Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 101: Back to School!

So here we are... everyone else's "last first class" is my "first class" of the year. Creates kind of an odd disconnect, but there you have it.

Today was History of Books and Printing, and while I'm really not a fan of the standing-around-tables-for-two-hours format for a class, I can already tell I'm going to learn a lot from this class! A lot of really interesting and arcane factoids; my favourite flavour! Lets start this school year off with a bang, shall we? Multi-lesson first day post!

But where do we start with the numbering? It's such an arbitrary numbering system to begin with; do I continue and make this lesson 101? Or do I serialize and make it 2.1? Maybe just start straight from 1 all over again? Bah humbug, I hate decisions.

Lesson 101: Italics presuppose eyeglasses.

Kind of an odd, almost throw away line from my professor. Italics were developed by the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius, who was kind of a big deal. While we now use them to bring attention to important segments in a text, they were first used to fit more printed words onto a single page so you could have smaller, more compact volumes. However, since the type is so small, it assumes that anyone with less than stellar eyesight is having it corrected by lenses.

Lesson 102: Books printed as someone raised in a Western context expects them to look are printed in the Venetian style, that is: each page containing one column of full justified text, often filling the page to margins which are slightly larger at the bottom and outside edges

There's a long thread in the history of printing that leads back through a few idealistic revivals and notable presses, and when taken right back, it's those printers in Venice who printed books more or less as we now expect them to look.

I was trying to find a good picture to illustrate what I mean, and I found someone has written a great post about Aldus Manutius and his printing, and rather inexplicably taken a few pictures with one of his books in a bathtub. You can see that here.

Old books are just so cool!

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