Double-entry bookkeeping and our mystery leaf

Leaf from Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita by Luca Pacioli, 1494.We decided to try to identify a random leaf we had in our collection. Obviously from an early book, the type resembles Erhard Ratdolt’s 1484 rotunda (rotunda being a category of blackletter). Two things made this page unusual: complex fractions in the text, and vernacular Italian (as opposed to Latin, the language of most early European books). A search for the chapter heading “Distinctio nona Tractatus primus” led to the discovery that the page is from the first edition of Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita by Luca Pacioli, printed by Paganinus de Paganinis in Venice in1494.

Summary of arithmetic, geometry, proportions and proportionality (as Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin translates the title, was a practical instruction book for 15th/16th century merchants and businessmen, and “the first printed book on algebra in a vernacular language,” according to Professor Delvin. “Summa did for accounting what Liber abbaci did for Hindu-Arabic arithmetic: it made it go mainstream, presenting it in a way that enabled ordinary people (at least those with some facility with numbers) to master the mathematical techniques required for finance and commerce. For that reason, Pacioli is sometimes referred to as ‘the father of accounting.’”

This podcast about blackletter’s recent, controversial history is worth listening to.

The Spectator: a leaf book

The Spectator: a leaf book from the The Book Club of California, printed by The Grabhorn Press, 1939
The Spectator: a leaf book from the The Book Club of California, printed by The Grabhorn Press, 1939

The Book Club of California has, over the decades published several leaf books—books about a historical publication that include a single page, or leaf, from the original, along with an illuminating essay about the era and the document. read more…

Merry Xmas, Happy Holidays, &cetera

Xmas salsa picante“Xmas” has been used in English for centuries. The X is an abbreviation for Christ, from the first letter of Greek Christos. First appearing in English in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle in the early twelfth century, it was spelled with Xp or Xr, corresponding to the Greek “Chr,” thus Xres mæsse meant “Christmas.” read more…

Confession: we once used a chop suey typeface

open and closed signs in chop suey typeface

Back in 2000, the owner of a popular Vietnamese restaurant in San Diego that we frequented asked us to create a customized open/closed sign for his entrance. He was a droll young fellow, so we came up with an absurdly conventional old-chestnut-of-a-design using a chop suey typeface and presented a proof to him in jest. Hot Chef (as he was called by admirers) loved it, and to our surprise, we produced it for him.

Bifur: A.M. Cassandre’s great Art Deco typeface

Bifur by A. M. Cassandre

We picked up a copy of Continental Type’s 1930 type specimen book, a lovely two-color catalog of metal type exclusively  available from foundries in England, France, Spain, Germany, Holland and Italy. It features the great poster artist, Adolphe Mouron Cassande’s bold, iconic 1929 Art Deco typeface read more…

Email signatures: best practices

business email signatures best practices

Guidelines for email signatures:

  • Text only is predictable and consistent
  • Avoid logos, social media image-links, photographs, etc
  • Avoid HTML formatting—some recipients may only see text
  • Quotations are not necessary and may look unprofessional

read more…

Ed Benguiat (October 1927– October 2020)

Ed Benguiat

Ed Benguiat may be best known to the general public for his eponymous typeface, but he designed many typefaces. While working for Photo-Lettering, Inc (known as PLINC), and for ITC (International Typeface Corporation) Benguiat designed Barcelona, Bookman, Caslon No. 224, ITC Century Handtooled, ITC Edwardian Script, Souvenir, Tiffany and other popular faces. He was a teacher and a mentor. He inspired a collection of typefaces by House Industries. read more…

Benjamin Franklin’s waggish defense of John Baskerville’s type

Caslon specimen sheet, detail

In 1760, the American printer, Benjamin Franklin wrote to John Baskerville and paid him a visit.

Baskerville’s reputation, and even his eponymous typeface, had been maligned by “gentlemen” who may have been jealous of Baskerville’s talent, nonconformism, and increasing success. Baskerville used excerpts from one of Franklin’s letters as an “unsolicited testimonial“ in advertisements, but typographers will appreciate how clever Franklin was in his support of Baskerville: read more…