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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 2

Design in Typography. — Rules

page 85

Design in Typography.

Vignettes, in their various forms and combinations, have occupied our attention for a considerable time. One specific variety we have not thought it necessary to deal with—those that are pierced or mortised for the insertion of types. They are made in great variety, and are extensively used for advertising purposes; but their uses and applications are so obvious as not to call for any special remark.

We now proceed to the next branch of our subject—that of Rules. Whether they are of brass or type-metal is a mere matter of detail, and does not affect their use as decorative material. For short lengths, to the bodies of the various standard types, metal rules are the most convenient; but for thin rules, of considerable length, brass is the only material available. Brass-rule is made by entirely different processes from those in use in the type-foundry, and is cut into lengths as required. In the factories, where costly and elaborate machinery is used, this cutting is performed with remarkable accuracy. In an ordinary printing office, the mechanical appliances are insufficient for the purpose, and the cutting is often done in a careless and slovenly manner, the ends of the rule being twisted and burred. English houses do not profess to cut rule with the same degree of accuracy as they cast type. An instance occurred lately, when a leading English foundry brought out fine-dotted brass leaders, cut to regular sizes on brevier and nonpareil bodies. These were shortly afterwards withdrawn, on the ground that it was not possible to cut them with sufficient accuracy to justify with the metal types. American houses, on the other hand, profess to supply leader rules to match any given body or face. We are not aware that American rule is really more true than English; but our experience of the German rules, manufactured, cut, and mitred by Berthold, is that they are marvellously correct. In fact, every page of his elaborate specimen book shews specimens of rule-composition which would be impossible if anything short of absolute accuracy were observed.

Apart from their decorative use, rules have an important part to serve in table-work. Between « table » and « tabular » work, as every printer knows, there is a distinction; in the latter class, and sometimes in the former, brass rule has been much less used of late years; the tendency being to greater simplicity of composition. A remarkable example is the report of the London Chamber of Commerce, in which the numerous and extensive tabulated returns are composed entirely without the aid of brass-rule.

For practical purposes, the simpler system is in most cases as good as the older style, while a great amount of time is saved in composi-. tion, it is much more compact, and the use of leaders enables the table to be more readily adapted to the width of the page. For newspaper work the modern system is much the best, as any simple table can be set without moving from the case.

But it is with rules as decorative material that we have chiefly to deal. They are extensively used, singly and in combination, as borders. Corners and centre-pieces are also devised to join up with them; but these we do not purpose to treat of now, inasmuch as the rule itself forms a complete border, without any extraneous addition. And it should be noted that between the simple line, and any ornamental running border, however simple it may be, there is a fundamental difference. In the case of the lineal border, the whole side, no matter how long or how short, is a single unit. It may be cut off: to any measure, or subdivided or lengthened to any extent, but it is still one. There is no repetition of design, merely continuation.. This is not the case with any ornamental border. Every pattern has its unit, and to this the work must be adapted, or violence is done to the design. Where the unit is a large one, it is sometimes difficult to adapt a combination to a given size or proportion of work—the line can be adapted to all. It is easy to illustrate the repetition of the « unit » in any ordinary border.

The five borders above are all nonpareil, and each has a different unit. The first, being a rule, is a single unit, no matter what the length may be. Each of the others is a regularly recurring pattern. In the tint border, No. 2, the unit is one-fifth of a nonpareil em, the design being five times repeated in that space. In No. 3 it is three-quarters of a nonpareil em; in No. 4 a nonpareil; and in No. 5 a pica. The unit is quite distinct from the lengths in which the border is cast; thus, in No. 2 the smallest piece is equal to five units, and in No. 3 to two.

Border No. 1 illustrates the variety which may be obtained by parallel lines of varying thicknesses. Not only have we the familiar light and heavy-faced rules, the thick-and-thin, double-fine, and treble; but beautiful cylindrical forms and mouldings have been produced by the due arrangement of parallel lines of varying thickness. In all these forms the same rule holds good—the side of the border, however long it be, constitutes a single unit.

It is in conjunction with ornamental borders that rule is seen to the best advantage. German founders, especially, set off their combination borders by tasteful rule-work. An inner or outer boundary-rule in red or gold is a simple feature in a page, demanding chiefly accurate register in the press-work; but it may often be introduced with very fine effect. In the case of very light or irregular borders, a plain line on one or both sides gives an appearance of strength and finish to the work.

page 86 pieces to a fount of treble rule cut to our order, and in use in our office:—

All the regular sizes of type have rule to even ems cast in type-metal. The series is generally en, em, 2-em, 3-em, and 4-em. One of the large English founders omits the en, to the great inconvenience of printers. It is strange that three most necessary sorts are never and a cross +, all to em set, and made to join up with the rules of the fount. With these, for most ordinary purposes, the comp. would not need to go to the brass-rule case at all, and when working in sizes like minion and bourgeois, that refuse to fall into the pica scale to which graduated rules are cut, he would be saved endless trouble in justification. It is a curious instance of the conservatism of founders, that the odds and ends in the back boxes of the upper-case have remained unaltered for half-a-century or more, though many of them are now almost obsolete. How many pounds of the rarely- , are there in every newspaper office? and what printer is there who would not gladly exchange them for the three sorts we have described?

There is a good deal of difference of opinion as the advantage or otherwise of rule-borders to a page. It is not uncommon in books of poems to surround the pages with a red-line border—a custom borrowed from books of devotion. The reason is evident—the varying measures of the verse cause great irregularity in the form of the page as regards the text, and the boundary-line introduces a harmonizing element, besides saving much trouble in the process of binding.

For our own part we prefer the boundary-rule, especially where there is irregularity of matter as it gives a finish to the page. It is noticeable that several periodicals which have started with a rule-border have seen reason to drop it in the course of time—perhaps on account of the extra trouble involved. The Leisure Hour and Good Words are examples. The boundary-rule, however, has advantages quite apart from its effect to the eye. It serves to equalize the pressure on the form; it protects the type at the sides of the pages by bearing off the first contact of the cylinder and rollers; and, as we have already remarked, it is a great convenience to the binder.

In recent years, much skill has been displayed in bending and shaping rules to various patterns. This is a branch lying almost outside the real business of type composition. The simpler form of this work consists of curving rules into circles and arcs, as well as into elliptical and serpentine forms, and machines have been devised for this express purpose. Plans and maps are often constructed from bent rule, and a special kind, very soft and thin, called « diagram rule, » is made in the United States for this purpose. The kind of work (which is costly, as it occupies much time), is a hobby with some compositors. We have seen drawings, trade designs, and even portraits, composed in this manner.

« Rule-twisting » is the latest form of this art. Some good effects, and others most hideous, have been produced in the United States by this means. Four or five rules are locked up together, and bent by flat pliers into a kind of irregular wave. Sometimes a sheaf of a dozen or eighteen very thin rules is taken, and bent into close curves in the centre, the ends being allowed to open out and straggle over the work, more in the style of so-called « spirit » drawings and decorations than anything else. Special tools, called « crinklers, » « twisters, » &c., are made for this work. It is a class of ornament which affords a certain scope for individual skill and originality; but on the whole we do not think it is to be recommended. Where one man will produce reasonably good results, twenty others would only spoil the work. At the best, it involves waste and destruction of good material.