For centuries, punchcutters would develop their style within a narrow group of genres. There would be only one style of roman or italic, even if that style had been refined and focused over a span of years. The name only needed to pin down the remaining variable, the size. […]
In Bodoni’s epic Manuale Tipografico of 1818, over one hundred romans and italics are shown with the name of a city as a kind of nickname, though the real name was still a size and a number. Trieste is really Ascendonica (22 point) No. 9, Palermo is Sopracanoncino (28 point) No. 3, and so on.
Throughout the Industrial Revolution, a new market for advertising drove typefounders to expand their inventories. The established vocabulary soon proved inadequate — a predictable result, given novelty was such a conscious goal. Founders needed to coin new terms, to signal the unique aspect of a new design. But customers would need to understand this new jargon, so it behooved the founders to establish and maintain some equivalence in new terms. […]
By the middle of the nineteenth century, names for the more common designs had settled into a reliable syntax of base words and modifiers, with numbers appended as necessary. The result often seemed more like an ingredient list than a recognizable name. Just as “scrambled eggs and bacon” isn’t really the name of a dish, but a tally of the items involved, “Gothic Condensed No. 7” is a (hopefully unambiguous) report of attributes. […]
A concocted name, the next stage of evolution, appears in the same specimen with the design “Graphotype”. […]
There are, obviously, many more details at the link, which I encourage you to visit. (If you’d like to read it on a site with bells, whistles, and ads, here‘s the Slate version.) I found it via MetaFilter, and I can’t resist quoting the comment (from a 2012 thread) that supplied the title of that post:
> “I always thought Garamond sounded like a weapon name.”
In the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Trajan, my legions were attacked by the Calibri in the hills of Helvetica. The canny tribesmen made their assault before we could reach and lay siege to the city of Gentium, thereby rendering useless our trebuchets and high towers.
My couriers soon reported that the Calibri, as was their normal habit, had assembled a force of light cavalry, clad in copperplate gothic and armed with arials, while also bearing short onyx used for close-in fighting. They relied on speed and maneuverability in the rough terrain, using their arials to fire flaming caslons into our midst and then retreating.
A generation ago, this tactic would have wrought grievous damage. But by the grace of the gods, this was a more modern era, and I was able to deploy a force of heavy infantry, armored in stout verdana and armed with the new garamonds. No cavalry, however fleet, can stand long against a trained force armed with garamonds.
So this I say to the fools who have said that our armies have fewer meliors and sylfaens than they have at any time since the war with the Lucida Sans. We have no need of such toys now. Those are the weapons of the old Rome – a century old style.
And these are the Times New Roman.
posted by kyrademon at 2:33 PM on October 23, 2012