Sub-Standard Line

John Savard
John Savard Posts: 1,107
edited June 26 in History of Typography
One innovation of the major type foundries that came after the point system was adopted was ensuring that it was easy to mix different typefaces and yet keep their baselines aligned.
This wasn't as simple as using a common baseline for all type. In order that, for a given point size, characters could always be nearly as large as possible, to allow type to be set close together, and avoid wasting metal, three different baselines were typically used.
There was the standard line, for the typefaces typically in common use.
There was Art Line or Script Line, for typefaces with longer descenders, such as those modelled after Jensons and Aldines.
And there was a line for Titling fonts as well, which were made up of capital letters only for use in headings, which therefore allocated almost no space below the baseline.

It seems to me that this scheme leaves out one common category of typeface. Where would Roman No. 2, Ionic No. 5, Corona, Textype, Ideal, Regal, Paragon, or Exelsior fit in? Typefaces like these all have very small descenders, but not no descenders.
Since the Title Line allowed a little space below the baseline, could they fit in there?
Or was this simply a non-issue, since typefaces like these were used with Linotype or Intertype machines, not foundry type?

According to the 1939 Linotype Faces specimen book, though, Linotype used only two baselines, "high alignment" and "low alignment"... and those only for sizes of 18 points or above. Smaller type was made only to low alignment; so they didn't go for greater flexibility to accomodate this additional category of type.


  • Craig Eliason
    Craig Eliason Posts: 1,417
    As I understand it, the main advantage of standardizing the baselines was to allow differing fonts used in the same line to align well. But the Linotype system precluded that anyway.