Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reprehensibly Perfect

Pictured above is a composing stick with three lines of eight-point Eurostile Normal, set to a measure of fifty picas


all caps, letterspaced with copper spaces, and word spaced two points using brass and copper.

With all that spacing material inserted between every character the line becomes so springy, that when you insert that last quad (colorized red) the whole line may buckle and spring out of the stick.

To prevent this I use a six or 12-point slug tight against the line before I insert that last quad—for purposes of illustration I have shown the slug pulled away and also colorized.

Note that the stick resides in a kind of cradle. If, for want of space in a crowded shop, you have ever set a half-filled stick down against a galley or typecase, only to see it slip and dump its contents, you may want to make a cradle like this.

But wait! Why would anyone set eight-point type all caps when all you have to do is hit CAPS LOCK or command-shift-K?

Good question. Which I think is rather neatly addressed in a poem by Philip Larkin, entitled The Poetry of Departures, the last line of which I have used to name this post.

A neat skewering, I think, of the Romantic Thrust. Or, another nail in the coffin of the handpress.