Monday, October 10, 2011

A Look Back to the Future of Type

The Book Border ornaments seen above, appeared in an 1891 issue of the New Zealand newsletter, Typo, a monthly journal and literary review published by Robert Coupland Harding, considered by many to be New Zealand's first and most eminent typographer. The book borders were originally designed by Harding and produced by the Johnson foundry of Philadelphia in 1879. Soon after, they received worldwide recognition by job printers and typographers who would customize them by inserting their own type inside the book borders.
      Typo was first published in 1887, and lasted just one decade. Harding was a scholar and critic of typography and printing, and did most of the writing for each issue while composing them at the case. He was among the first to argue the merits of a standardized system of measurement for typefounding and papermaking, and soon gained international praise for his reviews of new type designs and specimen books. 
      Harding was considered a visionary by many, and was very concerned about the future of the printing craft at the threshold of the 20th century. The Linotype and Monotype machines were replacing typesetters at that time and he had no love for the typewriter "which had dislodged calligraphy" he claimed"The typewriter of today is only a germ of greater things to come" he wrote in an 1894 issue of Typo, and "there would be no place for the typefounder at the close of the 20th century". His suggestion that "a pile of thousands of sheets will be printed (from type-written or other copy) by a single electric flash" was by no means an incredible one. He believed the large printing houses would likely become silent factories by the middle of the 19th century, without type, presses or ink. Despite his many dim predictions for the future of the printing craft, he still felt confident that moveable type would remain. No doubt he'd be very pleased to see the current resurgence of the letterpress printing craft if he were alive today, however he might be very surprised to learn we are not all reading and writing in shorthand as he falsely forecasted. The time-honored roman character lives on, in every typestyle imaginable—and so many others that are not.

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