All Fonts and Sizes

Misnamed Janson

I love books. I love everything about them…from the cover to the ink. I love to examine all the parts of it to see how it was put together. For instance, a leather binding has quite different potentials to a cloth-over-board binding. A leather binding can have tooling in the leather, allowing for decorations to be carved into the leather itself, whereas a cloth-over-board binding requires the decoration to be stamped rather than engraved.

Then the pages are interesting. Depending on when or where a book is published, the pages might be printed on a large sheet and then folded into smaller sections. The number of folds determines the size of the finished book as well as the number of pages contained in a signature, or grouping of pages.

The paper is also different from book to book and from century to century. Some paper is thick and heavy, others are light and thin. The color varies as well as the texture. One of my favorite parts of paper analysis is the discovery of the now rare-to-find watermark. The watermark identifies the maker of the paper, which might be a different person than the originator depending on the century.

Other items of interest are the ink and its color and smell, the flyleaves, any tipped in pages of portraits and the way the entire creation is held together at the spine. But, the one aspect that I love more than anything, is the typeface.

As a child, I would pour over my father’s typeface catalogs and marvel at all of the different ways one could make the letter A. How is it possible that one letter could have so many renditions? It seemed as though the possibilities were endless and they inspired me. So, whenever I was bored in class, I inevitably found myself practicing writing the alphabet in all sorts of interesting ways.

It is understandable, then, that one of my greatest delights is when I turn to the end of a book (sometimes it’s what greets me at the front), and discover a little blurb about the typeface…such as the one above. I love the terse description…as though the writer himself is Nicholas Kis who is still bitter about his font being named after someone else. What happened there? Who is Janson? Did he sneak into Kis’ print shop in Amsterdam (once a typeface capital) and steal the entire set of type moments after it had been created? That would be quite the heist! What fun it would be to discover this story and discover the love and the hate and passion and angst behind a simple style of typeface.

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