Sunday, August 5, 2012


Print it as it stands -- beautifully.

                                                     Henry James

Long before offset printing, the standard was letterpress -- a system of reproduction in which typeset copy (consisting of lines of reversed letters locked into a frame called a chase) was inked, then "pressed" onto paper, creating a left--to-right reading image.

You've seen this process in historical movies: the hardworking printer in Boston, for instance, churning out editions of the local broadsheet around the time of the American Revolution (think Benjamin Franklin, printer, before he got into bathtubs, kites and fireplaces).

One of the most famous type designers was a man named Giambattista Bodoni, who was born in Italy in 1740. His father was a printer, so he grew up in the trade; he apprenticed at the Vatican, and later became a well-known typecutter and engraver.

In 1798, he designed a new typeface, a font that blended the thicker lines of older typefaces with the finer, thinner ones of newer designs.

Bodoni gains its gracefulness from a balance between those thick and thin strokes of the letters. If designed well, books typeset in Bodoni can show that same graceful loveliness on an entire page, especially when the letters have some space between them, which keeps the lines smooth and easy to read.

You can see Bodoni in larger sizes, too, usually on movie posters and other advertising art. It's distinctive and powerful, especially in the bolder faces, as in the photo above.

Bodoni -- over two hundred years old, still being used.

Sometimes older is better.


  1. So glad I found you, Deb--here in blogland as well as at the grocery store. I love this post. I have often pored over all the fonts available on my Mac, and wondered about them. Keep on writing. I'll be waiting!

    1. Thanks, Mike! And I, too, am so glad to have you back again -- at Spindrift and at the supermarket!