Friday, 17 December 2010
Thursday, 16 December 2010
Saturday, 4 December 2010
‘Most of these [false] passages are here thrown to the bottom of the page and rejected as spurious … and it were wished that more had then undergone the same sentence. The promotor of the present Edition hath ventured to discard but a few on his own judgment, the most considerable of which is that wretched piece of ribaldry in King Henry V. put in the mouths of the French princess and an old Gentlewoman, improper enough as it is all in French and not intelligible to an English audience, and yet that is perhaps the best thing that can be said of it. There can be no doubt but a great deal more of that low stuff which disgraces the works of this great Author, was foisted in by the Players after his death, to please the vulgar audiences by which they subsisted: and though some of the poor witticisms and conceits must be supposed to have fallen from his pen, yet as he hath put them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant people, so it is to be remember’d that he wrote for the Stage, rude and unpolished as it then was; and the vicious taste of the age must stand condemned for them, since he hath left upon record a signal of how much he despised them. In his Play of The Merchant of Venice a Clown is introduced quibbling in a most miserable manner, upon which one who bears the character of a man of sense makes the following reflection; How every fool can play upon a word! I think the best grace of wit will shortly turn into silence, and discourse grow commendable in none but parrots. He could hardly have found stronger words to express his indignation at those false pretence to wit that were then in vogue; and therefore though such trash is frequently interspersed in his writings, it would be unjust to cast it as an imputation upon his taste and judgment and character as a Writer.’
¶ Hanmer is referring to Henry V act 3 scene 4, where Princess Catherine learns English from her maid Alice, allowing some humorous mispronunciations of body parts and clothes as she points to each one, culminating in con for gown:
CATHERINE D’hand, de fingre, de nails, d’arma, d’elbow, de nick, de sin, de foot, de cown.
ALICE Excellent, madame!
Sunday, 28 November 2010
The recently reprinted 1911 Oxford ‘facsimile’ of the 1611 King James Bible contains a major anachronism: the types are resolutely ‘Modern’ in style, that is they derive from designs that were developed at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and bear no relation to the styles used in the original edition. The illustration shows the original 1611 setting of the Preface, and the 1911 resetting.
The problem is that the 1911 edition is not a simple reprint; if it had been, a photographic reproduction of the original pages would have sufficed. It was intended to be read as well as admired, so the black-letter type of the original, deemed unreadable, had to be abandoned, and rendered in roman type. And while Caslon was available for some headings, a Modern with a Scotch flavour was used for most of the setting. Some pages (the fiendishly difficult to re-set Kalendar, for example) were reproduced from line blocks.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
The sheets were too large to be bound conventionally in signatures of 8, 16, or 32 pages; instead, each leaf of 4 pages, supplied separately, was pasted on to a guard, which was attached to the spine of the binding. Furthermore, the text was printed letterpress and the maps from copper engravings, two quite separate printing processes. (The printing shops would have been at different locations in the city.) This required a clear plan for assembling the book:
But the nature of the task meant that purchasers could decide exactly what to do with the plates and text, as this final note freely admits:
E. G. R. Taylor. ‘ “The English Atlas” of Moses Pitt, 1680–3.’ The Geographical Journal, 95, 4 (April 1940), 292–9
Friday, 19 November 2010
¶ If you’re wondering why the division sign ÷ isn’t included, it wasn’t introduced into England until 1688.
Tacquet, Andrea. Elementa geometriæ planæ ac solidæ, & selecta ex Archimede theoremata. Cantabrigiæ: Typis academicis. Impensis Corn. Crownfield, MDCCIII .
Oughtred, William. [Clavis mathematicae] Arithmeticae in numeris … Londini: Apud Thomam Harperum, M.DC.XXXI .
Johann Heinrich Rahn, trs. John Pell. An introduction to algebra. London: printed for Moses Pitt. 1688.
Monday, 15 November 2010
The very sick get spared the lengthy sermonizing, and those in peril on the sea are able to make their peace with their maker – quickly.
Friday, 12 November 2010
Hadrianus Junius, Nomenclator, omnium rerum propria nomina variis linguis explicata indicans, 3/e. Antwerp, 1583.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Thursday, 4 November 2010
Friday, 29 October 2010
What must have struck seventeenth-century readers as a very positive declaration (‘I think so’) strikes the modern reader as at best an equivocation, at worst absent-mindedness (‘I think so’).
Friday, 22 October 2010
(Visulization by ManyEyes)
This lets you search an XML file and create collocations between words. To give you an example, I’ve loaded Book 1 of War and Peace, and looked for paragraphs that contain the names Natasha, Pierre, and Andrei. Mandala is presenting me with those that contain both Natasha and Pierre, and Pierre and Andrei.
Paul Stiff raised an interesting objection to Stan’s visualizations, namely the problem of the circle in data graphics. It’s much less easy to instantly assess the relative sizes of circles than it is to assess the relative sizes of squares. Below I offer examples from the ManyEyes site that I think support Paul’s point of view.
(While you are on the ManyEyes site, look at our own Gerry Leonidas as the subject of data visualization!
Saturday, 9 October 2010
Thursday, 19 August 2010
If you were impressed by Evan Davis’s flight in a Spitfire on Today this morning, it’s worth disentangling some of the myths about the aircraft by reading Kenneth Agnew’s excellent article about the aircraft in Journal of Design History.
In this little classic of design research, Agnew discusses the problem of deducing design processes from surviving objects, especially when the original documentation is incomplete, there are few (or no) un-restored examples, and there are many popular misconceptions about the quality of the design or the performance of the object.
The photograph, from the Aircraft Restoration Company website, shows the elliptical wing design discussed by Agnew.
Kenneth Agnew, ‘The Spitfire: Legend or History? An Argument for a New Research Culture in Design’. Journal of Design History, vol. 6, no. 2 (1993), pp. 121–30
Monday, 16 August 2010
A Dodo in Oxford: A Panel Discussion
Wednesday 13 October at 7pm
Blackwell Bookshop, 48–51 Broad Street, Oxford
In 2008, a diary was discovered amongst some books donated to a charity bookshop in Oxford. It was a most remarkable book, supposedly written over three hundred years ago by a student, describing his life and unusual pet, a dodo. The author of the diary was student of science and recorded his pet’s every move, as well as the reactions of his friends and acquaintances. He had some idea of the bird's rarity, but not that his pet might have been the last dodo to have walked upon the earth.
Doubts have been cast over the authenticity of the diary, so every page has been photographed and reprinted here, meaning that this work does at least three things – it provides a portrait of the famous bird, it reveals glimpses of seventeenth-century Oxford, and it offers the history of a book – how it was printed, made, unmade, forgotten, and ultimately revived.
Four panellists will discuss the details and vicissitudes of this piece of history – Professor Paul Luna, Head of Typography and Graphic Communication at Reading University; Clive Hurst, Head of Rare Books and Printed Emphemera at the Bodleian Library; David Shirt, scientist and lexicographer, with a special interest in ornithology; and Michael Johnson, editor of A Dodo at Oxford. John Mitchinson, one of the men behind QI, will chair this discussion.
Tickets cost £2 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
‘Whereas Tuesday next is to be observed as a day of Fasting for the martyrdom of Charles I. No shops are to be open, no children or servants are to loiter about, no tippling or drinking to be allowed in taverns, &c.
‘Jan. 27. 1671
‘Oxford, at the Sheldonian Theatre’
It was ‘stuck up on all common places of the city’. See Anthony Wood's Life, ed. Clark, ii.
This cheap’n’cheerful identity for UK television station Five, introduced last year, is due to be replaced now that porn publisher Richard Desmond has gobbled up the station. While I’m not sure it will be missed, it does make you think that graphic designers would be better off making something that had a reasonable chance of a working life, like a cheese soufflé for example.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
DM’s is clean, using white backgrounds and green counterpoints to the necessary red highlights. Set in two recent sanserifs, with a simple grid, and printed on matt stock it declares ‘I’m careful with money, organized, and plain-speaking’.
Not so sure about EB’s effort – is that curious street-sign logo trying to channel EastEnders’s Albert Square and Coronation Street? A man of the people (well, soaps) and street-wise? It’s printed on squeaky shiny stock, with over-busy ‘Polaroid’ photographs – and someone ought to tell Ed that nobody in the real world uses Georgia for street-signs!
Sunday, 25 July 2010
By the way, the label that this site leaves in your web browser history is ‘Oxford Literary Festival’, which is run by quite another newspaper altogether. But when you look at their website …
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Connecting with scripture became a personal act of commitment to a text, not a social act, as reading the Bible in English replaced having chunks of it read to you, in Latin, as part of a collective ceremony. James Shapiro writes of the internalization of religious experience in 1599, and the confusion it caused. ‘[In] an imaginary dialogue, two churchgoing women [are] confused by all these changes: “Alas, gossip,” one says to her friend, “what shall we do now at church, since all the saints are taken away, since all the goodly sights we were wont to have are gone, since we cannot hear the like piping, singing, chanting, playing upon the organs, that we could before?” ’ The reformers’ answer was ever-closer study of the Bible, and printers declared how their editions enabled this.
‘ ❦ THE PRINTER to the diligent Reader.
‘Deare Christian Reader, to the intent that thou mightest the better enjoy the benefit of these notes or expositions vpon the New Testament: I thought it not amisse to declare vnto thee the vse of the same. And first, forasmuch as the quotations or citing of places of the Scriptures in the margent which direct to other places, conteining like phrase or sense, haue been so placed, tht none without great labour could find out the texts alledged, I have made these sixe severall figures or marks, ✣ ♣ ·.· ✜ ❉ ★, and haue set them aswel in the margent as in the text, so that thou mayest easily find that which thou desirest. For example, in the first worde of the first Chapter of Matthew is placed this first marke ✣ : looke out the like marke in the margent, and there thou shalt finde Luke 3.23. which place agreeth to this in Matthew: and so likewise thou shalt finde in the residue. But if many quotations belong to one place, word, or sentence, the first is onely marked, and those that follow vnmarked, appertaine to the same. And if it fall out that there be more then sixe directions in one columne, then is the first repeated againe, and the residue following in order as at the beginning: as it appeareth in the first columne of Matthew, where both in the text and margent also, they are all two times set downe, and the foure first repeated againe.
‘The notes which are directed by the figures of Arithmeticke, as 1. 2. 3. 4. &c. thorowout the Euangelists and Acts, declare the effects of summe of the doctrine contained between one of the said figures, and the next that followeth: as for example, from the figure 1. in the first line and first worde of Matthew vnto the figure 2. in the 18. verse of the same Chapter, the doctrine there gathered is set down in the margent in this sort: 1 Iesus came of Abraham of the tribe of Iuda, and of the flocke of Davide as God promised. And in the Epistles in like sort they declare the methode and arte which the Apostles vse, and how euery argument or reason dependeth one vpon another: thesee figures are begunne againe at the beginning of euery Chapter.
‘Lastly, the Notes which goe by order of the letter of the Alphabet placed in the text, with the like answering them in the margent, serue to expound and lighten the darke wordes and phrases immediatly following them. As in the first line and second worde, the letter, a, being referred vnto a, directly against him in the margent, sheweth that this worde, Booke, signifieth A rehearsall as the Hebrews vse to speake: as Genes. 5.1. The booke of the generations. These letters beginne at the beginning of euery Chapter, continuing vnto z. and so beginning againe with a, if there be so many Notes that they do exceede in number the letters of one Alphabet. This haue I faithfully done for thy commoditie, reape thou the fruit, and giue the prayse to God.
The New Testament. Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, 1610/11 (Aaa2r)
James Shapiro, 1599: a year in the life of William Shakespeare, London: 2005 (p. 171)
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
There’s still time to enjoy sunshine, books, and letters – not to mention a Zlatorog beer – in Ljubljana, World Book Capital 2010; the Festival of Letters site is here.
The information design series at the Architecture Museum continues after the summer (you take a 20 bus to Fužine – Ljubljana’s equivalent to the middle of nowhere – and then walk to the Castle).
In the picture, taken from Jože Plečnik’s Castle Tower, and looking over the curve of the Ljubjanica: (foreground, centre-right) Plečnik’s Tromostovje (Triple Bridge), behind it Prešernov trg (Prešeren Square); in the centre of the picture, the square Nebotičnik (Skyscraper) is visible in the middle distance, just below the edge of the trees of Tivolski vrh (Tivoli Park).
Sunday, 4 July 2010
This year’s Eynsham carnival, while not reaching the glory days of the 1970s (when half the Chatto & Windus editorial board would turn up to support local author Mollie Harris) was still a Grand Day Out, with fun-fair food, an American Civil War re-enactment, some distinctly art-less craft stalls, the jazz and beer tent, and a singing robot (see above).
Best by far among the craftspeople was Ros Long of By Hand Books, who showed beautifully made portfolios and sketch-books.
Saturday, 3 July 2010
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Are England and Germany’s typographic cultures represented in their football strips? The England team’s numbers stay close to the Johnston/Gill model, while Germany’s have more than a nod to DIN stencil forms, and Herbert Bayer’s universal alphabet. Humanists or technologists to win?
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Edit If you think the strip above is too small to read (because it has to fit the Blogger grid), then click on it to see it in situ at the Doonesbury website – and look here, too.
Edit For a take on Murdoch’s on-line pay-wall, see here.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Apple has built a Reader option into Safari 5 (above) that clears the clutter of adverts and marginal items from news articles on web pages. But it isn’t as customizable as Readability’s offering (below) – for example, Apple expects you to read text that is justified, and offers no options of typeface, column width, or background colour.
(The article on Polaroid photography shown is these screen shots is well worth a read.)
Sunday, 20 June 2010
Judith Flanders points out in this week’s TLS that Elizabeth Gaskell uses a similar plot device in Mary Barton, and that these (and several other) authors drew on a real-life case in 1840, when wadding proved crucial in identifying the murderer. And, Flanders continues, ‘life finally caught up with fiction in 1884, when John Toms was convicted of murder on the evidence of a piece of wadding which was identified as matching a broadside in his possession.’
Johnson’s Chemistry of Common Life (illustrated) was the wadding in the murder weapon in ‘The Judgement of Conscience’, Female Detective, ?1862/3. Judith Flanders will give a paper on female detectives in 19th-century fiction at the Second Annual Conference of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association.
Thursday, 27 May 2010
Cox, Ian. South Bank Exhibition | Festival of Britain | Guide (London: HMSO, 1951), p. xxii
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Monday, 3 May 2010
Over at OUP’s blog, there’s a nice parallel drawn by Nicholas Shrimpton between Anthony Trollope’s Plantagenet Palliser and our own Gordon Brown. (It might be worth mentioning that Palliser stays in power for 3 years, albeit at the head of a coalition government …)
PS I notice that Continental Airlines checked out this post at 21.59 today.
Nussbaum, from the remainer of the article, is clearly thinking of the ability of the arts to foster sympathy, ‘the ability to think what it might be like to be in the shoes of a person different from oneself, to be an intelligent reader of that person’s story’. The imaginative and abstract arts may be the key enablers of such ‘sympathy’, but narrative imagination, and the transformation of factual knowledge into action, can also be served by the humbler graphic arts. Otto Neurath’s vision of Isotype as an enabler of democracy through the clear presentation of data, and in a way that told a story rather than as an abstraction, surely provides us with an example of design being used for the Socratic ideal of an informed citizenship.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
This early railway timetable, from the exhibition based on the ‘Designing information for everyday life, 1815–1914’ project, shows a stage of development. Bold types are used: the volume of material to be read, and its potential complexity, requires the reader’s gaze to be directed and organized by strong colour contrasts. The text is beginning to detach itself from the linear, sentence-like prose of earlier timetables, but has not yet resolved itself into a fully tabular form. That would come very quickly: this example is dated 1840; by the mid-1840s the fully tabular timetable was established. In this example, bold is used to provide a hierarchy of headings, and assist navigation around the document, rather than highlight elements at text level within a part of the document.
The new railway traveller is faced with some technical language to understand: ‘down’ means trains travelling away from the main terminus of the line (usually taken to be London); ‘up’ is a train returning to the main terminus. Was this terminology used by coaches before railways? Tooley Street station is now part of London Bridge station.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Thursday, 1 April 2010
If you look at the plan of a London Routemaster, you'll see that the staircase is at the rear, at that the interior wall is curved, matching the curve of the exterior. You descend, first facing towards the rear, but then radidly turning to face towards the nearside. You can place your weight against the outside handrail, following the curve as you make your descent, working with the inertia of the forward-moving bus to keep you canted towards the side or rear of the bus all the time.
On the sleek Enviro400 the staircase runs towards the back of the bus for most of its length (my photograph shows an Enviro500 in Hong Kong; for a UK vehicle see here). You start your descent facing the offside, that is you are working against the inertia of the moving vehicle. The panelling meets at a 90° angle, so there is no curve to lean against to transition from facing offside to facing towards the rear. Now you have a straight drop, facing to the rear in front of you, with the inertia of the bus propelling you down it. There is a correspondingly sharp angle to the panelling and stairs at the bottom.
In short, in my opinion, the Routemaster stairs assist you in descending, the Enviro400’s actively work against a safe descent.
The photograph of the Alexander Enrivo 400 is from Wikipedia; the floor plans of the Routemaster from 73 urban journey [a bus blog]; information about Stagecoach Oxfordshire’s buses is from their website; the Hong Kong bus photograph is from www.statemaster.com ecyclopedia entry on the Enviro500; the link to the Enviro 400 interior images is to Alan O. Watkin’s site; the photograph of the rear of the Routemaster is from Ian Smith’s Bus Stop.