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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

Design in Typography. Borders.—Elementary Forms

page 11

Design in Typography. Borders.—Elementary Forms.


Borders of one character, described in our last article, are obviously the most elementary. They necessarily consist of a unit that is the same and in the same position on all four sides of the work, and is therefore at the same time running-piece and corner:

No sooner does the second element—the separate corner—come in, than designers go astray. A corner becomes necessary when any design which is horizontal at head and foot becomes vertical at the sides. Here is a very simple and a more elaborate form, in illustration. The first fundamental requisite of every border of more than one character is, that it have an appropriate border on its own body. This condition is fulfilled in the borders shown above. Further, if the border is not symmetrical—that is to say, if the inner side differs from the outer, as in the second example above, it should have two corners on its own body, one inner, and one outer. For it is evident, that if this border be reversed, the corner is no longer appropriate. These corners should be square, not quadrants. If quadrants are introduced, they should be as extras. In devising a border, therefore, the foundation pieces should always be:

(B)Outer corner (square)
(C)Inner corner (square).

It is evident, from any specimen-book, that all borders do not fulfil these conditions—in fact, those that do are exceedingly rare. Why should they? some one may ask. Why should not the artist who designs a new border have perfect freedom, and follow the dictates of his own fancy? Why should the primary corners be square, on the same body as the border; and why are inner as well as outer corners essential?

The answer is, that all designs have their practical as well as their artistic side, and that the former is even more important than the latter; as, however beautiful a border may be, if it cannot be adapted to the work in hand, it must lie idle in the case. There are several good reasons why the primary corner should be on the same body as the running-piece. In the first place, it simplifies composition. There is not always room for a large corner, which necessitates a blank either inside or outside—perhaps both. Again, the border may be required to work close up to a brass-rule or to another border, which cannot be done if the corner is larger than the other pieces.

The square inner or secondary corner is equally important in all cases where the border is unsymmetrical. In symmetrical designs, the primary corner B inverted is exactly equal to the secondary corner C. In unsymmetrical borders, the inverted corner B, as we have shown by two examples, breaks the pattern in exactly the same manner as a running-piece put in upside-down. In such borders, the secondary corner C is necessary, because it is often desirable to reverse a border, working the inside outwards. A fringe, for example, may be either within or without another border. The objection of inflexibility, so often raised against type ornaments, almost disappears in the case of a border that turns freely inward or outward on its own body. We have very few examples of such—our best, Schelter and Giesecke's « Preciosa, » is, unfortunately, almost microscopic:—

In the first illustration, the thick line, outside at the corner, is brought inside by the border turning upon itself and crossing; the second and third show the border in its regular and inverted forms, and the fourth, the two in combination.

We have referred to the fringe pattern. MacKellar's « Drapery » is a good example of a defective combination. Possessing both exterior and interior corners, it has neither in the primary form. The border is to 9-point (German), the exterior corner (a quadrant) to 18-point, and the interior (a square) to 12-point. Consequently, neither rule nor border can be worked close to the fringe on either side, except by the wasteful and troublesome process of mitering the running-pieces. In this case we have a combination of thirty-two characters, and two of the fundamentals forgotten. In fact, the 12-point square corner was an afterthought, and is not to be found in the original synopsis of characters. The diagrams B and C above, are from mitred pieces.

The foundation or essential pieces of a border being indicated by letters and the non-essentials by figures, the sorts may be thus classified:—


Running Piece.

A1, A2,…. Running pieces of various lengths for justification, differing only in number of units.


Outer Corner, square, on its own body.

B1, B2,…. Outer corners, extra, different styles, on its own or larger bodies.


Inner Corner, square, on its own body.

C1, C2….. Inner corners, extra.

Wherever practicable, the border should fill the body—it can then, as we have explained in regard to the fringe, be composed close to an exterior or interior border. This rule is very commonly neglected, especially by the English founders. They will buy strikes of a German Cicero (2-line emerald) border, and cast it on great-primer, with a white space on one or both sides. The buyer who orders from printed specimens is not aware of this defect until he opens the parcel. The new and pretty English « Lace » border, of two characters, has this fault. It cannot be connected with an interior pattern, as nothing can be brought nearer to it than the groundwork shown herewith. Another defect is that the running-pieces are somewhat shorter than the standard of the body, causing trouble in justification.

There is only one other variety of characters in running borders, which we shall class as D—any further development constituting what is called a combination.

D, D1, D2,… Centre-Pieces.

These are not essential except where the unit is a long one, and they should then always be so graduated to such regular sizes as to admit of the border being justified to a nonpareil em. Like the sorts B1, page 12B2, .., C1, C2, .., they afford scope for the display of artistic fancy—a display, however, which should always be rigidly suppressed until the necessary characters are supplied. To send out a border with B1, B2, &c., without B, is like making up a body-fount with appropriate two-line letters, but no caps. Yet it is done every day.

There should be no display of the artist's fancy in the sorts B, C. They should accurately continue the pattern in the form of a mitre. To ascertain exactly what the corner of any given running border should be, cut a specimen of it with a pair of scissors at an angle of 45° through the centre of the unit, and make a corresponding cut in the opposite direction. Lay these together, and the result is the true corner. For the inner corner (C), cut in the reverse direction. By cutting at regular distances right and left of the centre, a variety of corners may be made, all appropriate, and sometimes striking and effective, but generally weaker than the regular one, as the pattern is as a rule fullest at the centre of the unit. In the larger corners (B1, C1), and the larger centre-pieces (which should always correspond with corners on the same body), the pattern may be interlaced, scrolled, or otherwise varied according to the artist's taste; but such ornaments should never displace the fundamental characters already described.