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Subject: Re: Faux letterpress
From: Gerald Lange <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Discussion of Type and Typographic Design <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 18 Oct 2002 07:23:36 +0100
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>Long ago, in the ancient days of digital type, I recall reading about
>the Beowulf font family in a Wired article or some equivalent magazine.
>As I remember it, the font was designed so that the characters were
>dynamically restructured every time a character was drawn, so that no
>two examples of the same letter were exactly identical. For whatever
>reason, the notion never caught on.

>Bill Tozier

Beowulf and other Letterror fonts, can be randomized only if you use the
PostScript Type 3 versions. They seemingly work well for letterpress not
because letterpress is

"heterogeneous character forms, some skew lines, >uneven baselines here
and there, the occasional upside-down "u" as an "n" or a "!" as a "j", a
simulated tipped or split letter here and there, irregular word spacing,
and so forth"

but because they have a quaint affinity for the look of letterpress forms.
Perhaps because the very early printers also apparently randomized their
letterforms, perhaps to ensure a sympathy for the look of the manuscript
page, perhaps because they could not cut the same letter the same way
twice. (Random letterforms seemed to disappear as printed letterforms
began to correspond more to their own advancing technology rather than
just trying to emulate that of their previous written forms.)

But by look of letterpress I am not referring to your perception, which is
just bad work. Lot of bad work in digital typography as well, no?

Letterpress is certainly less homogenized than digital but this is more a
result of processes that digital printing does not share, that is,
impression and accumulating ink gain. These provides a slight irregularity
but by no means should letterpress be characterized by the bad work habits
you mention.

I doubt you could capture the look of letterpress adequately through
digital means because you would lack the sculptural effect of slight
impression. For your own edification, you might want to take a look at
some of presswork of the great printers-typographers in the "ancient days"
of the twentieth century. Victor Hammer, for instance, might be an eye
opener.

Gerald

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