Tiffany Wardle Memorial Liveblogging™ of a presentation at ATypI Brighton 2007 (q.v.)

Insua is a man and is, ostensibly, Spanish (he called his accent Spanish, though the conference handbook called him Portuguese; his slide says he’s a Ph.D. student at Universitat de Barcelona). He arrived late for his own funeral, but then again, everything is running late here and the rooms are so far apart as to be on distinct continents. And he proceeded to mostly read from his notes, a fatal mistake.

“An approach to a tentative Grotesk typology”: Borrows characteristics of the Scotch roman from the first half of the century. (Shows Akzidenz), perhaps the paradigm of the grotesk. Beside the absence of serif, there is a monolinearity, a certain geometrization and homogenization of upper-case letters with closing of bowls, and reductionism of some details, like the one-storey g. These make the grotesk model most distant from the roman, conceptually and artistically. The old-style moderns (like, presumably, Franklin) are more in that vein.

“Sansserif: From subordinate to alternative to roman”: Was restricted mostly to jobbing and titling originally, as you know, but now it is valid for all kinds of typographic tasks, text setting included. It is in fact an alternative for any task – you choose either serif or sansserif. The great leaps forward in this path would take place in Germany, but the grotesk typology plays a first key role there. It is the model for the New Typography first and for Swiss typography later (shows slides).

“A conjectural view on the beginnings of fully-fledged sansserif”: Not talking about its absolute rhythms. We do not context that the first Latin letter without serifs is the one by William Caslon IV. But the German sansserifs might have taken the first significant steps by themselves. Here, it does not mean starting from scratch; taking context into account, that might be incidental. When the two-line Egyptian was published, characters without serifs were common in e.g. inscriptions. The path was putting it on a level with roman.

(Shows samples.) More weight, better coördination, more refinement. These are all from late 19h century. Grotesk typefaces obviously intended for text setting rather than eye-catching. (Shows another specimen from 1908, but I didn’t catch the name. Royal-Grotesk?) Is a forerunner for Akzidenz. Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Is this the first sansserif typeface, and, moreover, for an intellectual publication? So it seems, according to Bayer. (Shows slide of both fonts, nearly identical down to line lengths.) A history of Akzidenz is still to be done. It’s a thing that has been on the table for some time, but still waiting for someone to take this and trace the complete genealogy of this very well-known, important typeface. But most publications from that Academy are set in a Scotch roman.

(There are no publications on the history of the grotesk, even in German, compared to say in the U.K. about British history.)

(Says this is a basic research schedule and the hypothesis will be either confirmed or refuted. But he has no results!)

“A history of heroes: Brief notes on the basic typographic historiography” (sic).

It’s very interesting that German people have not carried out this research at the moment. (Aaand… that’s it. Again. There was some solid Q&A, with rather a lot more information, untranscribed, about where to look for antecedents.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.09.14 16:21. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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