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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

Design in Typography. Bruce's Scrolls

page 37

Design in Typography. Bruce's Scrolls.


Quite a variety of combination ribbons had appeared by the year 1876; printers were familiar with the design, and had doubtless become impatient at its limitations in ornamental work. It was then that Bruce of New York produced a series which was not oniy one of the most elaborate that has ever appeared, but which for artistic design and careful cutting still remains unsurpassed. The new series differed from the others in several respects—it dispensed with brass rule; it was not open, the whole surface being uniformly tinted; and it could therefore be used only (in single-color work) in combination with the letters specially cast to correspond. The whole series in two-line great-primer consisted of six sections; the seventh, in two-line pica, merely reproducing some of them on a smaller scale. Leaving the letters out of consideration, the founts were known as « tint-grounds, » and contained in all 104 characters. The following were the six faces of tint:

A very pretty effect is produced in two-color work by the judicious use of these tints—the lighter color being used for the tint, and the heavier for the line. They can also be effectively used in two printings of the same color. They may be carried as a band across the work or finished by appropriate end-pieces, of which there are a great variety. In series No. 1 there are nine or ten pairs, besides ribbon folds and justifying pieces. The following are illustrations of the tint-ribbons complete:

The first series was provided with folding-pieces and pendants, as well as with a half-width ribbon to combine with the wide one—a feature repeated in No. 2, though the latter is defective as regards combination pieces. The following are the combination pieces used in series Nos. 1 and 2:

In No. 2 the combination is made either with the corner A or the folding-piece B, and the effect in either case is abrupt and inelegant. With the smaller ribbon a corner (1) is provided, making it available as a border. It is not a very good corner, but is better than the one (2) finished with No. 1. The folding- and end-pieces do not differ materially from those of other ribbons, except that there are more of them, and that they are made to combine, and in one case there is a double fold (3), carrying the end back to the starting-point, and by means of which an endless ribbon may be formed; and there is also a piece turning backwards (4), by means of which the ornamental end-piece is brought some distance from the end of the ribbon. Another piece divides the wide ribbon into two narrower ones:

With Nos. 1 and 2, founts of type and figures were supplied, No. 1 being named « Roman Scroll, » and No. 2 « Shaded Scroll. » The Shaded Scroll was also cast in two-line pica, with all its own ornaments, and a good many appertaining to No. 1.

It is evident that there is in a design like this, scope for great variety of combination, and in the founder's specimen book it is worked out in great detail. In addition to what we have shown, there are numerous pieces for adorning the top and bottom of the ribbon and taking off the stiffness, ornamental pendants, &c.

We have now to consider the defects and limitations of this series, which has never become very popular. In the first place, the principle of pairs was not properly carried out. There are three ornamental terminals (as shown above) for the left end of the ribbon, and no corresponding pieces for the right. The pieces for combining the wide with the narrow ribbon, as we have already shown, are inelegant. Lastly, the style of type being fixed, the eye soon tires of the letter. The ribbon may suit the work, and the type be quite unsuitable. In fact, the design being limited, in one-color work, to a particular style of letter, detracts very greatly from its usefulness. The tints would all make good borders, but cannot be so used in the absence of corners. Recognizing this we wrote some years ago to the founders, making some proposals suggested by actual use. They were, as nearly as we can remember, that to all the six series, the characters £ and No. should be added, making them available for cheque-work. The $ supplied with Nos. 1 and 2 is of no use to the English printer. We further suggested that an appropriate square corner be cast for each series, and that the ornamental margins might be cast separately on a body say of pearl or smaller, so as to form an open ribbon, with which most of the end-pieces could be used, and which would render the design available for page 38any style of letter. The founders replied that they did not add to any series after it was once shown. We believe, however, that the £ has since been added to Nos. 1 and 2; and any printer will recognize the additional value of all the tints if only No. and £ could be added to correspond. The electro cheque-blanks can neither be lengthened nor shortened, they are rarely true to type-height, and they generally occupy more space than can easily be spared. In future articles we will show that the idea of an open combination ribbon with end-pieces was speedily taken up and developed by other houses.

It would be unfair not to mention the great excellencies of this series—especially in regard to the kerning. All the sorts are on one body, and line and join perfectly. In some cases the face overhangs to the extent of half the body top and bottom; yet the metal is of such excellent quality that we have rarely had a breakage, and only through careless handling. If cast on the English plan, these pieces would have been on double body, and would have required a blank above and below—making three justifications instead of one. The beauty of the folds and curves is so manifest as to need no comment. The series altogether is one of the most important among the ribbon designs yet devised.