Optical letter spacing

optical-letter-spacingInasmuch as “Optical letter spacing for new printing systems” by David Kindersley (London: The Wynkyn de Worde Society, 1976, 2nd revised edition) was described as a significant book by the website from where I bought it, I was disappointed that, for all its significance, it reports only inconclusive, intermediate results of experiments on determining optical letter spacing. I was surprised, therefore, to see “but a method of proportionate letter-spacing by computer has been explained by David Kindersley” in “Methods of Book Design” (3rd Edition, Yale University Press, 1983) by Hugh Williamson.  Maybe there’s something in it that others can see but I can’t.

Towards the end, it says “I would like to say that there has never been a moment like today where perfect spacing was more possible.”  That statement from the second edition has probably been true for every year since the first, 1966 edition.  However, we have computing power today that was undreamed of in either 1966 or 1976, so you’d think that by now we would have moved from optical letter spacing being ‘more possible’ to it being practical everywhere.

Type can be an aesthetic delight

Inasmuch as the “Type” in the opening sentence of The Relationship between Type and Illustration by A. P. Tedesco illustrates what the text is saying, I was quite taken by it:

Type alone when used properly with correct sizes, proper leading and proportioned well on the page and carefully printed, can be an aesthetic delight, because of its beauty, color and harmony. The typographer can embellish type with many available type borders and typographic ornaments which add a decorative touch to the printed page.

It also illustrates a use of initial capitals (to use the term very loosely, since it’s an initial word) that you can’t achieve with either XSL-FO or CSS. You could do it manually with XSL-FO by using side floats to push text out of the way of the initial “Type”, and even creating that would need a few iterations if you’re going to correctly optically align the stem of the “T” with the left edge of the text block.

You could, of course, argue that the aesthetics would have been better if the “Type” was slightly smaller so that the bottom of the descenders on “yp” aligns with the baseline of the third text line. However, we’ll never know whether the “Type” is the size it is because that was the best size available or if, for the sake of aesthetics, they pushed the size of the “Type” to the maximum to minimize the white-space between “Type” and the “alone” on the first line.

Printing should be invisible

'Printing should be invisible' coverInasmuch as if any book is going to exemplify the ideal that “printing should be invisible”, it would be a printing of “Printing should be invisible” by Beatrice L. Warde, so I found a copy of the 1937 printing by the Marchbanks Press just to see how invisible it really was.  And, yes, also to have something close to an original of a well-known speech and article about typography, though possibly the 1955 version, produced by Warde herself, counts as more of an original even though it came out 25 years after the speech. Continue reading

Printing Design and Layout

printing-layout-and-designInasmuch as it was written in 1948, “Printing Design and Layout” by Vincent Steer could never be one of those ‘typography’ books that explain everything in terms of dialog boxes for a particular program, and I like that.  There’s a wealth of detail (only some of which is dated), and I don’t know if it’s indicative of the author or the time and place where it was written, but the text also has a wonderful tone that I like.

For example, since Dave Cramer, author of the “Requirements for Latin Text Layout and Pagination” document from the “Latinreq” task force of the W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group, was most recently working on initial capitals, that was one of the sections of “Printing Design and Layout” that I looked at when I got my copy last Friday, where I found this gem:It is entirely wrong to set swash italic initials in this careless manner. Any printer who does this sort of thing should be spoken to rather severely. It is wrong and does not show common sense. Don't put up with it.

Robbery Under Arms

Inasmuch as I was in primary school in Australia when I first read it as a dead-tree book, it’s something of a turn for the books as well as a turn of the books that I’ve just finished reading Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood as an EPUB while living and working in Ireland and, now, England.  I think at the time I would have found the medium even more unlikely than the geography, but as the ready availability of EPUB readers has given new life and new audiences to many out-of-copyright books, when I was first stocking up on EPUBs I specifically looked for the EPUB of Robbery Under Arms since I was unlikely to find it the dead-tree version in either an Irish library or an Irish bookstore.

“My name is Dick Marston” as the opening words of Robbery Under Arms may not have the recognition nor the ring of “Call me Ishmael” (though for a great young-adult read, Don’t Call Me Ishmael), but it is one of the great Australian novels.  If you want to read the EPUB, a search for ‘”Robbery Under Arms” EPUB’ will turn up several sources.

Who needs Irish?

I first saw this book when someone was reading it on the train a couple of years ago. The title, Who needs Irish?, was intriguing, so I borrowed the book when I saw a copy in the Skerries Library. The publisher describes the book as “a collection of essays in English for all those interested in the Irish-language today.” However, maybe the title should have been “Why you need Irish” since all of the essays are in favour of Irish. Continue reading

Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment (2nd Ed.)

Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment, 2nd EditionFor the second time in four months, I went to Boston and come away with a 900-page book. The second visit was a W3C XSL FO subgroup meeting, and the second book was Advanced Programming in the UNIX® Environment (2nd Ed.) (ISBN 0-201-43307-9).

The book is exceptional, and it has already been useful on one of my client projects. The only possible downside is that delving into this 900-page book further delays my completion of the other 900-page book.

Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming

 Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming

Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming (ISBN 0-262-22069-5) is a big book at 900+ pages, and it covers a lot of ground. I expect it will take about two years to get through it, depending on how many of its exercises I do and how many other books I read at the same time.

It is natural to compare this book to Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP) (ISBN 0-262-51087-1). That is the book that I still wish I’d first read in 1981 rather than in 2001. This book is not giving the same aha! moments (maybe just because I have read SICP). This book may in the end be of more practical use than the mind-expansion induced by SICP, if only because this book covers constraint programming, which I will find useful for xmlroff.

Now, the programming concepts book that I really want would be the successor to Lisp in Small Pieces (ISBN 0-521-56247-3), but AFAICT, it hasn’t been finished.

The Commonwealth of Thieves

This is the second time that I’ve picked up a Tom Keneally book at Sydney Airport for the long flight out of Australia. The other was The Great Shame, and the great shame there is that I didn’t get around to reading it until several years later. By that time I was living in Ireland, so at least I could then better understand the Irish aspects of that account.

The Commonwealth of Thieves covers the period just before to just after the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to the likely future editions covering the next stages in Australia’s history.

Code Complete, Second Edition

The only reason that I am not overawed by the depth of knowledge and sound advice in Code Complete, Second Edition (Steve McConnell, ISBN: 0-7356-1967-0) is that I bought the second edition because the first edition was so good.