Taste and Type
by John S. Carroll
I am reminded of a story about the late Arturo Toscanini. Some young composer had submitted a manuscript for the maestro’s approval, and the latter had rejected it as being hopelessly bad, “But, maestro,” said the young composer, “is not music a matter of taste?”
“Yes, my boy,” said Toscanini, “the trouble is, you have poor taste.”
I would say that the matter lies in much the same situation in the case of type and the amateur journal or the private press book. But we have to realize that taste is not inborn, it is developed along with increasing knowledge.
So perhaps we can forgive the beginner who luxuriates in the type specimen books and finally decides that his journal is going to be set in Pen Print, or Parsons, or a sans-serif face like Kabel. He just doesn’t know any better; he hasn’t any innate taste at all, and he thinks this stuff looks really “attractive,” if not downright “individual.” And we can forgive the flounderer who just has not much access to all the specimens, wants a good roman, but is given a choice of only two type faces – Century Expanded and Goudy Oldstyle. He says the former is “too plain,” so he chooses the latter. It’s not a good book face, but then, neither is Century Expanded.
Well, at least he realizes that what he is being offered is not very good, but he still has not any way of knowing that something better exists.
Then there is the opposite situation – types like Caslon, Baskerville, Garamond and Scotch Roman #36, the old favorites. They may be getting just a bit familiar looking, but you can’t really ever get tired of them. They are all safe and sane choices; there is no question of taste involved. They are as solid as Beethoven.
Trouble is, you can’t get a beginner to choose one of them. He has seen them all around, and familiarity breeds contempt. It will take quite a bit of study before he realizes just why these are the great type faces – the timeless quality, the understated elegance (like a Rolls-Royce versus a Cadillac).
So the fellow without too much experience – the fellow who doesn’t know too much about type, but knows what he likes – he wants something with a little more “character.” Individuality may be the word. Well, now, if he is lucky, he will make a wrong guess, but at least he will make it in the right ballpark. Like, say, Perpetua. Good try, I would say, on the part of Eric Gill. He was a fine artist, and I suppose he couldn’t draw a bad letter. But Perpetua is fancy, mannered and cloying. You will use it for a while, and then you will be thoroughly tired of it.
There are even more subtle errors that one can make. Like, for instance, Centaur. There is a type face that bears the imprimatur of the great Bruce Rogers; how can you go wrong? How can you? Very easily indeed. This is one of those type faces that was drawn and engraved in its final size, which happened to be 16-point. Now, in the 16-point size, there is no doubt, Centaur is a fine type, a great type, a distinguished type. Then the dollar-and-cents boys at the type foundries got their hands on it. You can’t sell a type that is available only in one size. So they took their cameras and micrometers and they made big patterns from the 16-point, and then by means of the pantograph they cut exact reproductions for the type in all the usual sizes down to even 8-point.
The whole point in a first-rate type like, say, Caslon, is that each and every size is a different type, made from different patterns. Yet, strangely enough, when you look at a specimen of Caslon, in all its sizes, it grades smoothly from 6-point to 48-point, and looks like just one single type face. But take Centaur and a purely mechanical adjustment of size, and the 16-point stands out like a sore thumb. The smaller sizes are thin, spiky, dazzling; the 10-point is simply useless for any kind of decent reading text. Yet Joe Blow buys it because everyone tells him Centaur is a great type. After a while he senses that something is wrong and, since he can’t put a finger on it, he assumes that maybe he simply doesn’t know enough about type; but he knows what he likes, and he doesn’t like Centaur any more.
Yet if he saw Bruce Rogers’ Lectern Bible he might – just might – sense what the experts see in Centaur. This is a big book, and the type is 22-point. It has a solidity that disappears completely when the face is reduced to half this size. Because what we forget in mechanical reductions is that when you reduce the height and width by half you also reduce the stroke thicknesses by half, too, and what happens to the hairlines?
So, then, we have types which are good but have limited usefulness like Perpetua. And we have types which are good in one size and not in another, like Centaur. And we have types which are good in all sizes, all the time, like Caslon, and Baskerville, and Bulmer, and Bell, and Garamond, and Granjon and many more.
This being the case, why does anyone, today, insist on setting a private press book in such faces as Kennerley? Here is a type of considerable popularity; it has been in use for thirty years or more. Every inexperienced printer likes it; the connoisseur of fine printing shies away from it. What is wrong?
What is wrong with Kennerley (and Goudy Gimbrel and Goudy Oldstyle) is simply that they are mongrels. When Bruce Rogers drew the Centaur type, he had a vast background of typographic knowledge. He knew good from bad, because he had seen a lot of each. Frederic Goudy had, at the time Kennerley was drawn, no such background. He started out to make a new version of the Bishop Fell types, of which someone had sent him a sample. As he drew (according to his own version of how it came about) he found himself getting away from the Fell version and drawing an original type face. Alas, in this case originality is not a virtue, because it lacked a foundation of sound knowledge of what had gone before. So Kennerly has a lot of characteristics, a great deal of individuality, but the letters of the alphabet have no common ancestor – some derive from Fell, some from Jenson, some from Lord only knows what exemplar.
It is well drawn, true. But we cannot mistake mere draftsmanship for true artistic quality. The late Robert Wiebking was a fine draftsman, but if you examine his type faces, such as Artcraft for instance, you would not buy a font of it at any price. Probably the only respectable type Wiebking ever cut was Laclede Oldstyle (Munder Venetian, Stephenson Blake’s Verona) and this is nothing but a hodgepodge of cribbings from Goudy. Beautifully drawn and cut, worthless as a type.
The same goes for Kennerley (which, incidentally, was originally engraved by Wiebking) and the same goes double and in spades, for Goudy 38-E known as Goudy Gimbel.
So what has taste got to do with it? Only this. Taste comes from study. At the beginning you have to dissect a type like Kennerley bit by bit to decide what is wrong with it. Later on you can do this at first sight, without going through all the individual steps – simply because you have done it so many times before. That is when people will look at you in awe and say, “He has perfect taste in type.”
Till that time we can only hope. Hope, perhaps, against hope that Kennerley will be laid to rest with its distinguished designer.
Not likely, though. It sells; and in today’s civilization that is the criterion. It sells. Alas.
The Short-Short Story Technique
by Montgomery Mulford
Eric Berger, in his book “Best Short Stories,” says that this type of fiction is “a story that comes to the point without wasting words.”
The short-short story isn’t a new form, as Thomas Burnham notes in The Writer (June 1966), and says Aesop wrote them long before Edgar Allan Poe and O. Henry.
A short-short story might be labeled an “incident.” It has to focus on one point; there must be a single limelight. A news story of sometime ago from Cleveland is a good example:
“A thief grabbed Mrs. Mamie Kraushaar’s shopping bag Friday and fractured her wrist in the process. But Mrs. Kraushaar, 64, said the thief didn’t get much for his effort. The shopping bag was filled with table scraps and bones for her dog, Pudgy.”
The short-short thrives, usually, on the “twist” at the end, even more than does the short story; but not always.
The Associated Press two years ago gave us another tale – this one from England – that can go in this group:
“Proud civil defense officials had answers to all but one question when they showed off a new radiation-free nuclear bomb shelter. “Where’s the rest room?” someone asked. Planners had forgotten it.”
I give these two true stories as good examples of the short-short which never goes beyond 2,000 to 2,500 words as a rule. The old Liberty magazine and the old Colliers religiously published short-shorts during the thirties.
If you are writing this sort of fiction you join quite a company as Roger B. Goodman shows in “The World’s Best Short-Short Stories.” Among his choices are shorts by Ambrose Bierce, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Alphonse Daudet, Oliver Goldsmith, O. Henry, Lafcadio Hearn, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Poe, Dorothy Parker, Leo Tolstoi and others.
The short-short as shown by such writers is, as Marjorie Lee explains in The Writer (June 1969), “a happening, occurring minute by minute. It isn’t the whole of life, but a very small piece. You are taking a short moment out of life and trying to get it down on paper as it happened, or might happen.”
These stories might even be described as an incident in a life. It is a “one shot” in the truest sense of the word. While its source of material lies in life, you’re only allowed to aim at one spot.
Of course, anyone who writes fiction must necessarily know words and their precise meanings. This is even more true with those who do short-shorts, for while we must conserve words and keep within a specified time limit, we must know how to use the most expressive words.
Thus one should own a good dictionary – or several: specialized, slang, law, synonym. One must not merely conserve words, but make each word stand out and create a picture in limited space. You’ve got to have a familiarity with words which comes from only diligent reading of a dictionary!
And don’t forget to, or mind, rewriting. The story hasn’t been written yet that could not be trimmed a little here and there. Rewriting is a must for the serious writer of fact and fiction. You must create the desired atmosphere and the mood with words, not pictures! If you are writing for the amateur press, keep in mind its limitations.
One must have, first of all, an imagination; he has to know true meanings and realize the value of words. Talk with people and you will come up with ideas that can be turned into stories. Make a draft of your story. Go back over it. Rewrite it. Rewriting is important in every field of writing. Most of the great writers have penciled copy a great deal. It may be drudgery, but rewriting and correcting will polish your manuscript. Don’t hesitate to “blue pencil” and retype.
Do not have too many characters. Four at the most, says expert R. W. Alexander. “So think up a time and place to suit your story and you’ll find it comes along so much more easily. It should begin and end all in one episode.”
There is one fact in the writing business to be stressed: no one can tell another how to write. Jack London had his own style; so did Kipling, Guy de Maupassant and O. Henry. But there can be facts presented; there can be what I call “hints,” and there can be guidelines. One may or may not follow.
In a limited number of words, one must arouse interest. Cut conversation so that each word uttered will sparkle, and plot so that the background is imagined and the story is understood.
Actually there are stories or plots or incidents all around us, to be set down as short-shorts. But, as I have said, you must use words to dramatize and have a purpose for the story.
Take some incident in your life, or a story from the newspaper. Enlarge upon it and make some “twist” at the end. That’s the formula for starting a good short-short story!
One recalls the old stories of the salesman who arrives at a farmhouse needing a night’s lodging. There are many versions of the farmer saying, “Our house is small, the only space we have is to sleep with our daughter.” Men have long chuckled over the denouements. The surprise typifies the principle of the short-short story.
I have amused some of my journalistic colleagues in times past with this anecdote. I boarded a bus one day to seek a job on a morning newspaper. I actually dozed off and did not awaken until much further downtown – at a corner where the afternoon newspaper was published. So I shrugged my shoulders, went in and within half-an-hour was hired, because a reporter had quit the day before. Had I gone to the morning paper, where would I be today? That’s a short-short story from real life!
Be brief and to the point without being curt; use words without meandering; have a real plot; write fast action – and you are on your way.
Pearls are Precious Gems
by Harold Segal
In this time of sophistication in printing, when newspaper and publication printers are deliberating the values of competing computerized phototypesetting devices and when optical character recognition will one day convert typewritten copy into a reproduction proof in any kind of type face in any width at the wink of an eye, when high-speed presses cannot produce quality process color pages fast enough, strange sounds are heard throughout the land.
These strange sounds are not from the professional in the professional sense. They are from professionals who in their private hours are hobby or pastime printers.
The strange sound is “Where can I get a Pearl?”
In the past ten years the Pearl press has become an “in” thing. Pearl owners are a cult among themselves, a kind of brotherhood – a bond of sorts, an understood but unmentioned kinship, like Volkswagen owners.
What is it about this 7×11 gem that makes it so desired? Is it the next step up the ladder from a Kelsey or a Pilot? Is it more comfortable and less bulky than an 8×12 Chandler and Price? Is it just the right size to print a small journal, a small book or ephemera without going into a big production? Is it quiet enough to operate in a basement without thumping and clanking to disturb television watchers upstairs? What is it, then, with this Pearl?
When the Pearl made its appearance on the scene in 1890 there were 36 competing models of hand-fed job presses. It became very popular and was instrumental in transforming a tottering Golding and Company business into a financially sound enterprise. The Golding Company was established in 1869 and was barely existing in the fierce printing supply rat-race. Just when the Pearl was conceived is a date lost in printing lore, but Pearl buffs seem to agree it was first introduced in 1890 as a little brother to the more elaborate Golding Jobber. That date is debatable as the history of the Golding Company was obscured when swallowed by the American Type Founders Company in 1918.
The first 7×11 Pearl sold for $110, which may seem considerable for 1890 standards. Its success, however, was immediate, as was a 5×8 model which retailed at $70. There was no throw-off on this two-roller model and its gripper bars were not depressable. An auxiliary ink plate which hooked on the right side and a brayer were included in the purchase price. There were two wooden drawers between the sides of the metal base, which pulled out just above the treadle. Some presses had a wooden, rather than metal, stand. A short fountain was optional. But its popularity rested with the fact that the balance was such that the press could be “kicked” with ease.
The success of the original model prompted, a few years later, the introduction of the “improved” Pearl (known by some as #11), which brandished three ink rollers, a throw-off and a long fountain. The 7×11 size sold for $135 and was more popular than the 5×8 or 9×14 models. In later years when central power and overhead belts gave way to individual motors, this press was tops for cards and envelopes.
Somewhere, now, in garages, basements or storage areas there are Pearls dust-covered and spider-webbed. Their owners are little aware of the present demand, or the price might skyrocket. That is one of the inherent faults of an article such as this.
Campane is published in the interest of organized amateur journalism and the National Amateur Press Association by co-editors Hazel and Harold Segal, Margo Gardens, Bristol, Pa. 19007. Hand set in Baskerville types and 600 copies printed on 60-lb. offset stock by an 1890 7×11 Pearl treadle press.
Articles discussing associational problems, critiques or recollections and research in the history of the hobby are constantly sought and welcomed by the editors.
This issue is also being circulated to the Amalgamated Printers Association through its group mailing service.