also = ¼ Double Pica = ⅛ Two Line Double Pica.
  • Nonpareil = Half Pica.
  • Emerald = Half English.
  • Bourgeois = Half Great Primer, also=2 Diamonds.
  • Long Primer = Half Paragon, also=2 Pearls.
  • Small Pica = Half Double Pica, also=2 Rubies.
  • Pica = 2 Nonpareils.
  • English = 2 Emeralds.
  • Great Primer = 2 Bourgeois, also = 4 Diamonds.
  • Paragon = 2 Long Primers, also = 4 Pearls.
  • Double Pica = 2 Small Picas, also = 4 Rubies.
  • Two Line Pica = 2 Picas, also = 4 Nonpareils.
  • Two Line English = 2 English, also = 4 Emeralds.
  • Two Line Great Primer = 2 Great Primers, also = 4 Bourgeois = 8 Diamonds.
  • Two Line Double Pica = 2 Double Picas, also = 4 Small Picas = 8 Rubies.
  • Canon = 2 Two Line Picas, also = 4 Picas = 8 Nonpareils.

It thus appears that Minion, Brevier, and Trafalgar, may be classed as irregular bodied letters, for they bear no specific regular proportion to any other size.

Minion was formerly half an English, but it has varied in the depth of its body from that proportion; some of the letter founders have introduced a new size between Minion and Nonpareil, and called it Emerald, and made this new type half an English; I think it would have been a preferable measure to have restored Minion to its original place.

This want of uniformity in the depth of body of the respective sizes is much to be regretted, as it causes serious inconvenience in a printing office, and might be avoided by the several letter founders agreeing among themselves and deciding what should be the standard for each size, and firmly refuse to cast a new fount to any other size, reserving the present variations for imperfections only, till the founts in use were worn out and discarded; we should thus gradually approach to uniformity; and whatever variations there might be in the face of the letter, still the quadrats, and the spaces might be used to any fount of the same sized letter, without any risk of injuring the appearance of the work, and this would frequently be found of great advantage in poetry, figure work, and in light open matter.

This evil is not confined to England, but exists to a great extent in both France and Germany, and Fournier, an eminent letter founder who wrote on the subject, describes the evil, and explains the remedy which he invented and adopted, in his “Manuel Typographique,” published at Paris, in two volumes 12mo. 1764, of which the following is a translation.

===== Fournier on uniformity =====

“This article requires a particular explanation, because it is novel and obscure. I have placed it here in order to show the new proportions which I have given to the body of the characters, by the defined measures which I call Typographical Points.

“The last regulation of the Library, made in 1725, fixed the height to paper at ten and a half geometric lines. This rule is as easy to practise as it is to give; but such was not the case when it was desirable by this regulation to establish some rules in order to fix the strength of the body of the characters. At the time when this regulation was made, apparently no person was found competent to give correct ideas on that point, which was very important, as it would operate to correct abuse, and to give order and precision where there had never been any before. In default of proper information, a master printer gave as a rule the characters which he found in his own printing office, with all their imperfections. The law which was then obtained, not being founded on any principles, has consequently remained unexecuted, which is the reason why the characters have never had fixed and accurate sizes, and that this disorder still remains as great as it was formerly.

“In article lix. of this Regulation, it is given, as a fit body, that Petit-canon is equal to two Saint-Augustins; Gros-parangon is equal to a Cicero and a Petit-romain, &c, but the size that the Saint-Augustin, the Cicero, or the Petit-romain ought to have is not given, in order to make together the Petit-canon or Gros-parangon. Consequently this law can always be evaded, and it is evaded whenever any one wishes, without being liable to any penalty, because one person might make a body of Saint-Augustin more slender than another, and the Petit-canon might be cast to this double thickness, by which means the law would be fulfilled. Another person might make the body of Saint-Augustin more or less strong, and from two of these bodies he will cast a Petit-canon: here again the law is fulfilled, although in a spirit opposed to that of the Regulation. Thus confusion is perpetuated, until at length it gives one some trouble to make the distinction of the two bodies, of which the larger is weak and the smaller strong. It happens then that the characters of the same body vary more or less, and when two such are found in a printing office, the workmen mix the spaces and quadrats together, which spoils the founts.

“The Regulation has provided for this default, it will be said, when it ordains that there should be sent to the founders a certain number of letters of each body, in order that they might agree under pain of fine. But these letters which are thus proposed at hazard, and which are never given, would not have remedied the evil which it is wished to avoid. These pretended rules, instead of causing order and precision, on the contrary augment the confusion, by multiplying the parts without necessity. From thence it comes that the bodies of Petit-canon, Gros-parangon, Gros-romain, Cicero, Philosophie, Gaillarde, Mignone, are found, according to the Regulation, without double bodies, on which two-line letters can be made, of which nevertheless none of the bodies can do without.

“Here then are seven or eight bodies without names, useless for every other purpose, and with which the printing office is overloaded. Moreover, these combinations of the body of a Cicero and a Petit-romain to make a Gros-parangon, of a Petit-texte and Petit-romain to make a Gros-romain, of a Petit-texte and a Nonpareille to make a Saint-Augustin, truly proclaim little experience and capacity on the part of those who proposed them. The defect has been perceived, but no one has tried to find a remedy, and that because the printers, who are alone consulted in this affair, are not type founders sufficient to make proper experiments, and to give rules to a part of the trade which they do not exercise, and of which often they know only the name.

“This then is what engaged me to disentangle this chaos, and to give to these matters an order which they have never before had. I think I have had the happiness to succeed in it, with an exactness and precision which leaves nothing to be desired, by the invention of Typographical Points. It is nothing more than the division of the bodies of characters by equal and determinate degrees, which I call Points.

“By this means, the degrees of distance and the affinity of the bodies may be known exactly. They can be combined together in the same manner as numerical signs; and as two and two make four, add two, it will become six, double all this, you will have twelve, &c., in the like manner a Nonpareille, which is equal to six points, added to another Nonpareille will make together a Cicero, which has twelve points, add again a Nonpareille, you will have eighteen points or a Gros-romain, double all this, and it will make thirty-six points, or a Trismegiste, which has that number; and In like manner the others, as may be seen by a reference to the Table of Proportions which follows.

“In order to combine the bodies, it will be sufficient to know the number of Typographical Points of which they are composed. These points or given sizes should be invariable, so that they may serve as guides in the printing office, as the foot, inch, and line are used in geometry. For this purpose, I have fixed these points at the exact sizes they ought to have, in the scale which is at the head of the Table of Proportions; and that their exactness may be relied upon invariably, I have contrived an instrument which I call Prototype.

“The invention of these points is the first service which I rendered to printing, in 1737. Obliged then to commence a long, painful, and laborious career by the graving of all the punches necessary to form the establishment of my foundery, I found no rule established which could guide me in fixing the body of the characters which I had to make, and I was thus under the necessity of forming them for myself.

“The table exhibits at the top a fixed and definite scale, which I divide into two inches, the inches into twelve lines, and the line into six of these typographical points; the total is 144 points. The first small divisions are of two points, which is the exact distance which there is from a Petit-texte to a Petit-romain, or from that to a Cicero, &c. The scale contains in the whole twelve bodies of Cicero. It is necessary to measure by this gauge the number of points which I assign to each of the bodies. These measures, taken truly for each body separately, and verified on the Prototype, will form altogether a general correspondence for all the bodies of characters.”

Of Height to Paper. The height of the characters called height to paper, that is to say, from the foot to the face which leaves its impression on the paper, is fixed by regulations of the book trade, and noted down by them, on the 28th February 1723, at ten and a half geometric lines. This law was established for rendering all the French characters conformable in their parts, in order that, passing from one printing office to another, by the death of the proprietor or otherwise, there might be no disparity among them. This law, however, though wise and good, is but partially executed, many printers having adhered to the height of the characters which they found already in their offices. “Some countries, as Flanders, the Lyonnois, and others, which have the characters much higher by the ordonnance of the Porte, have preserved them thus, so that from these causes we see the characters varying from ten and a quarter to eleven lines and a half high. Those who have preserved them in this last way are among the dupes, because the characters which are according to the ordonnance cost a hundred pistoles, while those that have more metal in them are worth eleven hundred francs, because being one eleventh higher are one eleventh heavier.

“The officers of the chambres syndicales have neglected this part of the regulation; thus nothing is more common than to see in every printing office, the characters some a little too high and some a little too low. This makes it necessary to put the highest upon the tympans of the press within the places where the lines are too low. Sometimes many folds of paper are put under these low types upon the stone of the press, in order to raise the low parts up to the level of the high ones. This confusion does not originate with the founder, who is obliged to conform to the will of those for whom he works. Three parts of the French printers, at least, have their printing offices regulated according to the measure of ten lines and a half; and though there may be little inequalities which leave some of the characters a little too high and some a little too low, yet when there is only this slight difference, perhaps being sometimes but the thickness of a paper, the inequality is very inconsiderable. To avoid this confusion, and to make the founderies preserve one standard to regulate the height, and preserve it always the same, rests with the master. There are two ways: the first is a thin plate of copper or iron on which is made a notch of ten lines and a half high, and the other, which is in greater use and more convenient, is making a form of justification.”

The French have varied from Fournier's standard, and have introduced fresh sizes since he published his work; when Fertel wrote, in 1723, hie gave a list of nineteen sizes, but at the present time they have twenty-five; they are also changing their names, and now designate them by numbers, as will be perceived by the following list, which is copied from the specimen book of De la Tarbe, of Paris, 1835, to which I have affixed the number of points assigned to them by Fournier.

===== French Types =====

Fournier's Points, 1737
Cinq, ou Parisienne 5
Six, ou Nonpareille 6
Six et demi
Sept, Ou Mignonne 7
Sept et demi, ou Petit-Texte 8
Huit, ou Gaillarde 9
Neuf, ou Petit-Romain 10
Dix, ou Philosophie 11
Onze, ou Cicéro 12
Treize, ou Saint- Augustin 14
Quatorze, ou Gros-Texte 16
Seize, ou Gros-Romain 18
Dix-huit, ou Petit-Parangon 20
Vingt, ou Gros-Parangon 22
Vingt-deux, ou Palestine 24
Vingt-six, ou Petit-Canon 28
Trente-trois, ou Trismégiste 36
Quarante, ou Gros-Canon 44
Cinquante-six, ou Double-Canon 56
Soixante-six, ou Deux Points de Trismégiste
Quatre-vingt, ou Deux Points de Gros-Canon
Quatre-vingt-huit, ou Huit Cicéro
Cent dix, ou Dix Cicéro
Cent-trente-deux, ou Douze Cicéro
Cent-soixante-cinq, Quinze Cicéro

===== German Types, &c =====

The German letter founders vary still more than the English or the French, for there is no standard body in Germany, every printing office has its varieties; the height is equally very different, but generally much higher than the French types. The German scale is formed by dividing their Petit, a size between our Brevier and Bourgeois, into four lines, so that each additional number is one fourth of their Petit. The names of many of the sizes also vary in different parts of Germany. The list that I give, with the number of lines to each size, I was favoured with by Mr. Edward Haenel, of Magdeburg, an eminent printer of extensive business; I have other lists, of letter founders, in different parts of Germany, but I do not think it necessary to insert more than one.

The German letter founders have types for printing maps, with which they form the line of the sea coast, with all its irregularities, its promontories, its bays, &c., the boundary lines, and the rivers. I had a map, printed in this manner, sent to me from Germany, which is very clever, and shows great ingenuity in the execution.

The names of German types, with the number of lines in each size
1. Diamant 2 12. Doppelcicero 12
2. Perl 13. Doppelmittel 14
3. Nonpareille 3 14. Kleine Canon 16
4. Colonell 15. Große Canon 20
5. Petit 4 16. Kleine Missal 26
6. Burgeois 5 17. Große Missal 32
7. Corpus 5 18. Kleine Sabon 38
8. Cicero 6 19. Große Sabon 42
9. Mittel 7 20. Real 48
10. Tertia 8 21. Imperial 54
11. Text 10

Dutch names of types. From Smith's Printer's Grammar. 1755.

  • Nonpareil
  • Brevier
  • Burgeois
  • Garmond
  • Dessendiaan
  • Mediaan
  • Augustyn
  • Text.
  • Paragon
  • Dubbelde Dessendiaan
  • Dubbelde Mediaan
  • Dubbelde Augustyn
  • Kanon
  • Groote Kanon
  • Parys Romeyn
Italian Names English Names
Occhio di Mosca Pearl
Nompariglia Nonpareil
Minione Minion
Testino Brevier
Gagliarda Bourgeois
Garamone Long Primer
Filosofia Small Pica
Lettura Pica
Silvio English
Testo Great Primer
Parangone Paragon
Due Linee Filosofia Double Pica
Canone French Canon

The Italian types are of a rather less body than the corresponding English types, but I have not been able to ascertain the precise degree of variation. I was favoured with this list by Mr. And. Pons, a printer at Parma, who originally belonged to the establishment of the celebrated printer Bodoni.

The Foreign Monthly Review for June, 1839, states that a type founder of Clermont, named Colson, has obtained a patent for a new material for printing types, which is harder, capable of more resistance, and yet less expensive than the ordinary composition of lead and antimony. It is well known, that types cast from the latter soon become worn, especially since the introduction of machine-printing. Colson asserts that the material is so hard that the types themselves will serve for punches in striking matrices, and that it will last ten years, without being more worn than the usual composition is in one year.

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