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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

Design in Typography. The Zigzag Ribbon

page 73

Design in Typography. The Zigzag Ribbon.

XLIII.

The enterprising foundry of MacKellar, Smiths, & Jordan followed up their Elliptical Ribbon with a variation equally original, entitled the « Zigzag » combination, containing 37 characters. Its striking appearance brought it into immediate and general favor; but it has shared the usual fate of startling novelties, and though only ten years old, is now neglected. As a combination, it was more complete and better thought-out than most American designs—perhaps in some respects a little too elaborate—in others, notably as regarded justifying-characters, it was deficient; for while the unit of the design was one-third pica=4-point, the unit of justification was 24-point.

As there were many features of originality about the combination, we show its scheme in detail:

The horizontal pieces differed chiefly from preceding ribbons in being heavier, and in possessing a special end-piece. It is in the simplest and smallest designs that the defects of the combination are most apparent. There is but one horizontal end-piece—it is the only character in the border that has not a fellow—and the right-hand end has to bend upwards. There are only two small end-pieces, and these are only adapted for the oblique lines. (Though we have discriminated between pieces turning down and up, most of them may be used either way.) In the founders' specimens, good effects are produced (in the horizontal designs) by the introduction of letters such as the « Filigree » that filled the body, and still more striking results by bringing in the « Relievo » No. 2; but these could not be carried out in the oblique ribbons, on account of the absence of special spaces, ornaments cut off on the side at the proper angle. We have often wondered why the founders did not supply justifiers thus cut off to all the regular bodies, to work with these borders and with the line-ornaments on the same angle. By the aid of these, accurate justification could have been secured, and in the case of a letter like the Relievo, an excellent effect could have been produced by cutting down the solid spaces to the required angle. Of course with a good mitering-machine the ordinary job-printer could supply the deficiency—but by so doing he would cripple his fount. We find the idea of an open letter with ornamental border afterwards developed by the same house in the pretty « Arboret » No. 2.

The chief fault of the design was its cumbrousness. The artist made a mistake, too, in introducing birds—he did not know how to draw them. His ingenuity was chiefly shown in the folding-pieces, which are really well managed, and are quite unique in their way. With justifiers and a corner, the Nonpareil pieces could have made a good plain border—as it is, they are of very little use for that purpose. Once, when ordering additional sorts of this combination, we endeavored to obtain the nonpareil sorts cut down to pica and nonpareil, for the purposes of justification; but the founders intimated that they « never cut their types. »

The uses of all the characters are very obvious; but we have seen great blunders in their application. The most common is to place a terminal or folding-piece in the middle of an oblique line!