Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Type history, part of Foundations of Typography.
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Let's take a brief look at the history of our letterforms, so we can have a better understanding of how we organize and identify type, which is known as Type Classification. Most systems of type classification are based on type history. So, let's go back in time to see how we inherited our letterforms. The foundations of Western writing go back to the 5th century BCE. Carved Greek letters were one of the first formal uses of Western Letterforms. Roman Monumental Capitals appeared in the 1st century BCE and are the ancestor of all serif typefaces. Among passionate typophiles like myself, the most revered example of carved Roman capitals is still visible at the base of Rome's Trajan Column, which was completed in the 1st century. It's believed that these letterforms were created with a broad edged brush, and that the action of the broad edge combined with the incised V cuts of the chisel led to the creation of Serifs. All over Western Europe in the millennium that followed, pockets of different lettering styles flourished and handwritten letterforms continue to evolve. There are plenty of resources in the exercise files, if you want to know much, much more. But for our purposes, a significant milestone in clean, uniform, legible letterforms came during the rule of the Emperor Charlemagne in approximately 800 A.D. He decreed that the Carolingian letterforms should be universally used, these are the basis for the lowercase letter forms we recognize today. But the biggest turning point was the new technology of movable type. This has been largely attributed to one man, Johannes Gutenberg. His Gutenberg Bible printed in 1455 remains one of the finest examples of the art of typography ever created. He modeled his type on letterforms in use at the times, which are called Blackletter or Fraktur. We'll talk more about those forms later in this chapter. Although Gutenberg did not invent movable type or the printing press, he put together existing devices and technologies to replicate typographic pages mechanically. This enabled literacy to spread throughout Europe, which was certainly one of the most momentous developments in the history of human civilization. Later in the 15th century as the technology of movable type spread the typefaces used by Gutenberg gave way to typefaces based on Roman letterforms, and the Carolingian minuscule, that was the beginning of the era of type, and here is where type history begins to shape our systems of type classification.
- What is typography?
- Differentiating type characteristics
- Using ornamental and decorative type
- Combining typefaces
- Using contrast and scale
- Kerning and kerning pairs
- Choosing the optimum line length
- Aligning and spacing characters, words, and paragraphs
- Understanding factors affecting legibility
- Working with three-dimensional type
- Putting type in motion