I vaguely understand that Monotype had limitations on the length on descenders. Here's an ad from Lanston Monotype
advertising fonts with longer 'traditional' length descenders. What exactly stopped them from having 'longer' descenders?
Are any of those fonts affected with short descenders still around in digital form and still with the short descenders?
Did typographic standards and thusly our reading tastes/habits change because of this limitation?
Some research suggests that the upper halves of letters are a higher priority in terms of legibility. In an effort in increase x-heights, the space below the baseline is most often sacrificed. It's a particularly common feature of types designed to be read at very small sizes.
It would be great to know for sure if the process of standardizing the types lead to an adoption of shortened descenders. If all sizes were patterned on a single set of drawings the effects would extend to the entire range.
Setting text today, most people find that fonts with large x-heights require a good deal of added leading to distinguish the lines of text. In the days before leading, the length of the extenders served to space them.
So in 1913 ATF introduced the standard baseline. The standard baseline grouped types within sizes ranges. Each range had the same amount of space below the baseline so that printers could easily mix types from different foundries. In some sizes descenders got squished, which wrecked g. For example, sizes 7–10p all shared the same baseline. Such types could not be used for the generously leaded pseudo fine press editions that were printed with Monotype machines by publishers like the Garden Press and Brentano’s.
This definitely impacted typographic standards, because most old types had their g, p, and q recut to fit the baseline. It was unpopular with fine press printers like Rogers and Goudy—which is why some vendors offered type cast on its own baseline with appropriate descenders.
Walter Tracy discusses this in Letters of Credit, pp. 48–49.
I will note that it was recognized at the time that shorter descenders were sometimes a problem, so besides “standard line” alignment, there was the alternative “art line”—with room for longer descenders. (Such fonts often had longer ascenders as well, of course.) So there was a second standard alignment, for a much smaller number of fonts, intended for fine book publishing and unusual display purposes.
Balancing typeface legibility and economy — Victor Gaultney
This is c.1950, 6 pt leading.
It’s always been my (Anglocentric, North American) experience that leading refers to baseline-to-baseline distance.
Linespacing, and linefeed, I have always assumed to be terms invented by new tech engineers for phototype and DTP, because they naively interpreted “leading” quite literally, rather than accepting conventional usage.
But the old usage (although I don’t know how far back it goes—perhaps to the introduction of the point system) persists.
"Leading" still applies in the world of DTP, but so does the term "lead", and in some contexts can be interchangeable. "Leads" would not be used in the world of DTP but still is in those shops that continue to work with metal.
It's interesting to me that the diversion in usage might have coincided with the rise of optical type. Makes sense, since there's no body to consider there, so the rough meaning is still "what you need to add to get to the next line."
I'm inclined to use it like Indra does, though: to me, something set 12/14 has 2 points of leading, not 14!
Elsewhere, I would like to base our extender lengths on point size and column width, out of which line spacing and extender length can be derived. The modern issue to be resolved though, is whether to base the vertical metrics, and thus the templates, or line spacing recommendations, etc.*, on the per-style glyph extents, or on family wide vertical metrics.
We we have not done enough examples to determine the best process, but I know that design work on five fonts in the same style, each with different metrics, is suboptimal as tools work now. As a result of which, I've been turning the metal process over and over in my head. The old guys and dolls were able to sell fonts tagged for font size and line size together, equal, or unequal as the size and line space were required, (*aka the "etc." above). I think it was eventually only craft and hobby letterpressers who had time to use seperate parts for leading, (happy birthday, I last used metal leading in 1976).
There is a demo of what we're trying more recently is here: http://demo.webtype.com/Retail/FB/REextenders/index.html
I drawn the type, DJR programed the site. We hope to make it so craft and hobby web site developers can do this, with no expectations that your pour and publish typographers will have the time for these extra parts, either;)
Linespacing it is.
We should also be more precise than discussing this issue as “shortened descenders”, because, as can be seen in the bible type, the /g, /p and /y have been substantially redesigned, and presumably so has /q.
Wasn’t Fournier one of the two-descender-lengths types?
Could someone please post images of one size of type cast on a smaller body, with comparisons of the two body sizes?
I don’t understand, what does “12 point, 11 set” mean?
The types are between 6 and 12 pt size.
Here is a detail, 12 point Bodoni, comparing the two versions.