The Typographic Style Bible, 75 Years Later
Typography evolves slowly, its progress held in check by the demands of readability. However, typeface aesthetics are more fluid. The 10th edition of Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1937, offers a window onto developments in both typography and type design. Now in its 16th edition and known as The Chicago Manual of Style, it's considered the copy editor's best friend. But 75 years ago it was simply a “volume of typographic practice.”
In it, you can witness a transition from wide spaces after sentence-ending periods to narrower ones. The basic word space in the Manual's scheme was a “3-to-em” space, fully a third wider than today's normal word space (which for typical text faces is more or less one-quarter em). With those wider word spaces came wider spaces between sentences: en spaces, the equivalent of two of today's word spaces. Spaces between sentences, although 50% wider than word spaces, were down from twice as wide, which was a common set in the late 1800s.
Looking at the 1937 Manual's text (Figure 1), these spaces don't seem terribly wide because they're in harmony with the looser overall spacing scheme. To get this look using standard word spaces in today's fonts, you'd have to slightly open up the tracking of the type in general and use 3-to-em spaces after colons and sentence-ending punctuation marks.
Figure 1. The text of the 10th edition, set in Monotype Scotch Roman No. 36, looks loosely spaced by contemporary standards, but its consistent spacing and type color is rigorously maintained from cover to cover. Click the image below to see a larger version.
Although in this epoch, “space of the line” (that is, a word space) was becoming the new standard for spacing between sentences, the University of Chicago Press's conservative decision in this matter was not strictly a style issue, as the Manual points out; the practice was dictated by technology. The smallest increment available to spread word spaces to achieve justified margins was a rather coarse one-quarter em on the dominant Monotype and Linotype machines of the day. “The tendency, therefore,” notes the Manual, “in composition done on these machines is toward wide spacing.”
Another historical artifact is the handling of ellipsis points, which the Manual mandates must always consist of four periods separated by word spaces. If the ellipsis points follow a complete sentence, the sentence ends with its normal period followed by the four ellipsis points, making five dots in a row (Figure 2).
Figure 2. A five-dot ellipsis looks unduly wide to the contemporary eye, but that was the standard 75 years ago.
Today, although the spacing remains the same, ellipsis points consist of only three periods plus one more if the ellipsis appears at the end of a sentence. According to the current edition of the Manual, that fourth dot should always be set closed up against the text that precedes it.
The Face(s) of 1937
In a previous column (“What a Difference a Century Makes”), I looked at an International Correspondence School typography manual from a century ago and noted which of their featured typefaces are still au courant. The 1937 Manual's list of stock University of Chicago Press faces is also a peek into the past, and again one that shows many of the usual suspects (all from the Lanston Monotype foundry) still around today. Their text faces included the following:
Bruce Old Style No. 31 (Figure 3), designed by Sol Hess in 1909, based on Scotch antecedents dating back to the Bruce Foundry's Bruce Old Style from 1869.
Figure 3. Bruce Old Style, shown here in a 1937 edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, is not what we usually consider a true old-style. Its stress, for example, is vertical, and its serifs are practically horizontal. Click the image below to see a larger version.
Caslon Old Style No. 337 (Figure 4) is yet one more take on William Caslon's 1725 original.
Garamont No. 248 was designed by Frederick Goudy in 1921, based on Claude Garamond's designs of the 16th century. Linotype's Garamond #3, Morris Benton's 1936 take, has a similar feel and color (and is still available).
Modern No. 8 is classified as “English” and lacks the dramatic contrast of more familiar moderns, such as Bodoni. It's slightly condensed, making it a bit grayer on the page and hence more suitable for books.
Scotch Roman No. 36, used to set the Manual, is a classic Scotch book face, constructed like a modern face but with less contrast and more robust features, especially the serifs.
Scotch faces ruled the book-publishing business from the mid-1850s through the first third of the 20th century. Every foundry had at least one “Scotch Roman.” Their solidity, modern features (e.g., vertical stress, right-angle serifs), and large x-heights made them models of readability, even under on-the-cheap publishing conditions. In the 1930s, Mergenthaler Linotype contracted W. A. Dwiggins to design a more contemporary take on the Scotch look, in particular to slim down the capitals, which appeared bulky next to the lowercase letters. Dwiggins quickly realized that “Scotch doesn't stay Scotch if you sweat the fat off it,” and his result—Caledonia (Figure 5)—resembles Scotch Roman's modern forebears more than it recalls Scotch itself.
Figure 5. Caledonia survived the virtual disappearance of Scotch faces to become one of the most popular book faces ever, a status it continues to enjoy. Click the image below to see a larger version.
The University of Chicago Press's choice of display faces (Figure 6) is equally conservative, and features only one sans serif:
Bernhard Gothic (Light, Medium, Bold)—that sole sans—is the most dated-looking of the bunch, with its dropped cross-bars for E and H and low-waisted R and P.
Bodoni #375, a display version of the classic Bodoni design, available only at 14-point and larger.
Cushing #25, also cited by the 1911 ICS manual (when it was only 10 years old) and still in use 25 years later. Today it looks very 1930s.
Forum Title, a 1912 Goudy design that looks very much its age.
Goudy Old Style (and titling and open-face [or engraved] versions), a classic at birth and a classic still.
Figure 6. In addition to the faces below, the Manual also endorses larger versions (14-point and up) of some of its text faces—Garamont, Scotch Roman, Caslon—and a variety of fraktur or blackletter faces. Click the image below to see a larger version.
It's curious that the face used for headings, titles, and section numbers in the Manual—Kabel (or Cable) Bold—is not among these (Figure 7). It was designed by Rudolf Koch in the late 1920s and is not to be confused with ITC's regrooved version (used for the label in Figure 5), which was released in 1976.
Figure 7: As it approaches its centennial, Kabel still looks fresh, the only one of Koch's faces that have remained popular over time. (However, you do see his titling face Neuland rolled out at intervals when an vaguely exotic or woodcut look is called for.)
Typographer, Heel Thyself
The manual has always had a somewhat authoritarian tone, and the 10th edition is no exception. “Typography, like any art, is bound by conventions and rules,” it intones. ”Since this is a manual of practice, the apparent dogmatism in many of its prescriptions will be understandable.” Perhaps, but some its dictates now seem not just out of date but arbitrary and even pedantic. For example: “In all composition, 11-point paragraph indentions are used irrespective of the size of type or measure. This is now the standard....”
That said, I stand foursquare behind them in their rigid and unwavering insistence on the pursuit of consistent and balanced spacing among characters, words, and lines. Where unfortunate word division (or the inability to hyphenate) threatens that even spacing, the Manual goes so far as “suggesting a slight change of wording to the author.”
But it's all part of what the Manual sees as the noble goal of typography: to be “the author's servant.” Nothing the typographer or page designer does should be allowed to “misplace or intrude upon the reader's attention.” To this end they quote the redoubtable Stanley Morison, who averred that, “the typographer's only purpose is to express not himself but his author.”