>when Gutenberg typeset his Bible, he used types of various widhts in
>order to achive right-justification. they were of the same height, but
>their widths varied, so that when he set a line, he experimented with
>types of various widths until the line had the right lengths.
yes, the widths of Gutenberg's types varied; and so did the widths of
his word spaces (probably)
>this was very tedious and time-consuming. if he had cut all of the type
>(of the same height, obviously) in the same width, and just varied the
>spacing, the job would be much less time-consuming.
but Gutenberg wasn't living in the age of Henry Ford and mechanical
efficiency; he was following handwritten models in which characters
have to have different widths (i / M, etc.).
But yes, I think it's true (I'm no scholar of printing) that,
following the model of handwriting, Gutenberg and perhaps other early
printers, did make alternative types for the same character and would
juggle these, so that the lines justified nicely.
>mechanical typesetting machines came somewhat later and made much of
>this easier. and today we have gone full circle with digital type that
>however, there was, as I recall, a time when typestters still hadn't
>gotten to the point where they realized that varying spacing between
>words (and letters for that matter) was much more time-economical than
>juggling type widths. I would like to know when that time was.
Seems that what you are talking about here is the impulse to "variety
reduction" in early printing -- from a big array of characters to
just a standard set of characters, without duplication of forms,
without alternatives. One can see this in Aldus's typography.
According to the authorities (again, see Burnhill's book), Aldus's
first Greek type had 1,400 characters, and his fourth Greek type had
about a quarter of this number. The development is away from
handwriting-imitation and towards the logic of "type". So there is
here an impulse to material- and time-economy. This rationalization
set in pretty early -- soon after Gutenberg.