The Monotype Recorder
, January-February 1932.
I’ve mentioned this item before, but don’t recall posting the text, which I recently came across while rummaging through the Shinnstitute library, so here ’tis.
Quark XPress changed the game digitally, by presenting “H&J” options, with the default being justification by letter-space.
But I wonder if any other typesetting systems had done that previously?
In 1932, it was considered a self-evident mistake: “It early became obvious that the enlargement of type bodies should be confined to spaces only.” However, looking at the comparison here (especially for the narrow column), that might not be so obvious today, 30+ years into the digital paradigm.
If tech is steering the judgment as I'm suggesting, a more focused version of your question would be how was justification handled in the optical type era? There, like with digital type, letterspacing could be accomplished relatively easily I would think (though I know little about it).
In the early '80s, before desktop publishing, I worked at a newspaper with an Atex newspaper composition system. I remember entering cryptic commands into the Atex terminals for H&J. I don't remember for sure, but I believe letter-by-letter justification was the default — at least for the newspaper where I worked.
What I find fascinating is the perception, in 1932, that the novelty of stretching type to fill a line by means of letter-spacing was considered more objectionable than the status quo of “space spacing” with its resultant big gaps and rivers in the middle of text blocks, which this comparison, extracted from the above whole-page scan, demonstrates:
Another factor to consider is how copious kerning (and this began in the phototype era) has shifted the aesthetic towards smoothness of text; previously inter-character spacing was more irregular, which harmonized with the irregularity of word spacing. This change has affected the way side bearings are handled, too.
And that would not have been able to happen on a Monotype caster.