Claude Garamond, Type Designer.

I first fell in love with the Garamond typeface in my first year of apprenticeship because the Ludlow Company put out a very passable version of this  wonderful typeface  for their typesetting machine.
Here is a short article on Claude Garamond.
Born in Paris, France in 1490, Garamond started his career out as an apprentice for the Parisian punch-cutter and printer, Antoine Augereau in 1510 . It was during this early part of the 16th century that Garamond and his peers found that the typography industry required unique multi-talented people.
This way they could produce fine books. Many of the printers during that time period were able to master all or most of the artistic and technical skills of book production from type design to bookbinding. Claude Garamond was first to specialise in type design, punch cutting, and type-founding in Paris as a service to many famous publishers.
After a decade of success with his types all over Europe, King Francois I of France demanded that Garamond produce a Greek typeface, which later became known as “Grecs du Roi”.
The three fonts were modeled after the handwriting of Angelos Vergetios, and cut the largest size first, on a 16 point body. All three original sets of Royal Greek punches are preserved at the Imprimerie Nationale in Paris, France.
In 1545 Garamond became his own publisher, featuring his own types including a new italic. His first book published was Pia et religiosa Meditatio of David Chambellan. As publisher, Claude Garamond relied on his creativity harnessed by reasoned discipline to produce superbly well crafted products.
He modeled his book publishing style after the classic works of the Venetian printers who catered to the absolute elites of high society.
He admired and emulated the works of Aldus Manutius. Garamond insisted on clarity in design, generous page margins, quality composition, paper and printing , which was always accentuated with superb binding.
Because of the soundness of Garamond’s designs his typefaces have historical staying power, and they are likely to remain the day-to-day tools of professional typographers, as long as western civilization survives.
Reading a well set Garamond text page is almost effortless, a fact that has been well known to book designers for over 450 years.
Claude Garamond’s contribution to typography was vast, a true renaissance man.
Creating perfection in the type that he crafted his life will live on through his contribution to typography.
via The Biography of Claude Garamond.

Great Cover Design for Exide Catalog,1940.


This is another quick stop to appreciate a job-well-done, a wonderful illustration for a largish catalog (12×9 inches) for Exide Electric Storage Battery Company (Philadelphia), which was printed in 1940.
It would be simple to have a plain text cover for this sort of thing, being batteries and all, but Exide went the extra step and had designed for them this wonderful cover.
It seems to transfer the reliance of their battery in the dark and cold environment via the working trains, their lights working, safe and secure.
It is understated and very effective.
via JF Ptak Science Books: Superior Cover Design: Battery Catalog, 1940.

What Causes the Smell of Old Books?

shakespeareEveryone’s familiar with the smell of old books, the weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores.
Similarly, who doesn’t enjoy riffling through the pages of a newly purchased book and breathing in the crisp aroma of new paper and freshly printed ink? As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.
As far as the smell of new books goes, it’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint specific compounds, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there seems to be a scarcity of scientific research that’s been carried out on the subject – to be fair, it’s understandable why it might not exactly be high up on the priority list.
Secondly, the variation in the chemicals used to manufacture books also means that it’s an aroma that will vary from book to book. Add to this the fact that there are literally hundreds of compounds involved, and it becomes clearer why it evades attribution to a small selection of chemicals.
It’s likely that the bulk of ‘new book smell’ can be put down to three main sources: the paper itself (and the chemicals used in its manufacture), the inks used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the book-binding process.


The manufacture of paper requires the use of chemicals at several stages. Large amounts of paper are made from wood pulp (though it can also be made from cotton and textiles) – chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, often referred to in this context as ‘caustic soda’, can be added to increase pH and cause fibres in the pulp to swell.
The fibres are then bleached with a number of other chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide; then, they are mixed with large amounts of water. This water will contain additives to modify the properties of the the paper – for example, AKD (alkyl ketene dimer) is commonly used as a ‘sizing agent’ to improve the water-resistance of the paper.
Many other chemicals are also used – this is just a very rough overview. The upshot of this is that some of these chemicals can contribute, through their reactions or otherwise, to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, the odours of which we can detect.
The same is true of chemicals used in the inks, and the adhesives used in the books. A number of different adhesives are used for book-binding, many of which are based on organic ‘co-polymers’ – large numbers of smaller molecules chemically chained together.
As stated, differences in paper, adhesives, and inks used will influence the ‘new book smell’, so not all new books will smell the same – perhaps the reason why no research has yet attempted to definitively define the aroma.
Read more via What Causes the Smell of New & Old Books? | Compound Interest.

“Ancient Bookbinding.”

Papyrus_ScrollThe first ever books in the world were the Egyptian papyrus rolls, which were composed of several columns of ancient writing scripts. The first of these manuscripts goes back as far as the 25th BC, and until the Christian era, they remained quite popular.
However, during this period, the paper or the book industry underwent a transformation, and parchment started replacing the Egyptian papyrus rolls. Writing on parchments was arranged in parallel columns, and vertical lines were used to separate one column from another.
This particular pattern gave rise to the idea of cutting the parchments into flat panels, which comprised of either three or four columns. Later on, this form evolved into the books we see today.
Books have been part of the world since the early ages, and so the need to bind them together has also been present since then. In the olden days, a much different binding concept was used than what exists today.
The Egyptian papyrus rolls were stored in a tubular binding. The parchments were also often wrapped up in a roll, and secured with a ribbon.
However, when parchments started being cut into paneled forms, the binding also evolved. The new binding was more convenient to use and remained durable for longer than the tubular form. As such, it became the preferred choice.
In the beginning, the paneled parchments were hinged along any one of the edges, and were bounded with stitches or a lacing.
The columnar arrangement of writing was prevalent even at that time, particularly so for the Latin books.
Generally, the Romans used three to four columns to separate content on a single parchment. This style has been transferred down the generations, and exists even today.
Several published papers, journals, textbooks and reference books have pages that have been divided into two or three columns. Adopting this style makes the text easier and quicker to read.
There are also many books which differ from this, and consist of only a single column. As such, their sizes are also reduced so that the text becomes more legible.

The Kastenbein Typesetter.

Kastenbein_setting_machineAs we have seen composing type by hand was a very slow but skilled trade.

The machine in this picture was called the Kastenbein Typesetter.

Instead of picking up each tiny letter by hand the typesetter just tapped the letters he wanted, like a typewriter.

A very rudimentary form of typesetting.
The machine also sorted out the letters after they had been used, so they could be used again. The Times installed this typesetter in the 1870s.

I would expect that the Kastenbein Typesetter had a short life because the hot metal casting brilliance of the Linotype was set to turn composing on its head.

Sound familiar?

from Metal Type

“The Old Grey Lady.”

Image: “Just a few feet from the door, I am able to watch the final work on the Page One lockup”.
This account of the frenetic activity in the comp room prior to publication of the New York Times (The Old Grey Lady) was written by a well meaning  journalist back in the glory days of hot metal newspaper publishing.
Nearby, ink-stained proofreaders sweat under the lights, trying to catch errors.
It is hard to imagine how they concentrate in all this noise and activity — a din of clattering typesetters, the swirls of rushing people, mallets banging on steel frames.
It is a muscular place, governed by strange customs and alien terms, and I try not to stray far from the elevator.
All the elements of the front page — the type for articles and headlines, the photo-engraved picture cuts, the weather and edition information that flank The New York Times logo at the top — are set into a steel frame, called a chase, atop a waist-high table known as the stone.
Dave Lidman, a makeup editor with a kindly face, motions me over and takes some of the mystery out of the operation.
He checks the whole page, reading type that is upside down and backward. If he spots an error, he does not touch the type.
It’s against the union rules for an editor to handle type, he explains, so he must ask a printer to make fixes.
When Dave is satisfied, the frame is tightened with blocks of wood and screws. Mallet blows are struck to ensure that the type is level and nothing is loose.
Then, Dave explains, the locked page is wheeled to a matrix operation, where a cardboard-like mat is pressed down on the locked-up type with enormous force — 2,100 pounds per square inch — under a cylindrical roller.
The mat, a positive image of the page, is dropped down a chute to the stereotype room five floors below.
There, the mat is curved into a half-barrel shape and molten lead is sprayed against it.
The resulting metal plate is an exact replica — in negative again — of the page set in type in the composing room.
The plate, when cooled in a bath of water, is fitted onto a cylinder of the press. Paper rolling over the inked plates will pick up the positive image.
When all is ready, the pressmen stand back, a bell rings, a button is pushed and the gargantuan presses, fed by great rolls of newsprint and tons of ink, begin to roll.
The noise is deafening.
Indeed, many pressmen are congenitally deaf. Soon the paper rolls are speeding at 1,200 feet a minute, and the presses are churning out 400,000 newspapers an hour.
It is a two-part paper, averaging 60 pages on weekdays and a whopping 436 pages on Sundays.
via The Old Grey Lady: The Way It Was.