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Michael Rowley
07-16-2005, 06:58 AM
It is now four weeks since KT wrote

I can guarantee I will not be ready in two days. Perhaps a longish version of a week

on being challenged to deliver a critique of Ari Rafaeli's Book Typography, which has recently been published by Oak Knoll Press in the USA and the British Library in the UK (ISBN 1-58456-157-2 & 0-7123-0693-5 respectively). Beyond saying that the book is nicely produced & offers some opinions that will have some typographers nodding appreciatively but others spluttering cholerically, I am not expert enough to venture an opinion. So: KT, get cracking!

ktinkel
07-16-2005, 12:39 PM
… on being challenged to deliver a critique of Ari Rafaeli's Book Typography … Beyond saying that the book is nicely produced & offers some opinions that will have some typographers nodding appreciatively but others spluttering cholerically, I am not expert enough to venture an opinion. So: KT, get cracking!Hrrrmph! I suffer from an embarrassment of riches — I have been reading not only the Rafaeli book but two others of similar ilk:

Thinking in Type: The practical philosophy of typography
by Alex W. White (New York: Allworth Press, 2005, ISBN 1-58115-384-8; paper, 224pp, $24.95)


Thinking With Type: A critical guide for designers, writers,
editors, & students by Ellen Lupton (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004, ISBN 1-56898-448-0; paper, 176 pp, $19.95)
All three are books on typography by graphic designers. Both Lupton and White also teach graphic design and typography at the college level. Rafaeli describes himself as “a graphic artist and figurative painter.” He is older, and seems to have learned the craft of book typography by doing it. Unlike the other two, Rafaeli is a strict constructionist whose rule book was published in 1938 or so.

Regardless, all three have lots and lots of opinions, and I find the similarities and differences to be very interesting. But until I can sort them out, haven’t got much to say.

Why don’t you mention the specific points made by Rafaeli that you think will divide typographers? That might get the pot boiling. :-)

Michael Rowley
07-16-2005, 01:37 PM
Kt:

Why don’t you mention the specific points made by Rafaeli that you think will divide typographers?

To start the ball rolling, I will: but at present I've only read the first chapter, 'The school of close spacing' (22 pages), since I received the book only on Friday, and it has to compete with a Rankin spy novel—on of his earlier works. I've only just started 'Mise-en-page etc.' (22 pages). My inexpert comments start tomorrow.

Rafaeli is a strict constructionist whose rule book was published in 1938 or so

You'll have to explain 'constructionism' to me; I'm not up on design language! I also don't know what you mean by 'older': if, as he says, he entered the printing trade in 1974, he is unlikely to be more than about 55, and probably less. To many of those on the forum, that would make him just nicely mature.

ktinkel
07-16-2005, 04:13 PM
My inexpert comments start tomorrow.Lovely! You will be an inspiration to me!
… don't know what you mean by 'older': if, as he says, he entered the printing trade in 1974, he is unlikely to be more than about 55, and probably less. To many of those on the forum, that would make him just nicely mature.[/QUOTE]True enough, but Lupton and White are probably in their 40s. That is quite a difference in this context, given the way the technology broke.

Michael Rowley
07-17-2005, 07:14 AM
KT:

That is quite a difference in this context, given the way the technology broke

That might be so: as Rafaeli entered the printing trade in 1974, when printing from metal was still dominant, his ideas may have been formed then, whereas authors ten years younger would probably escaped those ideas—especially if they were Americans, who seem to take up new things much more enthusiastically (despite their innate conservatism) than the English.

don Arnoldy
07-17-2005, 09:20 AM
as Rafaeli entered the printing trade in 1974, when printing from metal was still dominant...Zatso? As I remember (at least where I was at the time) 1974 was about the time metal finally died.

As I remember, even those typesetters who were setting metal type, were pulling proofs, then designers were using the proofs for pasteup.

Then again, California was not a great publish center in 1974--so life may have been different in other places.

Michael Rowley
07-17-2005, 11:27 AM
Don:

As I remember, even those typesetters who were setting metal type, were pulling proofs, then designers were using the proofs for pasteup.
You weren't in London at the time? I wasn't, I was in Germany: my employer, BASF, published its leaflets etc. in German, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, and some of the printing was done in house, some by half a dozen nearby printers. Most of the setting was done on Linotype machines, but some (not much) was done by Monotype, even quite a long time after 1974. The advertising department had quite a bit done that was film-set, but that was 'special'.

Long before this, much printing of books in the UK was done lithographically, and for that, the work was printed from metal type (usually Monotype) on special coated paper and photographed, much as small offset was first typed on baryta paper—but that isn't what you meant by pasting up, was it?

ktinkel
07-17-2005, 11:32 AM
Zatso? As I remember (at least where I was at the time) 1974 was about the time metal finally died.

As I remember, even those typesetters who were setting metal type, were pulling proofs, then designers were using the proofs for pasteup.

Then again, California was not a great publish center in 1974--so life may have been different in other places.It was ending then in NYC. Up to about 1970, though, quite a bit of my repro type came from hot metal galleys. Printing unions were strong in/around NYC, which may have been a factor.

But by the mid-70s, Compugraphics started to appear, and we saw less and less type from metal. “Even a housewife could run of those,” everyone used to say about Compugraphic machines. Printers who had not been able to justify a Lino and has been sending out for type got a CG and began to set type in-house. Then publishers, then even business offices — didn’t take long for CG to move in.

It was almost as fast as the collapse of typesetting after the Mac became established.

I did love the repro from metal: a newsprint proof for reading; couple on repro stock for pasting up; and a lovely glassine to help with positioning. The glassine wasn’t all that useful (unless, of course, as a reference when one needed to reset part of a paragraph with an X-Acto knife!), but they were very charming.

Michael Rowley
07-18-2005, 04:24 PM
KT:

I promised I should endeavour to supply some sort of critique of Book Typography by Ari Rafaeli, on the strict understanding that you would make your more expert comments later. Here goes:

The book is very nicely got up by Oak Knoll Press in format metric demy 4to (280 mm × 216 mm; 11 in × 8.5 in) and expertly set by the author. The printer is not named; this is a defect in American books, for he contributes much to a book's success.

Unfortunately, the author has been allowed 'the greatest latitude for editorial control and direction of its [the book's] design: it shows as far as the 'editorial control' is concerned, where the firm hand of someone like Ms Butcher is sorely missed. The author rambles on a bit.

The book is divided into only five chapters: 'The school of close spacing' (22 pp.); 'Mise-en-page etc.' (22 pp.); 'On book design and typographic style: books by Richard Hendel and Robert Bringhurst' (12 pp.); 'Points of style' (14 pp.); 'Types for books' (54 pp.). The third chapter is not edifying, and I shall not discuss it; friends of Messrs Hendel & Bringhurst had better not read it if they wish to keep their blood pressure low.

In addition, there are both pretty extensive endnotes (numbered consecutively by chapter) and almost equally extensive footnotes (indicated by the conventional *, †, ‡, §, and ¶). Actually, Rafaeli uses as his fifth mark the 'double vertical line' (U+2016), but remarks that it isn't in the normal repertoire (ISO Latin-1): it isn't in any of my fonts either, so I wonder where he got it (he set the book in 11 t Ehrhardt). And there also his 'captions' to his extensive collection of illustration of good (and bad!) pages of books; but 'captions' doesn't describe the mini-essays tha Rafaeli attaches to many of the figures. In my view they are valuable, but should have formed part of the text, i.e. not been printed two points smaller.

'The school of close spacing' discusses the usual things that affect word spacing. Rafaeli admires the work of Dowding, whom he quotes extensively. He discusses spacing, cited rather obscurely (to me) 'optimum space', which turns out to be—ideally—the 'middle space' described in Hart's Rules and printers through the ages. Hart's Rules would have us aiming for an average word spacing of em/4 (middle space), and that is what we get usually as a 'space' between unjustified words. He deplores wider settings that make the normal spacing wider (Quark XPress's default), and gives us his own settings (in Quark XPress 4—he pleads poverty). But why all the palaver? Hart's Rules already put it well: em/4 average space, em/5 minimum space.

Rafaeli does not seem to like 'kerning', or even the character-combinations (Ve etc.) used by Linotype and Monotype. It is doubtful that many readers notice kerning in the type sizes now common (12 pt or less), but it is highly visible in display sizes; but R. does not seem to differentiate.

[To be continued]

Michael Rowley
07-19-2005, 03:50 PM
Rafaeli's Book Typography (continuation):

Reverting to the penultimate paragraph yesterday, I should mention how much annoyance R. caused me by always citing 'Quark units' for spacing: why doesn't he talk about hair spaces and thin or middle spaces like everyone else, possibly defining what he means by the terms once at the beginning.

Now back to kerning, tracking, etc. R. does not approve of the practice of compressing or expanding the spacing between letters, but he is not above 'correcting' digital Monotype Ehrhardt (by means of Fonographer) 'to render it more like the original metal version'. The effect of this (the whole book is set with the modified version) is not very great, as he shows by means of a five-line comparison: as far as I could see, with my untrained eye, it made very long words shorter, but the word spacing greater.

Of course, R. admits spacing of capitals (and small capitals); he himself uses those damned 20 Quark units, alias em/10 (which most would describe as 'hair spaces'.

I nearly left out mentioning R.'s discussion of techniques of word division, which is exhaustive (or exhausting), but surely superfluous, since the 'phonetic' method swept the field many years ago. However, he does give the advice that one should not be too particular about the method used. On the other hand, he approves the rule of many printing houses of not 'allowing' more than two or three breaks in successive lines, which, I suggest, has caused more bad spacing than anything—except eschewing word breaks altogether.

He discusses in some detail a number of technical 'improvements' offered by InDesign, though his remarks must be interpreted with caution, for as R. says, he has stuck to Quark XPress for years. He likes though the ability to place inverted commas outside the margin; certain other innovations are greeted with more reserve.

R. makes no mention of Open Type or of InDesign's ability to take advantage of OT's 'advanced features'. This is all the more surprising as he complains frequently about settings that do not make use of ligatures that are 'available' in the font used. He comments approvingly on Adobe's 'optical fonts', but characteristically remarks that the variations are seemingly 'specified by an algorithm'.

[To be continued—if no one protests]

Michael Rowley
07-20-2005, 04:00 PM
Rafaeli's Book Typography (continuation):

Before I leave 'The school of close spacing' I should mention Flattersatz, to which Rafaeli expresses the customary reverence. Of course, R. does not use the original German name ('flutter setting'?) but first 'ragged right' and then (in the next chapter) 'left-ranged'. Flattersatz (try it on the tongue: it's no harder than Blitzkrieg) doesn't imply raggedness—at least, as long as the usual word breaks are allowed—but a gentle variation in the (physical) length of the lines accompanied by constant word spacing, which can be as little as you like.

In the chapter 'Mise-en-page etc.' (shouldn't that have been in italics?) a miscellaneous collection of subjects is dealt with. Initially, the subjects arrive willy-nilly, but in the middle of the chapter R. announces them first by subheadings, so we have Folios, headlines; Quoted matter or extracts; Diaries, letters; Footnotes, endnotes; Illustrations, captions.

R. treatment of all these things is fairly restrained and not too conservative. He dwells on footnotes particularly (endnotes are not much of a problem), and he is right to do so.

[To be concluded—there's not much more, so stick it out!]

donmcc
07-20-2005, 09:05 PM
[To be concluded—there's not much more, so stick it out!]

I await the conclusion. I hope that you think that because we haven't been discussing it, we are not eagerly reading your review.

Don McCahill

Michael Rowley
07-21-2005, 07:45 AM
Don:

I await the conclusion

That's good to hear!

Michael Rowley
07-21-2005, 04:38 PM
Rafaeli's Book Typography (conclusion):

Before I leave 'Mise-en-page etc.', I'd like to refer briefly to the title page: this is set extremely austerely, and I should have liked something a little more . . . effective. This possibly makes it clear that I am not a designer, for if I were, I might be applauding the simplicity of the title page.

In 'Mise-en-page etc.', as in most of the chapters, there are plenty of large illustrations, and as nearly all of them are half-tone photographs of pages of books, these could be expected to be printed on glossy paper and necessarily grouped together, for that is Rafaeli's preference. But author's preferences have to bow to publishing economics; this suits me, because I prefer pictures to be within sight when I'm reading about them, even though R. says that doesn't matter.

'On book design and typographic style'
This chapter I found frankly a mistake. It is taken up with comments about 'Mr Hendel's' On Book Design and less unflattering, but rather condescending comments on Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style. When typographers call other typographers 'Mr', my advice is 'Light touchpaper and retire. Not to be held in the hand.'

'Points of style'
This chapter, although the second shortest of all (but probably because of the absence of illustrations), is full of meat. R.'s discussion includes all possible variations of abbreviations (no subheading); Capitalisations, large and small; Dropped initials; Other odd points (including points of omission and dashes); Brackets (round, square, angle); Italics; Quotation marks, apostrophes (rather oddly, R. distinguishes between a closing 'inverted comma' and an apostrophe); Colons, semi-colons, interrogation and exclamation marks (spacing of them); Indentation; Bold-face; Foreign languages. You'll probably find a view to suit you.

'Types for books'
This chapter is by far the longest in the book. It treats, mainly on a historical basis, text typefaces from Centaur to Trump-Mediäval, calling at Bembo, Monotype Garamond, Plantin, Van Dijck, Janson, Ehrhardt, Caslon, Fournier, Baskerville, Fontana, Georgian, Bell, Bodoni, Walbaum, Bulmer, Caledonia (yes, an American is mentioned too), Perpetua, Joanna, Lutetia, Romulus, Spectrum, Dante, Sabon, and Aldus.

Many of the faces mentioned are known to me by name only, and most are discussed as the results of printing with the metal types only. R. dismisses many digital versions as spindly and anaemic, which puts down partly to modern printing techniques. Probably there is much more to digitizing metal types than just copying the curves from drawings or the matrizes; perhaps more attention should be paid to the printed matter of the past, and lack of ink spread compensated by a deliberate thickening. R. would have done us a service by saying which types have survived digitizing well, and not just complaining about 'spindly' type—though he would have been quite justified in lamenting the sparsity of decent display faces.

Well, that's it: the end of a amateur's off-the-cuff critique of a useful, but at the same time, maddening book.

FINIS

donmcc
07-21-2005, 05:33 PM
Well, that's it: the end of a amateur's off-the-cuff critique of a useful, but at the same time, maddening book.

FINIS

And I thank you for it. I think I will put it on my wish list. I found most of what Bringhurst says to be Gospel, so I expect that I will find that chapter bothersome as well, but sometimes insights can be gained by reading things you feel are wrong. You might be converted, or more likely, you might clarify why what you think is correct.

Don McCahill

Michael Rowley
07-22-2005, 08:00 AM
Don:

I think I will put it on my wish list

I think it's worth it (£25 or $30) for the illustrations alone. Oak Knoll and its printers produced a fine book. Of course, you could wait until it is remaindered, as a lot of books on typography are—even Tracy's.