Type Blog

Friday, February 23, 2007

Intro: Jenson, Griffo & Arrighi

this is a general summary of reading from last night paraphrased or quoted verbatim. this serves as a main background historical foundation for drawing romans and italics. Chapter VI through the beginning of V in A Short History of the Printed Word by Warren Chappell & Robert Bringhurst.

pg. 65
The word "incunabulum (plural, incunabula) comes from the Latin cunae, meaning "cradle." It can refer to the earliest stages in the development of anything, but it has come to stand particularly for those books printed in Europe before 1500.

pg. 73
The Press at Subiaco
Printing first came to Italy in 1465 through German craftsmen Konrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz under the support and patronage of the church. Their press was first set up in Subiaco in a Benedictine house, where they lived as lay brothers. Sweynheym and Pannartz were part of the exodus of German and French printers from Mainz around 1462 because of the spreading demand of printing. Their types had strong humanist influences while still carrying some traces of gothic blackletter. The capitals are Roman and vertical, not rounded like blatantly different like in the textura of Fust and Schöffer from Mainz.

Sweynehym & Pannartz, 1465.

the Mainz Psalter of Fust & Schöffer, 1457.

pg. 75
Printing in Venice

roman type by Johann van Speyer, Venice, 1469.

in 1469, Johann van Speyer (Giovanni da Spira) printed the first book in Venice, Epistolae ad familiares by Cicero. Johann and brother Wendelin together printed books with purely roman forms and extraordinary clarity. The brothers considered this an invention and sought to patent their design - and succeeded with legal protection until Johann's death. This was the year Nicolas Jenson published his famous Eusebius De Praeparatione evangelica.

Nicolas Jenson

Eusebius' De Praeparatione evangelica, Nicolas Jenson, 1470.

Born around 1420 in Sommevoire, northern Burgundy, he began his craft as a goldsmith possibly in Tours. This was before he started learning type-making at Mainz.

Jensons' Latin background and his proficiency in roman forms were of incalculable importance in translating humanistic script from manuscript to type. Some critics have complained that Jenson's type lacks perfection in detail. The answer to this charge lies plainly on the page, where the even color of the type mass and the great legibility of the forms prove without a further word that the punchcutter and printer achieved his aims. It is the elusive inevitability of Jenson's forms that has made them models for over 500 years. Part of the character of a Jenson page derives from the fitting of the letters; there is sufficient space between them to match the space within the counters. His fame nonetheless now rests on his contribution to the form of a roman type and to its mise en page, its composition and arrangement on the page.

The Eusebius is a milesetone in the development of the roman type page. It is Jenson's first book, but it was not, perhaps, printed in his first type. There are reasons to suspect that Jenson was the author of Johann van Speyer's roman type and of the Greek used by Wendelin. It may be that Jenson's own fine roman and Greek are really revisions of fonts he cut for the Van Speyers.

Aldus Manutius & Francesco Griffo
Aldus Manutius' 1499 printing of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by Francesco Colonna was one of the forward-looking books marrying type and illustration.

Manutius founded the Aldine Press in Venice in 1494, where he later adopted his printer's mark of the dolphin and anchor, an old Roman symbol for the motto festina lente - "hurry slowly."

festina lente

He employed Francesco Griffo, master punchcutter to cut his Roman and Greek fonts as well as the first italic. Griffo's contributions to roman type include an improved balance between capitals and lower case, achieved by cutting the capitals slightly shorter than the ascending letters such as b and d, and by slightly reducing the stroke weight of the capitals.

The Introduction of Italic
cancelaresca - chancery script, imitating Italian vernacular handwriting.

Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi
Among the writing masters of the period, there are three whose names stand out: Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi, Giovanantonio Tagliente and Giovanni Battista Palatino, all three produced writing manuals. In 1523, Arrighi, a papal scribe, published a second manual – but this book contained several pages printed from italic type of his design. This type, the first of six that Arrighi designed, was more formal than Griffo's first italic, cut for Aldus. It had longer extenders, and so consumed in vertical space everything it saved in the horizontal measure.

Though more extravagant in form, Arrighi's type was open, legible, and required fewer ligatures than Griffo's. It also used upright roman capitals of medium size. Arrighi also introduced the decorative swash italic capitals.

Arrighi type, early 1520s.

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