4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Honest historical reconstructions,
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This review is from: Counterpunch: Making Type in the 16th Century, Designing Typefaces Now (Paperback)This is an exceptional contribution to the history of printing. The book centers on the punch, that unique object that is eventually copied into the matrices, movable type, and printed results that are more familiar. Smeijers started by studying the literature, printing tools, and printed artifacts that are still available. That wasn't enough - he taught himself the craft of making (or "cutting") the punches, learning a lot from the tool and die machinists who preserve much of the skill that Smeijers needed. After his eye became trained to the marks of tool on steel, he realized that a whole craft existed and had nearly vanished without a trace. That was the skill of making the tools to make the tool, creation and use of the counter-punch.
Along the way, he fell in love with the metal that he shaped into punches. He became quite lyrical about it: "... you feel nothing but delight in this substance, with such a strong and fine substance, which we call steel." He even became jealous of the old-timers, who remember alloys of the past that yielded even more gracefully to the punchcutter's caress. I have to admit, I've worked metal (though not steel), and I know just how that passion developed.
There's more about the history of letterforms and the punchcutters that brought them to life, and about the pleasures there are in being an amateur historian. There's more, too, about current and future practice in type design. This brings us to the one point where I disagree with Smeijers, a statement that I just can't believe he made. He mentions letters on screens, objects that he lumps together as "anything that can carry information and which is able to refresh itself." Earlier, he gave lengthy descriptions of the difference between letterpress and laser printer results, in sharpness of edge and many other dimensions. All those same differences, and more, distinguish CRTs from plasma panels or LCDs, and all the different LCDs from wall displays to cell phones. Perhaps he has since learned to look at modern displays the same way he looks at the older media, or maybe another writer will need to make the distinctions.
The only real reason to criticize this book would come from incorrect expectations. It's not directly about how a modern typographer can use modern tools to get the daily jobs done. It's about the practices of times past - they do bear on today's work, but only in subtle and indirect ways.
Highly recommended for the serious typographer or historian of western technology.