I had my first letterpress printing class last night at Columbia College. It was so wonderful! We had a tour of the printing equipment, an overview of setting up type, and assembled our names to print stationery next week. The whole time I was just blown away by how everything I was learning explained why typography and typesetting on the computer is what it is today. Here are some of my favorite new things:
- What we know in Microsoft Word as 'paragraph spacing' is called 'leading' in typography. In hand-setting type, you place leads in between each line (varying the thickness based on your type size). Thus leading. It's all about the leads.
- The pieces of metal that you set type with -- including the letters, punctuation, etc. -- are called 'sorts.' Benjamin Franklin was a printer and when hand-setting type would occasionally run out of letters (those dang e's are just so common!). Apparently he would get very hot and bothered by this and storm around his shop. Thus, his assistants would see him and say, "Benjamin Franklin must be out of sorts again." And that's why we have that idiom today.
- A 'font' is actually an amount of type. (Microsoft Word brainwashed us all!) The correct term is actually a 'typeface.' (That's going to take getting used to...)
This picture shows how each typeface is stored. Each of these drawers holds the complete alphabet + punctuation for a specific point size of a specific typeface. Roman, Italic, and Bold would all need their own drawers, in each size. So if you wanted to have 12 pt, 16 pt, and 30 pt in roman, italic, and bold available for a typeface, you'd need 9 drawers of 9 complete alphabets. That's a lot!
This is the organization for the 'California Job Case' which many drawers follow. You can imagine why it takes so long to hand-set something when you look at it.
This last photo is to show you what the type looks like when it's set. You have to place the spacers between words and leads between lines to make for easy reading.
I'm so excited for the next 7 weeks of classes!
all photos via google images.