Archive for the ‘Typography’ category

Playing With Titles

May 12, 2015

Planning is ongoing for future projects, and so is the play-time associated with the design of the titles. Here are three examples; which one do you like?

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I’m thinking the above works, but it begs the question: what is so important about the big E.S. (other than it fits in the middle and end)


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Not bad, again it looks cool, but comprehension is somewhat lacking. Then again, if you don’t know Ecclesiastes from the first 3 or 4 letters, there’s another comprehension problem. This model at least begs for a long, thin engraving on the reverse page, as you can see the spread is shaping out.Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.42.41 PMAnd this works as well, in that at least the change in direction does not follow in a “mid-word” crossover, like crossword puzzles. It opens the option for an illustration in the white space, or some text play, or just white space!


Measure twice, print once

December 13, 2013

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There is always the temptation to just throw the type down and print. But for the last few days, I’ve been setting and dissing type on the zombie book, working out the letter and word length for the fully justified columns of text. No ink involved at all. It’s important because there is no way this time that I will be able to set the entire text with the limited type that I have; page one on the press may face page four, so working out all problems in advance is the way to go. Also, setting and dissing the odd paragraph in different sizes helps me get reacquainted with the medium — it has been awhile since I did much creative work on the press (year round-up report coming later in the month). The good news is that I seem to have worked out most of the typographic spacing issues, and that’s thanks in part to using Adobe software (Indesign) to create my page layout and dummy. It allows me to parse the type to match very closely the metal type and thus, if the moon and stars align, it becomes a simple way to impose and paginate the text. It should work; I’ll keep you posted!

Zombies at Greyweathers Press

December 8, 2013

Laser printed layout dummy for the first page. The square beneath the drop cap shows spacing for a long, narrow illustration.

And so production begins on The Necromancer and the Seventh Daughter, the sequel to the popular Vampire & the Seventh Daughter that we printed a few years ago. I didn’t start the press for vanity purposes, but once in a while it is satisfying to watch one’s own words roll of the press. These “Gothick Trifles” as I call them harken back to my reading and viewing roots in sci fi, horror and fantasy literature so I consider these works more than most personal projects.


This was the title page for the first book. In it, we are introduced to Septima who, being a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter, has some extraordinary powers, and a particular brand of pugnacious courage that is a particular nuisance and foil to baddies. The baddy in that story was the vampire princess who was eating through her serving staff, and for some reason her father the king didn’t seem all that alarmed. Enter Septima and, well, it’s a fable so I’m hardly spoiling it to say that things go poorly for the vampire. This is often the case.

The second Gothick Trifle is longer, about 2,000 words and a bit more complex. I wanted to play with the story of the golem, but also work in some kind of environmental comment, and zombies, because, well, you know, zombies are hot.It may have been a bit too many devices for once very short fable, but there you go. The first draft was about 3,500 words. Even after crunching it down and taking out all the stuff I really liked, it still took about about 700 words of back story before Septima even got mentioned, so I rewrote the whole so that she came in at the beginning, and a little sooner in the story.

The first one had four pretty simple linocuts. This one will have perhaps eight wood engravings, or so that is my intention now.  I’ve doubled the paper (it will be sixteen pages as opposed to the previous eight) but I still thought I’d have to set in 10 point, but as it turns out, a little more judicious editing (the first draft was 3,500 words) and cutting a couple of illustrations means 12 point will work, which makes the setting job easier. Naturally, it will be hand set lead type, our house face, Italian Oldstyle. While I work on the type and engravings and printing, I’ll be pondering the binding, which I may do the same as the last one, or try something different entirely. I’m hoping for an edition of 75.



Family History – Part Eight

October 15, 2013

Hard bound 21st century printed edition of the Family History.


For the 21st century edition of Joshua’s Family History, we decided to do a limited run off a high speed laser printer, and primarily in black and white, given the extreme cost of full colour digital printing.

The text was spooled into Adobe InDesign, composed in Garamond BE with titles in Centaur. I chose Garamond BE because it was quite readable, and came complete with old style figures and small capitals and titling figures. Designing a book is like building a house:you start at the foundation and work your way up to the roof. Likewise in a book, you begin with the style of the type, amending typographic issues, factoring in footnotes and superscript figures etc. In many cases special fonts, italics and old style figures can be fixed using mass Find/Replace. Before any work begins, style sheets are created so that if a style change is made in one part of the book, it will automatically change in all the other parts, saving a massive amount of work. Photos and illustrations were scanned at a high resolution, then edited in Photoshop for clarity, sharpness and to correct lightness and darkness issues that happen in the scanning process. The end goal is to have a book that possesses the qualities one expects from a professionally designed book, and I’m satisfied with the result, although, as always, I would do some things differently had I the chance.

The printed edition is $45 plus gst & shipping.

It was printed at Impression Printing in Smiths Falls, Ontario.

Bound at Smiths Falls Bookbinding.


Page spread: body text in 12 pt Garamond BE, titles in Centaur with appropriate leading and generous margins.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Sight Lines – A Short Video

October 4, 2013


Exhibition opens at the General in Almonte

September 3, 2013

If it’s autumn, then it’s the season for shows and exhibits. Holly and I have our work at The General in Almonte, Ontario for the duration of an exhibition called “Text Me!” The theme is right up our alley. It is a beautiful shop/gallery. The opening is this coming Friday, September 6th.

For more information on the General, click HERE.

The General Storefront in Almonte, Ontario

The General storefront in Almonte, Ontario. How a village in rural 19th century Ontario came to be named for General Juan Almonte is a bit of a story, but the store in named in honour of him as well. There is a extraordinary glass etching of Almonte over the door.




The Book Beautiful

June 27, 2013

A few weeks ago, a very kind man, in the midst of down-sizing, came into the studio and gave me book titled Notes: Critical & Biographical by R.B. Gruelle. Collection of W.T. Walters“, published and edited by J.M. Bowles in 1895, Indianaoplis and printed by Carlon and Hollenbeck. More significantly for me, the book was designed by a young Bruce Rogers, pretty obviously in the thrall of the style of Morris’ Kelmscott Press. Rogers would go on to become a renown book designer typographer, designing the  Centaur typeface, based on type he saw in Nicholas Jenson’s 1470 printing of a work by Eusebius.

Notes: Critical and Biographical was published in a “limited” edition of 975 copies. Walters’ collection became the foundation to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore; both he and his son both had an insatiable desire for art and exuberant facial hair.

Title page of "Notes: Critical and Biographical," designed by Rogers

Title page of “Notes: Critical and Biographical,” designed by Rogers


Page spread of the same book. Rogers designed the decorated initials and headbands as well.

Page spread of the same book (slightly clipped by my scanner, so imagine marginally more generous margins). Rogers designed the decorated initials and headbands as well. The typeface is not his; it is either Antique Oldstyle or Stratford Oldstyle, both predecessors of Bookman, which can be found on most computers today.


A sampling of Rogers' beautiful Centaur type from "The Centaur"

A sampling of Rogers’ beautiful Centaur type from “The Centaur”


Centaur used again for the Oxford Lectern Bible.


This is what happens when you give blackletter type to Italians during the Renaissance: Clarity. Jenson’s new-fangled “Roman” typeface circa 1475. It inspired Rogers to create a widely respected modern equivalent with Centaur.

W. Walters & son H. Walters, distinguished collectors of art and well-groomed facial hair.

W. Walters & son H. Walters, distinguished collectors of art and get a load of those ‘staches!





Printing the Creative Process

March 9, 2013

Every year, for the past six years I have printed a ‘signature’ (in this case two sides of an 8×11 sheet folded)  as my contribution to the Grimsby Wayzgoose anthology.

It was last year when I sat down with my notebook and pencil and began to brainstorm a sequel to 2010’s The Vampire & the Seventh Daughter fable, bringing back the feisty young herione, Septima, from the first fable. For this year’s anthology, I decided to interpret my notes with metal type, lined paper, scribbled notes and pencil sketches.

My notebooks are rather chaotic affairs at best, so a bizarre mix of type faces was called for. It took a few hours sort out the make-ready, all those different faces and different sizes.

A rabble of faces....

A rabble of faces….

We set enough type for two sheets, or eight pages, along with some rough cut linos or engravings, but time constraints meant pulling out a lot of type, reducing the project down to one sheet, both sides and no block prints. I wanted to emulate the notebook further with the paper I used, and found large pads of graph paper at the office supply store. When I opened the packages, I learned that commercial paper today isn’t what I remember from 30 years ago. The graph paper was extremely thin, and I wondered if the ink  might even leach through. It printed well, however, and I even managed something close to a KISS impression.

Printing on graph paper about the thickness of onion skin.

Printing on graph paper about the thickness of onion skin.

From the start, I had wanted the piece to mix the traditional (letterpress) along with pencil sketches and handwritten scribbles. My notes are filled with sketches done while I think out problems, so I extracted some of these to use in the piece. This would require the digital laser printer, and help from Holly with some of the more technical aspects of layering images in Adobe Illustrator. Holly came up with the idea to have my ubiquitous pencil lying on the page, and to mess things up a bit with a coffee stain. Most of the handwriting is hers – you can read it!

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Mechanical pencil shot, later cropped in Photoshop.

Septima, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter

Septima, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter

Inside spread, colour laser print on bond without the type.

Inside spread, colour laser print on bond without the type. Holly’s handwriting. (Mine’s illegible!)

Outside spread: colour laser printing on bond

Outside spread: colour laser printing on bond

The combined result: letterpress & digital.

The combined result: letterpress & digital.

I was very pleased with the combined effect of letterpress and laser printing to create what is meant to appear as pages torn from of my journal. I was bothered by one thing: one of the digital layers did not have a pure transparent background, so it left a very faint tint on the page except were the white border an 1/8th inch around the perimeter of the sheet. While very subtle, I decided this was visible enough to make the whole thing look like it was spat out of a digital printer, which it was most certainly not! So the sheets were trimmed, making them somewhat smaller than the required 8.5×11, but still acceptable, I hope.

One side note: at least a half dozen times during the later stages of this project (folding, numbering etc), I found myself reaching over to swipe the pencil off the pile of printed sheets. That’s too funny!

I hope to launch the sequel to 2010’s The Vampire & the Seventh Daughter at this year’s Wayzgoose (April 27). Like the last one, it will be finely printed but accessibly priced, in an edition of 60 on Arches Text paper. The last one had lino cuts, but this time I want the illustrations to be wood engravings. We shall see.

Next job is to write the fable, cut the illustrations, print and bind, all by the end of April. I’ll announce it formally as soon as I decide on a title!

Choosing a typeface

November 21, 2012

When choosing a typeface for any particular job, I like to roll them out in a display of some sort. Books offer plenty of opportunity for typographic exploration, but let’s face it, the idea with a book (generally) is not to bedazzle or snap attention, but communicate the words clearly. So I work with a very small number of trusted faces – Garamond, Italian Oldstyle, Centaur, Caslon, Palatino, and two or three other fairly conservative and traditional choices. Clients like it because they almost always want a book that “looks like a real book.” I shy away from faces that are boringly ubiquitous – yes, I’m talking about you, Times New Roman. Everyone is aware of Helvetica now, thanks to Helvetica: The Movie; it is a utilitarian face with rabid detractors and equally ferocious cheerleaders. So it goes, in our ever-diverging binary world. Myself, I can take it or leave it.

I’m designing a book now featuring a lace collection. The owner of the collection is Dutch, so I felt it was time to do justice to the work with a decent European san serif face. The book is dominated by powerful black and white photos, so any san serif could not be too dainty, light or delicate.

I quickly lay out some san serifs, this time in 8 pt, more or less randomly from our Mac’s vast font of fonts. This is what it looks like:

Which to use? Which to use?

Clicking on the image will give you a close-up of various san serif faces. I scanned this sheet immediately after selecting three faces to be ousted, but prior to sending them off the island, so to speak. Three more iterations of this page left me with Gill, the dark horse Charlotte, Lucida, Optima and and old standard, Univers. Seeing those five against each other, I quickly brought it down to Gill and Optima, the chose Gill Sans.

Really, all of the five finalists are contenders and would have done a fine job. Ultimately, type faces are about personal taste and I dare say, mood; today I like Gill Sans. And I hate agonizing over a type face – I try to make the decision as quickly as possible, from the resources I have at hand and with as little sound and fury as possible.

Sight Lines – A Greyweathers Press sampler

August 28, 2012

I’ve been thinking about printing a comprehensive type sampler for a while. I’ve been  pulling out drawers untouched for years, squinting at the characters cast in reverse and searching through reference books for its identity. When I got my press (2004) I did not require corrective lenses to see, and then the notion of  arranging the type samples as Snellen eye examination charts came to me.

The problem with this is that most of my type, with the exception of Italian Oldstyle, is one size only, meaning that to create charts I’d have to mix up the fonts. I did indeed do this for one of the type ‘illustrations’ in the finished sampler.

I printed 100 copies, with 60 destined for the OPG collaboration (delivery tomorrow!) and final 40 to be offered for sale at the Merrickville Studio Tour, the last two weekends in September.


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