An occasional newsletter

News on progress on forthcoming books from the Press
Hinton Charterhouse, Bath, UK

August 2004


recent progress on

Harry Carter, Typographer

A tribute to an unsung English typographer, by Martyn Thomas, John A Lane, and Anne Rogers

Late 2004

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The end of July saw my third trip up to Stan Lane at Gloucester Typesetting, returning metal from the last job he had done for me: Stanley Morison & 'John Fell'. The back of the car sagged a bit with about twenty-five galleys of type. But more important was that Stan had the first 56pp of Harry Carter, Typographer ready for me to collect - 28 galleys for the return trip.

With all the other books where I have had the text machine-cast, I have received galleys of continuous text which I have then had to divide into pages. This is a surprisingly time-consuming business involving a lot of handling of blocks of type, which is in turn a dangerous business in that it is all too easy to pi a page and then have to spend ages rebuilding it from a mass of mixed type and spaces. (I once made such a mess of a page that I took a deep breath, swept the whole lot back into a bucket, and asked the typesetter to recast the page for me.) The other problem is that you also have to solve the problem of widows and orphans, and words becoming hyphenated over page turns, as the pages emerge. When these things happen, you end up having to juggle page lengths, or even reset paragraphs to make things come out right. Having made up pages of text, I then have to impose, say, four pages on the bed of the press ready for printing. This requires running heads and page numbers to be dropped into the forme - more opportunities for error, and more time spent bending over the bed of the press.

With this new book, Stan Lane offered to typeset complete pages for me, solving widows, orphans and unhappy hyphenation where necessary, and casting running heads and page numbers inline. This has left me with complete pages ready to go straight on the press. The type is 12D Monotype Romulus, a continental point size, slightly larger than English 12pt, which means that it has to be cast on a 13pt body. To give the right density of type on the page, I have specified a further 2pt of leading - space between the lines - which has meant Stan placing 2pt leads between all the lines once the type has been cast. More work for him, but greater efficiency for me. There is a surprising amount of handwork required: this book contains a lot of footnotes, and the superior figures are all inserted by hand, replacing spaces of an appropriate width.

I must say that the Romulus looks marvellous. The line length (the 'measure') is quite long at 32em but Romulus is a broad face and with the extra leading it really does look good. Stan and I discussed why this face has seen so little used over the years - it is not even available in digital form, the way that so many metal types have moved on into the new era. We wondered whether that might not be down to the fact that the face is so broad on the body. A line of 32em of 12D still only makes the 'right' number of words: twelve to fifteen. So, in that sense, it is a rather uneconomic type: which book designer would want to specify a typeface that might mean an extra 10% on the paper bill? According to the Whittington Press's A Miscellany of Type, only 220 sets of matrices were ever sold of all the sizes of Romulus from its release by Monotype in 1936 - compare that with the 38,965 sets of Times Roman which was released four years earlier.

The paper has been ordered and should be on its way from the USA as I write: it is from the Mohawk mill, and the same paper as we used for The Fell Revival and Stanley Morison & 'John Fell'. Some call it dull, but I have found it a nice weight - I have a tendency to over-heavy papers - and it takes type well ... perhaps I mean 'easily'. The only problem is the sheet size: a sheet is big enough for three openings - six pages at a time - but although my 30 inch Western is big it will only take four pages of the demy quarto at a time, so I have to have the sheets cut down to two pieces: one that I can print four pages on at a time, and the other only two. Bad for efficiency.

Now that I have proofs for the first 56pp I can start building my paste-up, a rather messy simulacrum of the final book, with the binding sections exactly as they will appear in the final book, and with the text and pictures that will appear on each page pasted in at the appropriate place. It's the moment when the book starts to take shape and the really detailed planning can begin of how all the 'odd' pages will look: the prelims and other supporting matter, and the all-important (for a printer) title page. We can also finalise the index which then goes to Stan for casting. Other items that will need to be finalised are the material that is forming the extra volume that will go into the de luxe copies - some of the drafts that Harry prepared for what would have been volume 2 of his history of Oxford University Press - and of course the prospectus. (If you would like a copy of the prospectus when it comes out, be sure to let us know either by replying to this email, or by using the contact form at our website. If you have already asked, we will not have forgotten.) The proofs have also gone to Martyn Thomas and Anne Rogers for checking.

Stan Lane has now cast half the book - the biography - and I talked to him about how he felt about doing the rest, the bibliography, which is much more involved typographically and which, of course, is not simple continuous prose. I was surprised to hear that he prefers that sort of typesetting: it requires more care and concentration. In a former life, working for a major typesetting company, he was the man who set the English-German dictionaries! He is also very used to typesetting bibliographical material as he sets Book Collector amongst other things.

With the type for this book and The Bricks of Venice (of which more in the next newsletter) arriving at about the same time, I need all the galleys I can free up, so I have been having a very concerted decluttering, making some hard decisions about standing type for text that I might, just might, need to print again one day. It's all gone back for smelting. And now is the time to upgrade the lighting, clear out some paper waste, and generally get the press room spruced up for the work to come.

I have started a visual diary at my website, with sequences of photographs showing the many and varied steps involved in getting a book made. Do visit and click on the 'a story' button - from there you can follow the story in pictures and (in the future) even some video sequences. Please be warned: I have tried to keep the pictures to a manageable number of bytes, but if you are on a dial-up line you might find the volumes involved frustrating.

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2004.