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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

Design in Typography Ribbon Developments

page 61

Design in Typography Ribbon Developments.


Simplicity rather than variety was the object of the next development, a series of ribbon end-pieces produced in 1879 by the Caslon Foundry. In introducing them to the Trade the editor of the Circular very truly wrote in reference to previous designs of the kind: « We have been surprised and disappointed to see them so little made use of, and in many cases, when used, the legitimate effect entirely lost through the blundering of the compositor. The absence of artistic taste in the British workman has never been more conspicuously displayed than in the many grossly absurd designs which we have seen perpetrated with Ribbon Type, Banner Border, and Combination Flowers. The capabilities of Combination Flowers have never been half tested—much less exhausted. » The article proceeded to compare the English comp unfavorably with his American and continental fellow-workman; and expressed a hope that the study of drawing in the national schools would in time influence the quality of general printing. Eleven years have passed since that article appeared, and the forecast has to a large extent been realized. The artistic quality of English printing has decidedly improved. After this preamble it is needless to say that the new designs were simple—in fact nothing could be more simple.

—It would require a perverse ingenuity indeed to make any mistake in composing pieces like this, and their very simplicity prevents any great variety in their application. It is true that in the specimen-page some trouble was taken to elaborate the design. The wide ribbon was set perpendicularly, and crossed obliquely by narrow ones; but we rarely find a comp attempting work like this, except in the first exuberance of his feelings when he lays hands on a new combination. The interior measure of the widest ribbon—3 ems—is too narrow to make it of any practical use as an upright scroll; and the device of crossing ribbons obliquely is not worth the time or trouble it involves in justification. It is only in straight-ahead work that these end-pieces are of practical use, and they have the advantage of admitting larger lines than former ribbons. Each was cast in six sizes, the smallest taking a brevier line, the largest a three-line pica. No. 2 series, having a thin line top and bottom, allowed the ends to be used reversibly; No. 1 did not.

No other ribbon appeared in 1879 except that which constituted the third section of MacKellar's Japanese, combination—an altogether new and startling development of typographic ornament, of which we had something to say in our second volume. As a type-ribbon we have seen it effectively used—but only, of course, in two-color work. It contains nine characters, as follows:

The slope of the ribbon is 30°, the same as the oblique quads supplied by the same foundry with the « Zigzag » and similar patterns, so that there is no difficulty in justifying type-lines in register. The ribbon, which is 2 ems pica wide, allows a full-bodied pica line to be worked upon it. In some cases variety may be produced by the introduction of the large ornaments, and the ribbon may be crossed or reflected if desired.

It is available chiefly for ornamental label-work. As a type-ribbon, it is necessarily limited in use to two-color work; and its usefulness is further limited by its one-sidedness or absence of opposites to the characters provided—a far too common defect in American combina-ations.

Close upon this Japanese combination followed another by Bruce, of New York, whose design also included a ribbon very similar in character, but further developed. It contained seventeen characters, and was fully supplied with right- and left-hand folds and terminals.

The next development in the evolution of the ribbon occurred in 1880, when the Johnson Foundry came out with the « Zig-zag » combination.