Just wanted to ask about the concept of "rationalization" and the modern serif, as there's a few things unclear to me, and was wondering if you have any knowledge or resources on it.
To my understanding, "rationalization" refers to the evolution of type from being based on the written form, to becoming more "drawn"—designed as a shape that can have any form you damn well please, whether a broad-pen nib can produce it or not.
This concept is mostly referred to when talking about the journey of Roman type, but I think a similar thing happened from the first type of Gutenberg, which was cut to resemble the work coming out of local scriptoriums, to later styles of blackletter which clearly only used calligraphy as a reference, not a guide.
Anyway, I've heard this "rationalization" as an explanation for the slow transition of Jenson's type, through the Garaldes, Caslons and Baskervilles, to the modern serifs of Bodoni and Didot, slowly shedding unnecessary aspects along the way, until only a basic, stresless stem and bracketless hairline serif were left.
On the other hand, I've read about the latter typefaces being influenced by the likes of George Bickham and other calligraphers and engravers, and the introduction of the flexible pen nib. But while it's true that you could do a decent impression of a Didone with a flex nib, these nibs weren't invented until the 1820's, and took a few decades to get popular, whereas Bodoni and Didot were designing their fonts by the late 1700's. Bickham did his calligraphy with a very thin broad nib
paired with pen rotation to produce fine hairlines, so maybe writing and typography was already moving in a rationalist direction without the flex nib, and it was that cultural wave that inspired the making of flex nibs, not the other way around?
Whelp, these are the thoughts that have been going around in my head for a while without a satisfying answer. Every source I read either appoints the modern serif to rationalization, or to the flex nib/calligraphic trends, but never lays a connection between the two.