Archive for the 'Printing History' Category

The Atlas of Early Printing

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Spread of Printing AtlasThe University of Iowa has this nifty animated atlas / timeline of the spread of printing in Europe between 1450 and 1500.

[via Lauging Squid]

The Victorian Emoticon

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Wired reports that on this day in 1982, the emoticon was invented:

At precisely 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posts the following electronic message to a computer-science department bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use:


But the article also delves into historical precedent for using typography to convey emotions, and here’s where the letterpress / antique typography angle comes in:

In 1881, the American satirical magazine Puck published what we would now call emoticons, using hand-set type. No less a wordsmith than Ambrose Bierce suggested using what he called a “snigger point” — \__/ — to convey jocularity or irony.

R.I.P Mac McGrew

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

This January I finally broke down and picked up a copy of Mac McGrew’s American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century so that I could identify all the original foundry names of my Kelsey type. Beyond that, I just wanted it because it’s a great reference, full of fascinating little tidbits and asides for the typophile or design historian.

I was sad to see that McGrew passed away very recently. I had no idea that 1) he lived in the Pittsburgh area, which is where I’m from 2) he worked at Ketchum P.R., where at least two friends of mine have worked at one time or another. He also apparently started on a Kelsey Excelsior.

Publick Occurrences: both Forreign and Domestick

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

During our recent vacation to San Francisco, I did find myself a little jealous of the wonderful San Francisco Center for the Book. Our trip coincided with their third annual street fair and roadworks, where they made prints using a steamroller.

But all things said and done, it is hard to beat New England for a letterpress “scene”, as well as printing history.

Today, I found out that Boston was home to America’s first newspaper, called Publick Occurrences: both Forreign and Domestick, published by Benjamin Harris in 1690. It’s not a surprising distinction, given that there weren’t many American cities at that point– at least not in the British colonies. Nor is it an unqualified distinction, given this particular publisher, according to the Delta Sky magazine article that inspired Andy Carvin’s post,

“He was a bigot and an opportunist,” according to one historian; “a rabid anti-Catholic with an eye for the sensational,” in the view of another. He had “mercury in his blood.” He was dismissed by a contemporary as “the worst man in the world.”