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Posts Tagged ‘sentences’

Counterpunch

October 21, 2014 | by

On a sentence by Robert Walser.

Plantin_letterpress

Plantin letterpress type. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

It is worth remembering that there once was a time when every letter, number, and punctuation mark printed on paper started life as a sculpture. Someone had to make the letterforms by hand, in three dimensions; the individual characters could all look alike because they were all molten metal poured into the same mold (hence: font), but someone had to make the molds. The first time this hit home for me was when I thought about changing the type size in letterpress days: rather than pressing CTRL+> or CTRL+<, the whole font—every letter, capital and lowercase and italic and roman, every number and symbol—would have to be recarved, by hand, from scratch. Redesigned, too, since different proportions work better at different sizes. Tiny furniture’s got nothing on typefaces.

They’re sculptures, not drawings, because the angle and depth of the sides affect the look of the printed letter. These can be adequately controlled along the outline of a letter, but for the inner lines and negative spaces—the triangle in an A, the near-rectangles in a serifed E—it’s hard to gouge out the cavities precisely enough. So a D, for instance, would start out as a rod of steel whose tip is carved into a semicircle: a counterpunch, tempered to be harder than the steel of the punch. Pounding this into the flat end of another rod makes a semicircle-shaped hole. Carving around the hole makes a raised D, or rather a raised . Slamming that rod into another block of metal (softer than the steel, usually copper) makes a -shaped hole, the matrix. Pouring molten metal into that and letting it cool produces the piece of type. Then the letters are set into a stick, in reverse order; clamped together; and ink is rolled onto the surface before it is flipped again onto a sheet of paper, leaving a D-shaped black mark.

By my count, that’s five turnarounds: counterpunch, punch, matrix, piece of type, printed character. There’s a strange reversal in time, too, since every other kind of counterpunch (in boxing, in debate) reacts to the punch, while here it pre-exists the punch. I’ve never gotten tired of replaying the transformations in my mind—positive, negative, positive, negative, mirrored, counting and recounting them, following the fate of a raised waning half-moon to the empty space in a printed D. The dreamy dizziness felt like what art is. Read More »

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The Arches of New York, and Other News

March 7, 2014 | by

arch

Photo: Michael Freeman, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, via Gizmodo

  • Because completion is for rubes—twelve books that end in the middle of a
  • A new app promises to help you speed-read. The technology is compelling, even if its name, Spritz, reminds one of cheap perfume and poolside wine cocktails.
  • Remembering, or simply remembering to notice, the arches of New York: “These structures were also marvels of artistic engineering, combining intricate brickwork with functional arrays of vaults and pillars, all leading to a kind of Mediterranean dreamworld of colonnades.”
  • “Britain’s best loved writers and storytellers have transformed themselves into the characters they most loved as children.” There’s Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and, perhaps best of all, there’s Malorie Blackman as the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Everything about the Vikings was designed to stress their individuality … They were a bit like today’s punks or Hell’s Angels.”

 

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