Taxonomy of type

“Of all the arts and crafts, none lives in the dirty tepid bathwater of the past than does typography”. It seems to be a part of human nature that whenever anything is produced, people immediately want to classify it, put it in a neat box and then feel unthreatened by the conquest of this new form. But typography is a moving target.

The field of typography seems to be particularly wrought with confusing terminology and contradictory titles, usually as a result of international differences in interpretation. Some terms are wonderfully consistent throughout changes in technology, such as leading (so named because of the measured strips of lead that would be inserted to separate lines of metal type) but others have become somewhat fuzzy around the edges. At the current curious and exciting time in typographic history, we may have to re-define our system of type classification – even the most basic terms of serif and sans serif. (By Stephen Banham.)

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