Friday, December 31, 2010


I thought I would take advantage of this last day of the year to announce two books that I will be completing early 2011.

The first to hit the press will be a book of the Scottish Ballad, “Edward,” and which follows the text as given in Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (Volume I. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1927 [as reprinted from the edition of Swan Sonneschien, 1885], p. 82-84); and which will also draw on some preliminary matter, elucidating the provenance of the text.

Set in American Uncial and printed on Rives BFK 180gsm, the book will include a drawing by the painter and master printmaker, David Rathman.

The second book, also set in American Uncial, is a story of my own making, entitled, “The Copyist.” It is quite short: 1500 words. Below is a proof of the first two paragraphs, and if you wish to read more you may download a pdf of the first two pages.

And were you to go to my post of Wednesday, June 30, 2010 you will see, put to another use, one of the galleys, already set.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Faux Faux Faux

I printed a few holiday cards this season. Two of them utilize techniques that may be of interest.

The first shows the creation of a fake deckle at the fore-edge of a card. By printing two cards as a work and turn, then folding, and tearing the long sheet in half, it is possible to fake a deckle.

Although the card shown here does not illustrate the possibility, one could print right up to the “deckle,” then tear. This is especially advantageous to those who print on the Vandercook.

The other card mixes laser printing with letterpress. Displayed is a compass rose that was printed on a Xerox Phaser 8560 laser printer, then blind embossed to give a faux “letterpress effect.”

As the Xerox 8560 holds very good register, I did not lose too many with the blind emboss. And I might say the same of the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 inkjet printer, which I have found also holds very good register.

(As for why I embossed the compass rose in the first place: anyone who has mixed inkjet printing with letterpress has noticed—and probably has been disappointed by—the flatness of inkjet against letterpress. The embossing goes a long ways toward meliorating this problem. And if you are still unhappy with the result, you might try adding a varnish to the embossing plate.)

Happy Holidays!
Philip Gallo at the Hermetic Press

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ethertalk II

Instruction Set (c. 1992). Letterpress from original 8.5x11-inch copier paper. After the text had been printed, the outline was sketched around the text; scanned, then scaled and transformed to fit tangent top and bottom, left and right, after which, the outline was printed in gold ink.

Edition of 50. On Lenox (9.5x13.25-inches). April 2010.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Well-Punkt Remark

One fine Saturday evening, the dinner party winding down, all at table sufficiently-oiled, and the Pinot Noir giving rise to world-class solutions to world-wide problems, what should Pop Up ! but the noösphere, enjoining our thoughts to commingle.

Years since I had read Teilhard de Chardin, it was time for review.

Such a surprise to find that in this excellent translation of The Phenomenon of Man (Bernard Wall, tr.; Harper & Row, Revised English edition, 1965) that the French style for handling punctuation had been observed:
The addition of a full word space before some punctuation: viz., the semi-colon, the colon, the exclamation point, and the question mark.

I call attention especially to the exclamation point, which in modern typesetting—and especially in the case of sans serifs—is often set so tightly that the exclamation point reads as an errant “el.” A fault exacerbated with smaller point sizes, especially when digital type is converted to polymer plate for letterpress printing.

As a matter of fact, this is one of the “finer points” that Geoffrey Dowding outlines in his classic, Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type.

Consequently when setting digital type for letterpress/bookwork, I routinely add two hair spaces (totaling 1/12 of an em in CS2) before the exclamation point or the question mark.* Character shape to the left and the right having such a strong influence on the relative placement of the semi-colon and colon, I adjust with unit spacing to the left and to the right.

Once you get used to the idea of punctuation as a thing unto itself, take a good look at the Bauer Bodoni or the Stradivarius exclamation point—or for that matter, the Futura Lite question mark, which looks like an upside-down capital “S” with a period centered under it.

Like good wine, they should be allowed to breathe.

*However, the prevailing style in advertising typography is quite the opposite—both the exclamation point and the question mark very tightly kerned to the adjacent character.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not Just. Nor Ordinary Left.

Ordinarily when you think flush left, you think of the line itself as flush left, disregarding the “nuclear level,” where the shapes of the characters themselves may or may not be flush left.

As characters necessarily reside on a body, whether real or not, some characters’ visual left may not coincide with other characters’ visual left.

Pictured above are a few lines of 14-point American Uncial, set flush left. Note the yellow spaces. Those are one-point brass spaces. Obscured are one-half point copper spaces following the em-quad.*

The reason for setting metal type like this is the ease with which it is possible to move characters closer to the edge by removing a brass or copper space, or combination thereof, to achieve optical alignment along the left edge of the page. The space removed can simply be added to the end of the line, thereby not affecting the tightness of the line.

This subtlety can now be achieved with digital type. Nigel French outlines this (see page 114 ) and many other aspects of typesetting in his all-encompassing book, InDesign Type: Professional Typography with Adobe® InDesign® CS2, 2006. (A revised edition is due out July 2010.)

For years the book I have constantly referred to has been Geoffrey Dowding’s Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type. I still recommend this book—when it can be found— to the serious student of handset type. But for digital type InDesign Type pretty well supplants it.

*The purpose of the em-quad is to facilitate cracking open the form with less risk of pi-ing the type.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Who Put the Space in the H&J?

In a previous post “Copy Out the Window” (28 Feb 2010) I wrote about composing a justified copy block. Those comments were directed toward copy editing.

But for fine-tuning your copy in inDesign, the most powerful tool available is the H&J dialogue box.

(Disregard auto-leading, as you should always specify a leading in Basic Character Formats).

By proper adjustment of the minimum and desired spacing you can arrive at a much better setting.

I say “arrive”, as you do not get there the very first time.

In fact, not only may you find it necessary to rebreak the lines, but you may find it necessary to change the original line length* a few points, if only to avoid an unfortunate hyphenation.

Consequently, you should check the Adobe Single-Line Composer box instead of the Adobe Paragraph-Composer box; otherwise you may not be able to hyphenate where you find it preferable.

The screen shot shows my initial settings at 80% / 85% / 90%, somewhat tighter than the default 85% / 100% / 133% of inDesign.

I then slowly decrease overall in 2-3% increments, though seldom do I go below 75% for the minimum.

If you are wondering what the percentages correspond to, the answer to that is that they are based on the width of the character space as specified by the font designer.

For a general discussion of the width of the character space in some everyday fonts go to Microsoft Typography.

You will see that the average space is 4-to-the-em.

A better choice of space for fine typography is 5-to-the-em.

If you’ve never set type by hand and don’t have the tactile experience of how large a 3- or 4-to-the-em space can be, compared to a 5- or 6-to-the-em space, here is a picture of 11-pt Monotype Bembo, three-points leaded:

But, because you are setting digital type you are not so limited.

You now have the capability of 5.25-to-the-em or 5.5-to-the-em. And that explains why the fields of the dialogue box are expressed in percentages.

*Remember this is a special case, a single paragraph.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On Press / Off Press

My entry (#3837) of approximately 5,000 in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) “Foot in the Door 4”, showing at Minneapolis Institute of Arts: 19 February - 13 June 2010

An homage to the ubiquitous format of the 20th Century.

In the egalitarian spirit of the show*, I decided to use two incomplete fonts of wood type, setting the copy according to available characters (note the constructed T ); and adjusted baselines to accommodate the two different sizes.

Printed on 30# Canson Newsprint in Pantone 445.

* Any 2-dimensional work, of one foot square or less; or 3-dimensional work, of one cubic foot or less, was automatically entered into the show.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Frisket-Carrier Sheet Revise

Several people have had questions about the sketch I posted on 8 January 2010, entitled Frisket-Carrier Sheet.

When I drew the sketch I should have shown that the two sheets are taped together to function as a unit.

Pictured is a replica of the one that I originally used to print the visual poem, daffydowndilly.

Note the inked line on the carrier sheet for registration of the word daffydowndilly to align with the crossbar of the ff ligature of the watermark.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Copy Out The Window

I remember a client whose stationery bore the headline DON’T CHANGE A WORD, printed in red, all caps in 96-point Franklin Gothic Bold Condensed.

For that client it was “Copy out the window.”

However as a veteran typographer I have often had to take many liberties with copy; and in some instances I was granted permission ahead of time to do so.

So I would offer an alternate setting. It might simply be an abbreviation or deletion of a superfluous word. Or the breaking out of a new paragraph from a long paragraph. Or the running together of two short paragraphs into one.

For the printer/bookartist this is especially important in the writing of a prospectus or colophon—and especially, artist statement—where one is trying to arrive at both a succinct statement and one that is typographically elegant. Nothing worse than a poorly set artist statement with a lonely widow at the end of the graph.

This may seem like a cynical approach to writing, but you might already have taken the first step down that road in having agreed to write an “artist statement” in the first place.

That last comment notwithstanding here is a little How-To.

Let us say you want a justified copy block with the last line going full measure. Experienced typographers work backwards. That is, they rework the last line of the paragraph first, then work towards the front. By working in this fashion should there be a difficult line you can sometimes “bury” it in the center of the graph.

Also this allows you more liberty in revising copy. And especially so, if the last line of the paragraph is a killer line that must be maintained.

Or you may simply want to create a triangular shaped ending to drop in a tailpiece as the early printers were inclined to do.

You may not be Edgar Allan Poe but there is no harm in knowing how to achieve an effect. That way when you want to show your stuff you will actually be able to do it. Like a triple Lutz, for instance.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Close to the Edge

Over the holidays I received a handmade card that had a double-colored hand-torn deckle edge. I liked the presentation of the colored deckle, and it suggested a typographic approach for a visual poem. (Now printed and shown above.)

I had some offcuts of Rives BFK which, as the deckle edge is relatively uniform, was the ideal paper for the job at hand. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough offcuts for the entire job, so I had to tear down some sheets by hand; but even those loaned themselves to the desired effect.

Part of the effect I was looking for was degrading of letterform as the type prints on the deckle. Encouraging me to do this is the fact that legibility studies have shown that the upper part of a letter is the most important in character recognition. As it turned out, however, degraded letterform did not come into play as much as I had anticipated.

For the baseline I used 8-Didot Inserat Grotesk—as it fit the deckle perfectly—and 12-Didot Permanent Headline for display, both original foundry faces from Haas and Ludwig & Mayer.

Appropos of these comments I offer this poem from A Printer’s Dozen.

The Truth About Margins

In the 20th Century we trim
To bleed. How unlike the ancients,
Who gravitated toward
The center of things. Now,
How close to the edge?
In this houseful of objects
Other men have made,
I recall Fairbank’s love of letters:
“Because he lacked facility
to draw.”
The generosity of genius,
And the anonymity of type—
Where to stop with other men’s ideas?

reprinted from A Printer's Dozen
Courtesy of The Bieler Press, Los Angeles.

©1992 — Philip Gallo

Friday, January 8, 2010

Frisket-Carrier Sheet

If you look closely at my previous post you will see that the word daffydowndilly aligns with the crossbar of the ff ligature. This alignment was accomplished by use of a frisket-carrier sheet, shown above.

The crossbar of the ligature served as a baseline (shown on the illustration as a horizontal line with two vertical tick marks) for the word daffydowndilly. A light-table made for quick alignment. When the second sheet of mylar with the window was laid down over the first, the handmade paper was sandwiched between and held firmly in place. This became the “key block” for subsequent runs.

Obviously a design of this sort does not require hairline registration, but one would like to find an optimal position and attempt to hold to it.

(As is often the case, one must exercise more control over the random than one would have imagined. Wait! I didn’t say that, did I?)

The frisket-carrier sheet simply went into the guides of the press. Use of this method allows you to print very irregular sheets on a cylinder press, while at the same time allowing you to “eyeball” centering up-and-down and left-and-right.

This same technique was used in the printing of some of the pages of Synesthesia (Granary Books: Terence McKenna and Timothy Ely, 1992). Only in that case, I printed the text type on the bottom mylar sheet; then aligned the painted image to the position where I wanted the type to print.

This technique was necessary as Timothy Ely had painted 30x44 inch sheets of Rives BFK, from which the individual pages were then cut. By use of a template Ely was able to duplicate image and placement with some accuracy, but not enough for me to ensure registration from sheet to sheet.

One of the printed pages is shown below.