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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

Design in Typography. Type Ribbons and Scrolls

page 25

Design in Typography. Type Ribbons and Scrolls.


Perhaps the greatest development of the type-ribbon idea took place in the year 1876. As might have been expected, it branched out into the allied forms of scrolls, shields, and tablets—the adaptation of type ornaments to work with brass rule (except in the time-honored capacity of corners) being a complete novelty. As regards the tablet idea, we certainly find it foreshadowed in J. & R. M. Wood's old quarto book, already referred to in these articles. We have there among the ornamental cheques, seven pairs of « Tablets for the insertion of type, » being ornamental end-pieces, and the note is added: a These end-pieces, being made ftp with brass rule, can be used any length. » They are priced 2/- and 3/- the pair, and contain the germ of later developments; but are not particularly attractive in themselves, and do not join up well with rule.

If « Ribbon type » had been in any way suggestive of « Type ribbon, » the originality of Messrs Stephenson, Blake, & Co.'s design might have been questioned. But the two have nothing in common. The ribbon type is an old-fashioned style (probably originated by Derriey) and is shown in the English specimen-books, for one, two, or three colors. These are the founts thus named:

There is more than one essential difference between this style and the type-ribbon—it cannot be used with brass rule; and the letters are inseparable from the pattern. The separate pieces show how the type is arranged for color-work.

Following closely on the original ribbon, came the pretty and simple « Scroll Corners, » by the same designer and founder, and the two designs had a « run » almost unique in the history of type ornaments. It is difficult, now that the pattern has become so familiar, to recall the effect it produced when it first appeared. No such striking result had ever before been attained by four types and five pieces of brass rule. This is the whole scheme of the scroll, including the three faces of special brass rule:— The design was supplied in three sizes, two-line double pica (shown here); double pica, and pica. For the latter only two faces of rule were used, the heavy line serving both to represent the right-hand side and the shade at the bottom. In the specimens sent out by the founders, the effect was greatly enhanced by the scroll being brought up by a solid ground printed in strong colors. The simplicity of the design precluded any great variation, and the compositor could only alter the scroll by various proportions of length and breadth. It may have been on this account that a disastrous ambition seized upon many comps to combine the scroll and ribbon in the same piece of work. The effect was very horrible, as the designs were incongruous and mutually destructive. Nothing, however, was commoner than to see a broad ribbon across the centre of a scroll, and we have even seen a ribbon of many folds, completely filling and surrounded by the scroll design. It is strange that the idea of wasted labor so seldom occurs to to those who see unsightly work like this. When a really good piece of combination work is turned out—especially if it be in colors—the usual comment is: « What time it must have taken! It could never pay! » Whereas it was probably much less costly in the matter of time than many an ugly and pretentious mixture of styles upon which no one bestows a second thought. Misapplied labor is lost in more senses than one—it meets with no appreciation!

The scroll and ribbon may, if desired, be so combined as to agree; but in one way only, as shown by the founders in letter-heads and advertisements when the design first appeared. It is not by setting the ribbon upon the scroll, after the manner of a patch, but by placing the scroll in front of the ribbon.

We have said that the design is not susceptible of great variation. The most obvious one—a reverse set of corners, turning the roll to the right instead of the left—has never been carried out. The same rule would be available; four additional characters would be needed, and the effect of the scrolls, when in pairs, would be much improved. This variation has been in part carried out by Klinkhardt of Leipzig, who adopted and re-cut the design; but only as regards the bottom corners. We are indebted to this founder for a specimen of the six pieces. On account of the absence of corresponding upper corners, the extra bottom corners cannot be used in the ordinary scroll. They turn the wrong way, and their shaded outline is on the wrong side.

Their only use is in the order in which we have shown them, as a scroll without rollers, and they may be thus used either horizontally or vertically. This series, cut by Klinkhardt, is shown by most of the German founders. The only other variation we know is that of Zeese of Chicago, who also has re-cut the design. His scroll, like the original, turns only to the left, but he has added cords and tassels—a feature borrowed from a later design—Caslon's « Banner, » to which it is more appropriate.

About the same time appeared the German « Shield » combination, in several ways allied to the ribbon and scroll. It is light in design, adapted to work with brass rule, and contains a number of pieces suitable for scroll- and ribbon-ends, besides some showing a strong affinity to the « Ribbon and Flower » combination with which we think it would combine. It contains the formidable number of 79 characters, some of them very small. We have this series in more than one German book; but do not know the originator; nor are we able to illustrate the design. It is numbered 61 in Klinkhardt's specimens.

The only American approximation to the type ribbon appeared shortly afterwards; but we know not who produced it. It is simple enough, consisting of three characters only; but is decidedly stiff.

The next development, by Bruce of New York, in 1876—the series of tint grounds, and shaded and roman scrolls, in two-line great primer (and partially also in two-line pica), is in part a reversion to the « ribbon-type » fashion above illustrated; but was marked by many original and artistic features. Without reckoning the letters and figures, the ornamental ribbon characters in this series amounted to 104, affording scope for great variety. The beauties, as well as the limitations of this fine series will be considered in our next article.