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Cardinal Pietro Bembo, De Etna and the publisher/printer Aldus Manutius

12/10/2018

The man who was much later to become Cardinal Pietro Bembo wrote in the 1490s of his travels up the slopes of Mount Etna. The text was in the form of a dialogue between Pietro and his father, Bernardo, the latter twice an ambassador for the Venetians in Florence and also a highly respected connoisseur of the arts. The book was taken up by Aldus Manutius in 1495, partly to make money since the publisher was, to paraphrase Updike, commercially driven, as shown by his commissioning some years after the publication of De Etna, an italic face. [See below.]

The roman designed for Cardinal Bembo’s travelogue is not considered by experts in the field as much good. Updike, quoted by Morison, says there’s only one roman that comes

Aldus Manutius book

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

close to distinction, and that’s from the 1499 edition of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili [‘The Strife of Love in a Dream of the Lover of Polia’ by Franciscus Colona]. Both this and the italic were cut by Francesco Raibolini da Blogna, more popularly known as Griffo. [From the Strife of Love also came the publisher’s device, though it was first on a coin said to have been sent by Cardinal Bembo to his publisher.]

The Bembo known to us was recut by the Monotype Corporation in 1929 [overseen by Morison].

Tally of types Bembo

From Tally of Types

As a tailpiece, Updike has a brilliant note [2nd edition, p.127] regarding the Aldine italic, observing its use was to make books in a smaller size [16mo] so they could be portable. The note, a quote from another author, reads: ‘We think of the cheap book and the public library as blessings coming direct from the invention of the printing-press, and at first thought we may be inclined to suppose that in Rome, when copies had to be written by hand, books must have been as dear as they were during the Middle Ages…This was not the case. Copyists had been trained to attain such a speed in writing, and slave labour was so cheap, that in the first century of our era, as Martial tells us, his first book of poems, which contains about seven hundred lines, could be had at a sum amounting to thirty or forty cents, while his Xenia could be sold for twenty cents. At these rates, books did not cost more than twice what they do to-day’.

Texts consulted: Updike, D.B. Printing Types, 1937; Morison, S.M. A Tally of Types, 1973; HMSO. Early Printers’ Marks. 1962. Printing and the Mind of Man, 1963. Grafton, A. Locum, Lacum, Lucum. 13/9/2018, London Review of Books. [The last was the inspiration for this blog.]

Aldus Manutius device

Dolphin and Anchor device

 

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Monotype Pitt: help required in tracing: help found and update

12/05/2018

In The Monotype Recorder vol 36, no. 3 [December 1937], the Fortieth Birthday Number is a report on the Fifty Books of 1936: the type faces used.

Monotype Recorder 1937

The Monotype Recorder

Reading through the list I came across reference to Monotype Pitt (private). The text speaks of ‘the Pitt 8vo Bible of the Cambridge University Press, which was designed with special reference to the requirements of schools’.

While I am aware of the tradition of CUP for its Pitt Bible series, as well as the Pitt Building, in the town, I have never come across a type face so named. Can anyone throw light on this?

Monotype Pitt

Monotype Pitt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following Marvin’s answer to my question I am pleased to show this page from my copy of the Monotype Type Faces, dated [bottom left] 9-63:

Times Roman semi bold 421

Times Series 421

 

The Monotype Corporation: a film from the 1950s

06/05/2018

On the same site as the film about Linotype [PrintingFilms.com] comes this showing the Monotype Corporation in its heyday. It describes the journey to Salfords,

Monotype factory from the air

From ‘Monotype’ Machines in the Making [undated, ?mid-1960s]

near Redhill, then takes you in to the works, more a town than a factory. I love the scene of the brass band playing, the sense of order and calm attention to detail. [Scroll down to Newest Additions…]

The Monotype Corporation

Also check out The Museum of Printing

And as an aside, I too have my own film recently digitised about The Beeches Press, including footage of the Caster I then owned in action. One day I too will get around to uploading it to the web.

Linotype: how it works

04/05/2018

I was always a Monotype man. The Linotype never much interested me. Until now. Here is this link to a fascinating and informative historical video.

The end of hot metal on the New York Times

04/05/2018

I’ve just come across this wonderful and evocative film about the last night of hot metal typesetting at the New York Times, July 1978. Watching brought back many memories of when I was a sub-editor at the Financial Times, London, in the late 1980s. Hot metal was still very much in use [a decade later] and when it ceased I purchased equipment to set up my own private printing press, The Beeches Press. What is also interesting is that some 40 years later newspapers are still being printed and distributed in a physical format. For how much longer?

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2016/09/a-fascinating-film-about-the-last-day-of-hot-metal-typesetting-at-the-new-york-times/

End of Hot Metal

At the New York Times newspaper

A Modern Alphabet [vintage 1987]

20/04/2018

This cartoon by the famed Guardian artist, Polly Simmonds, came to light as I searched through my Journal for 1987. Tucked away in a sleeve at the rear of the volume the newsprint is a little worn, a touch brown in parts, yet the humour is as fresh as ever.

Polly simmonds 1987

Polly Simmonds 1987

I notice that U stands for UB40. No, not the band. This was the Unemployment Benefit Attendance card handed out to the jobless, including me that year. This is mine:

UB40 card 1987

George Orwell, the mystery of 2+2= , stereotyping and the Chicago Tribune

28/01/2018

I read Dennis Glover’s wonderful The Last Man in Europe during the Australian summer break [Christmas to mid-January 2018], which, if you haven’t come across go immediately to purchase. last man in europeOf course, it helps to have a long-standing interest in the works of George Orwell [aka Eric Blair]. I first read 1984 as a teenager, perhaps in 1973 or thereabouts, with that frightening year a decade distant. [In the 70s there was still a fear of nuclear war between the US and USSR, so 1984 was deeply relevant. I still remember instructions being broadcast of what to do in the eventuality of conflict: crawl under a table.]

Finishing Glover I was set to re-read the classic. Fortunately, Glover has edited a new edition, also published by Black Inc, complete with an introduction. Orwell 1984

This takes up a question he raised in his novel. Put briefly, the US editions end the famous sentence that begins, Almost unconsciously he traced with his finger in the dust on the table, as 2+2=5

However, the British and Commonwealth editions, published by Secker & Warburg offer variants. Yes, the first edition, first impression of June 1949 also prints 2+2=5. Yet the second impression, published in March 1950, reveals, as demonstrated by Glover, an amendment: 2+2= .

In other words the 5 is missing. A crucial difference, says Glover, since the absence of the 5 illustrates that the novel’s protagonist, Winston, no longer has free thought: he has been totally subsumed by the Party. Placing the 5 as the sum subtly affirms that Winston maintains freedom of thought.

Glover asks how the 5 may have dropped out of sight, and this leads to an interesting typographic adventure. Scholars have suggested the 5 ‘fell out’ of the forme, a plausible explanation to those who know about letterpress. [I will not go into the fascinating complexities here of how a dying Orwell may have contacted his agent or copyeditor between the printing of the first and re-set second editions: for this see Glover.] Except for the fact that, writes Glover: ‘The second impression used the stereotype plates made from the original type set for the first edition…’ I’ll return to stereotype plates in a moment.

eric blair tombstoneWhat Glover concludes, helped by expert assistance from Carolyn Fraser of the State Library of Victoria, who has the benefit of also being a letterpress printer, is that ‘…the ‘5’ [in the second impression] was intentionally bashed flat by the compositor after the standing type had been stereotyped (cast in metal), and the flattening job had been done inexpertly, slightly damaging the ‘=’. In the pre-digital age, when printing was a costly and time-consuming mechanical process, any opportunity to make corrections without having to make a new stereotype would have been gladly taken up’.

Now, I do not know enough about stereotyping to assert this is what did happen, and neither can Glover categorically assert this is true. This premise is based on knowledge of the printing industry around the 1950s, intimate knowledge now largely extinct as the practitioners have now passed. If there is a reader of this blog who might be able to throw further light on this thesis please make contact.

In the meantime, enjoy this video I discovered while trawling the web for information on stereotyping. It’s a wonderful historical document in its own right and I am much indebted to Jeff Quitney for making it publicly available. The clip shows how the Chicago Tribune was put to press in the 1930s.