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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

Design in Typography. Type Ribbons

page 13

Design in Typography. Type Ribbons.


Our last article concluded with a reference to the limitations of the original ribbon. In later designs where these have been more or less successfully remedied, it has been at the expense of simplicity, and with a great increase in the number of characters. We have referred to the occasional difficulty in justifying, owing to the slope of the end-pieces. Another limitation is, the rigidity of the back fold. In a brevier ribbon, the lines must be at least a long primer apart; there being no provision such as this (shown in the margin), by which the ribbon can double upon itself. On the other hand, the folding piece, being shaded top and bottom, could not be lengthened by repetition, as in the following example: The third limitation was in the length of the end-piece, confining the width of the ribbon to great-primer. Of course this is right when the folding-piece is used, but when the ribbon is simple, the end flourish is big enough for any reasonable width, thus:

We have occasionally seen a broad ribbon thus constructed; but it is not contemplated in the design, and the justification is troublesome. The original type-ribbon—for some reason which we do not know—never appears to have reached the United States. Perhaps the originators took measures to protect the design, and the American houses preferred to produce variations. But the device had an unexampled popularity in England and on the Continent. In Germany it was re-cut, and Woellmer, of Berlin, in introducing it, made some slight but useful variations. He did not discard the sloping end-pieces, but he supplemented them by perpendicular ones for each size, and to the largest size added a set of end-pieces on 24-point. To the smallest or brevier size, he also added a pretty centre-piece and a pair of long flourished ends, greatly relieving the stiffness of the general effect.

We have seen—especially in German work—good effects produced by curving the brass-rules. To combine two sizes of the ribbon can only be satisfactorily done by crossing them, and care and patience are required in the justification. It is specially necessary to see that the back folds are in line. (See example in last column.)

In May, 1876, the London Printers' Register contained the following paragraph: « A Frankfort founder, Rohm, has brought out a series of variations on the well-known ribbon type first introduced by Stephenson & Blake. Rohm's designs are mainly confined to end-pieces of large size and free design, making up to common rule. Being much less complicated than the original and larger, they will be more easily manipulated. The effect is excellent. » We have never seen Rohm's (now Heinrich F. Grimm's) own specimens, but from the fount of his ribbon in our possession, we think the paragraph was a little too favorable. The set consists of sixteen pairs of characters, forming two kinds of ribbon—one with a fine line top and bottom, the pieces therefore being reversible, and another with a thin line at top and a double line at foot, besides a single pair, exceedingly weak and inartistic, with double line top and bottom. As compared with the original ribbon, the variation had the advantage of greater variety and less rigidity, and the folding pieces being in in a single piece and not made up, could hardly be wrongly placed. But the idea was far better than the execution. The pieces are too roughly cut for fine work; their large size is a questionable advantage, for they will only admit a great-primer line, and as sufficient care was not exercised in lining, they always join up badly. These are some of the best pieces—all being supplied in pairs:

With the smaller end-pieces shown above, compact designs may be formed, but the larger ones require a good deal of room. The largest end-piece in the series is weak and sprawling. In several respects this series stands alone. It is no mere slavish imitation of the original, and the idea is better than that of many later designs. The twelve characters we show give a fair idea of the whole, both as regards its advantages and its defects. We think the design is very little known. We have never met with it in use save in our office and one other—the second fount being imported by ourselves—nor have we ever seen it in a specimen book. At the same time no article on type-ribbons would be complete without some mention of Rohm's series.