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The History of Typography

A brief report on the history of typography, from as far back as 20,000 BC, right up to the present. By Sophie Maclean


A Brief History of Type & Letterforms Cave Paintings The first ever known form of type was pictograms. Pictograms are ‘recorded stories’ and ‘preserved records’ using basic drawings of everyday things. This was started by cave men that date as far back as 20,000 BC. They painted pictograms on open-air rocks, on the floor, walls and ceilings of cave; hence their name ‘cave paintings’. They consisted of 3 different things: animals, human figures, and abstract signs; but tracings of human hands and hand stencils were also quite common. Paintings of humans were quite rare and they were a lot less detailed that the naturalistic paintings of the animals. They painted animals, as they believed it was some kind of ‘hunting magic’ where if they painted the animals, they would catch them later on when hunting. On the right is a picture of a cave painting of a horse, using realistic colours and shading. Hieroglyphics Another form of pictograms was hieroglyphics; created by the Egyptians around 3,200 BC and lasted up until 396 AD. Hieroglyphics were a writing system created by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic parts. The word hieroglyph comes from the Greek word hieros (sacred) and glypho (inscriptions) and was first used by Clement of Alexandria. This script was usually written for informal inscriptions on the insides of walls of temples and tombs, some being carved into the stone building/structures. Some of the pictograms were written in full colour and quite detailed, where as some others were just simple and near enough outlines. These were written in rows or columns that can be read from left to right, or from right to left depending which way they are. You can usually distinguish the direction that the text is to be read, as the animal or human figures always face the start of the line. The hieroglyphic symbols are split into four different categories. The first category is alphabetic signs that represent a single letter, but the Egyptians never really included vowels in these so there weren’t single letters such as ‘e’ or ‘u’, which makes us wonder how certain words were formed. The next category is syllabic signs; these represented a combination of two or three consonants such as ‘sh’ or ‘th’. The third category is word-signs, these are pictures of objects that represent the word for that object, and they are followed by an upright stroke, which indicates that the word is complete in one single sign. The last category is a determinative. A determinative is a picture of an object that helps the reader determine what the sign means. For example, if there was a scroll tied up it could mean that the word could be expressed through writing and not just pictorially; which I don’t really understand. The Egyptians believed that the God ‘Thoth’ invented the pictograms/writing and that he called the script ‘mdwt ntr’. The hieroglyphics had both semantic and phonetic values. For example, the pictogram for crocodile is a picture of a crocodile but the crocodile also represents the sound ‘msh’. This was the beginning of phonetic reading. The History of Typography

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Phonecians The Phoenicians were around from 1200 BC to 539 BC. Phonetics was studied as early as 500 BC. During this time, they discovered he place of constants according to Pāņini’s classification. The people who are credited as the first people to create a phonetic writing system are the phonecians. All major and modern phonetic alphabets are derived from this system. The phonetic transcription transcribes sounds that occur in language, whether it be oral or sign, the words are spelt how they are said out. For example, phonetics might be written as [fe’net’ik] but using the phonetic alphabet like in diagram 3. The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) is used as the basis for phonetic transcription of speech and is the most widely known phonetic system. This is tool is useful for speech pathology, language teaching and professional acting. Greek Alphabet After that came the Greek alphabet was developed from the Phonecian Alphabet, which has been in use since 8th century BC, meaning that it is over 200 years old. It was the first alphabet to include vowels. The word alphabet is also derived from the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta; the Greek alphabet also helped create other alphabets, such as the Latin, Cyrillic, Gothic and many other alphabet. This alphabet is still used today as ‘technical symbols’ and labels in subjects such as science and mathematics. In both classic and modern forms, the alphabet has a set of 24 letters in alphabetical order. The Greek alphabet was also used in the Greek numeric system, so some letters have two meanings. Once the Greeks had heir language, they began to write down their fables, myths and legends, they also wrote to and sent letters to each other. The writing often read from right to left, but sometimes alternated to left to right, but around 500 BC it changed running from left to right. The Rosetta Stone The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian script, that is the key to the decipherment of the hieroglyphics. This inscription on stone was created in 196 BC and contains two languages, Egyptian and Greek, but contains three scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek. It was written in several scripts, these were the three scripts being used in Egypt at the time. The first script on the stone was the hieroglyphic script, which was the script that was used for important or religious documents. The second script written on the stone was demotic, which at the time was the common script of Egypt. The last script to be written on the stone was Greek, this was the language of the rulers of Egypt at the time it was made. The Rosetta Stone was written in all these languages and scripts so that the priests, government officials and rulers could all read what it said. This was great for translating it into other languages/scripts, as it said the exact same thing but in three different scripts. 3

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Roman Numerals Roman numerals were the numeric system used in ancient Rome. It used combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet to signify each numeric value. The use of Roman numerals continued after the decline of the Roman Empire and during the 14th century, Roman numerals began to be replaced by Hindu-Arabic numerals (similar to the numbers we use now) but this process was slow. Roman numerals were traditionally used to indicate the order of ships or the order of the rulers who share the same name. They are sometimes used today in the publishing industry to show copyright dates, they’re also used on cornerstones when the owner of the building wants to create something that represents the age of the building, they are commonly used on gravestones, to mark the date or their deceased persons age, as it’s becoming a tradition. In Europe, the main uses of Roman numerals are in the names of monarchs and Popes for example: Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI. This tradition started in the Middle Ages, which then gained widespread use in England during Henry VIII’s time on the throne. They’re also used as hour marks on clocks and watches but the number four isn’t displayed as ‘IV’ but is shown instead as ‘IIII’, because it’s easier to read, the year of the construction of buildings, page numbering in books, book volumes or chapters, the list goes on. The numerals are also used in astronomy, chemistry, seismology, and even in music theory. Chinese Characters Chinese symbols (also known as logograms) have a rather cursive style. According to ancient book records, it was said to be one of Yellow Emperor’s Chancellors Cang Jie who created these characters. After the creation of the symbols, the characters went through four major periods of development, these being the Bone inscriptions, Bronze Inscription, Seal Script and Regular Script, where each script has a different structure and shape. The Bone Inscription (Jai-Gu-Wen) characters were originally carved onto animal bones and then baked to gain strength so they could be used by the military, used in agricultural harvest and so they would withstand all kinds of weather. The Bronze Inscriptions (Jin-wen) were quite simple and basic as the characters were inscribed onto bronze instruments as a way of recording important documents or scripts. In about 220 BC, a new emperor imposed several reforms and among them was character unification, during which they created a set of 3300 standardized Small Seal characters (Xiao-zhuan) because the emperor had discovered that the current characters were very complicated and in many varied forms. This was the very first big step in attempting to standardize the Chinese characters. During this process the strokes of the earlier Chinese characters changed them from having many turns and curves to being convenient for handwriting. Not many of the papers survive from this period, despite the writing implement being the brush. The Regular Script (Kai Shu) has a very angled look and has many The History of Typography

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straight strokes. This is named Kai Shu, the Model Font; this is the font that is mostly used today in when writing in Chinese. This can be wrote in a cursive script, where the styles and strokes vary more and are written faster and looser, relating in a way to calligraphy with the types of stroke and the shapes. Calligraphy The Latin alphabet came around in 600 BC and by the beginning of the first century had developed into Roman imperial capitals that were carved onto stones, Rustic capitals were painted on walls, and Roman cursive was for daily use. The monasteries who preserved the calligraphic traditions when the Roman empire fell and Europe entered the Dark Ages. When the Roman Empire fell, its literary influence remained. Upon the rising of the Carolingian Dynasty Empire they encouraged a new standardized script, which had been developed from different famous monasteries around the eighth century. The script from Martin of Tours was originally set as the Imperial standard, named the Carolingian script. In the eleventh century, this script evolved into the Gothic script. This script was more compact and made it possible to fit more text onto the page. The Gothic calligraphy style spread throughout Europe and became widely used, and in 1454, when the Gutenberg press was created this was the first typeface to be used on the machine. Gutenberg Press The first type of printing was block printing, a method of printing on cloth. It began in Christian Europe and became very common by 1300. His then developed to the art of engraving type on wood, covering them water-based ink and transferring them to cloth. They later transferred them to paper when it became wider available around 1400. However, this method of printing was time consuming and expensive. In approximately 1436, Johannes Gutenberg started work on the printing press where he partnered with the owner of a paper mill – Andreas Dritzehn. Gutenberg himself had previously worked as a goldsmith and he made skillful use of his knowledge ¬of metals and craftsmanship. He was the first ever person to make type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, as these compounds were durable enough to create type with and they printed in a high quality. These compounds proved o be much better printing material than any other known materials at the time. Gutenberg used what is considered to be one of the most ingenious inventions to create these lead letters – a special matrix which enabled quick and precise molding of new blocks from a template. The first type case he created (all of the blocks were kept in cases) is estimated to contain around 290 separate blocks, which most were special characters, ligatures and punctuation. The technical terms ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ case were derived from the way these blocks were stored, as the capitals were stored in the upper case, and the lower case letters were stored in 5

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the lower case. The technical term ‘leading’ was also derived from this invention, as strips of lead (also known as slugs) were placed between the lines of letters to create a gap between the two lines to make it legible; the thicker the lead, the bigger the gap. Johannes Gutenberg is also to thank for the introduction of an oil-based ink, which is a lot more durable and waterproof compared to the previous water-based inks. However, by the 1800s, Lord Stanhope, a British statesman and scientist, had built a steam powered printing press that was made completely from cast iron. This reduced the force required by around ninety percent, whilst doubling the size of the printed area. This printer could produce 480 pages per hour, where-as the old press could only produce half of that an hour. This invention has an impact on type everywhere, as more books and documents could be printed. Braille Braille is a writing system that the blind and the visually impaired use to be able to ‘read’ what is written, it is known to be the worlds first binary encoding scheme that represents the characters of a writing system. Louis Braille, a Frenchman who went blind following a childhood accident, is the creator of braille. The characters are small rectangular blocks that contain embossed circles, also known as raised dots, where the arrangement and amount of the dots distinguish one character from the other. Braille was originally based on a tactile military code called night writing, which was invented by Charles Barbier so soldiers could communicate silently during the night without any means of light. However, this was later rejected by the military as it was too difficult to recognise by touch. Later on, when Braille met Barbier, he noticed two major issues with the code, one being the fact that the code only represented sounds, and the second being that a human finger could not cover the whole of the symbol, so you couldn’t move quickly from one symbol to another. Braille then decided to improve this code by turning the 12 dot characters into 6 dot characters, and by also assigning a specific pattern to each letter of the alphabet so that it would be easier to recognise and read. The English version, which is called Grade 2 Braille, was complete by the date 1905. The first ten letters (also known as the “decade”) of the alphabet, used the upper four dots on the six dot characters, and the next decade are identical to the first ten, except with the addition of a dot on the third space. The five letters after that, have an extra dot added on, so there is a dot filling spaces 3 and 6. However, some academic texts are written in a scrip that has eight dots per character instead of six, as it enabled them to encode a greater number of symbols into the text. Braille is produced by hand using a slate and a stylus where each dot is created from the back of the page, writing in its mirror image. One disadvantage of this, is tat if you make a mistake, the letters cannot be erased. However, braille may also be written on a computer using a braille translation software and a braille embosser. This then enabled the blind to read and write. The History of Typography

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Typewriters In 1714, Henry Mill patented the first ever typewriter-like machine in Britain. However, nothing was ever made of this machine. Pellegrino Turi invented a typewriter machine in 1808. The machine he invented was later developed to enable the blind to be able to write. Turi also invented carbon paper, which provides ink for the machine. Later on in 1829 William Burt patented a machine that he called the “Typographer”, which is listed as the “first typewriter” and is said to have been the first writing mechanism that was documented. Unfortunately, this machine was very slow; so it was quicker to just hand write. The machine was never commercially produced. Instead of having keys to type, the typographer had a dial to select each character and was called an ‘index typewriter’. From the years 1829 up to 1870, many typewriter machines were invented and patented, but none were commercially produced. In 1910, the typewriter had reached a standardised design. Most typewriters followed a simple design where the keys were attached to a bar that had the corresponding letter in reverse on the striking head. When the key was pressed quickly and firmly, it hit an inked fabric ribbon that made a mark on the cylinder behind, which is where the paper would be. Once the paper was wrapped around the cylinder, you could set the positioning of it to write anywhere in the page. The typefaces commonly used on typewriters were Times New Roman or Courier. The typewrites then progressed to electric typewriters and typewriter/printer hybrids in the 1970s. Helvetica Helvetica is a well known typeface that is used worldwide. It’s a sans-serif typeface that was developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger, a Swiss typefaces designer, with a help in hand from Eduard Hoffmann at the Haas Type Foundry. Haas had set out to design a new sans-serif typeface that could complete and out-do the very successful Akzidenz-Grotesk in the Swiss market. However, the typeface hasn’t always been called Helvetica, as it was previously called Neue Haas Grotesk. The aim of the design was to create a typefaces hat had near to perfect clarity, no meaning in its form, and a neutral typeface that could be used in a wide variety of typography such as on signs and in documents. The typeface was adopted and its design got reworked by Arthur Ritzel, who redesigned it into a larger family. Its name eventually got changed by a parent company called Stempel, to Helvetica, as it means Swiss in Latin. This was intended to make it more marketable worldwide. The typeface has a tall x-height for easy reading in smaller sizes, a narrow t and f, a square looking s, and a bracketed serif on the number one. Helvetica is known to be a popular choice of typeface for commercial wordmarks, used by many famous brands such as American Apparel, Kawasaki, and BMW. Apple Inc. have also used this typeface on their iPhone and iPod devices. Helvetica was rated number one in “Best Fonts of All Time”. 7

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Computers The creator of macintosh, Steve Jobs, introduced the computer to the world on 24, 1984. This was the first ever mass market personal computer that featured a graphical user interface and a mouse. This was then followed by the introduction of Windows 3.0, which was from it’s rival company Wintel. The introduction of these devices meant that it was a lot easier for typefaces to be created, and also opened a door in the design industry for creating typefaces that would complete to be the default typeface on the different softwares. Many of the typefaces that were used as the body copy and default type on the computers were sans-serif typefaces. Right up to the present, sans serif typefaces are still used as the main typeface on all computers. Apple Inc. have used many modern day typefaces on their computers, including Motter Tekura, Apple Garamond, Myriad, and Helvetica. Every day typefaces are being created and generated on computers all around the world, whether they become known worldwide or not, they’re still being created and used by somebody. The design industry will always be creating new type and new mixes of point size and leading depending on the typeface. In my opinion, this industry has an infinite lifetime and designers will always be needed to create typefaces or typographical signs for companies, products or posters etc, resulting in a never ending timeline for the history of type.

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References http://www.artchive.com/artchive/C/cave.html http://graphicdesign.spokanefalls.edu/tutorials/process/type_basics/history.htm https://www.boundless.com/art-history/prehistoric-art/the-paleolithic-period/cave-paintings/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_hieroglyphs http://www.discoveringegypt.com/Egyptian-Hieroglyphic-Alphabet.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonetics http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/writing/rosetta.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/greek/guide/alphabet.shtml http://www.omniglot.com/writing/greek.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Greek_alphabet http://www.novaroma.org/via_romana/numbers.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_numerals http://mandarin.about.com/od/characters/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Western_typography http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calligraphy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press http://www.gutenberg.de/english/erfindun.htm http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/mcdonald/incunabula/gutenberg/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braille http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helvetica http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typewriter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macintosh_128K

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The History of Typography