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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 5

Design in Typographic — Liv. — The Book Borders

page 85

Design in Typographic
The Book Borders.

From Banner to Book Combinations may seem to be a strange transition; but as a matter of fact, it was the next stage, and a natural one, in the process of evolution. The Ribbon suggested the Scroll, and the Scroll the Banner, and without these probably the Book design would never have been devised. As the original designer of the latter, in the year 1877, the writer can speak with certainty as to its having been in a great measure derived from the three preceding designs. The simplicity and effectiveness of the Scroll and Banner patterns—at that time possessing the important additional attraction of novelty—led him to experiment with the design of an open volume in perspective—three sides type, and the upper edge brass-rule. All attempts at realistic representation were unsuccessful, and the idea was for a time abandoned. Then occurred the thought that the mistake lay in attempting a type-design in perspective—it must be on the principle of a front elevation, and rectangular. The arrangement of the characters was then a simple detail: there must be four corners, all different, two centre-pieces, and extension-characters; and a scheme almost identical with the synopsis at the head of the next column was the result. In the border, as originally designed, the two justifying-pieces — and — were absent, the idea being to supply their place with brass-rule. The lower corners were not L-shaped, but square, the same size as the upper corners, and the white-line pattern on the edge of the book was absent. This was introduced by the founder, and improves the effect, but it prevents the border from justifying, as in the original scheme, to a nonpareil em. The border being double, the original unit was a pica in width and a nonpareil in depth — as cast, the unit in width is three ems (Didot), or more than half-an-inch, which is often inconvenient in adapting it to a card of a given size. The original synopsis included 14 characters; but two of these were never engraved. They were a pair of lower corners, intended to vary the design altogether, and to produce with the three regular corners the effect of a pile of sheets or cards on a board. The square gap in the design below will sufficiently indicate the kind of corner required. The two book-marker characters were of course introduced to break the stiffness of the horizontal lines. Only one caution is necessary in arranging the pieces. A careless compositor sometimes transposes the right and left lower corners, reversing the curves at the angles, which has an exceedingly bad effect. Within reasonable limits, very considerable variation may be made in shape and size; but it is quite possible to overdo it in this respect. We have seen it set so extravagently large as quite to destroy the effect. When the pages are enlarged to small quarto, for example, the idea of a book is lost, and the effect of the centre-piece, representing the back of the volume, is ridiculous. The example of the open volume, shown on this page, is in good proportion.

From the open to the closed book was a natural transition; but the border is entirely different. Not one piece can be made to interchange. Here again it was necessary to adopt a strictly rectangular form; and the same number of characters—fourteen—were required to complete the design:

The drawings were sent to the Johnson Foundry, Philadelphia; and they appeared in due time, coming out in 1879 as one series of 28 characters. With the exception of the changes we have noted, the original design was followed, even (approximately) to the scale.

We had drawn it to 3-line nonpareil, and suggested that the nonpareil standard would be preferable to any of the continental standards—then in almost universal use for borders. This suggestion was not adopted; but, strangely enough, this was the last combination ever cut to the emerald body by Mac-kellar. All his succeeding borders have been made to a pica-nonpareil standard.

Few borders are better known—the « Book » combination being in nearly every jobbing-office. The original founders patented page 86the design in the United States; Figgins secured the rights for the United Kingdom; Woellmer for the German empire; and Mayeur for France. Wide-spread and well known as it is, its practical uses are after all very limited. It is in favor with printers as being adapted peculiarly to their own business, but is not found very serviceable for outside work. Unless great care is exercised in spacing, the junctions are liable to appear; and its wide unit of justification is somewhat against it. In abandoning the suggested brass-rule and casting separate characters, the founders made a small but decided improvement on the original design.

Unlike its predecessors, the Book combination has never been imitated or varied. It is in but one size and style, and all existing fonts are from the original engravings. In the line of development it at present closes a series, no further evolution of the type-and-rule idea having appeared during the last twelve years.

The principle it illustrates is an important one—designs for the insertion of type should always be rectangular and not rhomboidal, as they must be when drawn in perspective. Such designs look very well until the lines are inserted, when the horizontals and perpendiculars of the letters immediately destroy all illusion of perspective. ؟Do designers and comps ever think of the incongruity of representing lines of type at the angle of 90° printed on a card in perspective, lying at an angle of 35° or 40°? Yet nothing is more common. Mortised designs for type are almost without exception open to this objection. The defect can readily be avoided. Nothing would be easier than to make the opening for type rectangular, and arrange the other lines of the drawing accordingly.