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Title: Printing in Relation to Graphic Art
Author: French, George
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  The Imperial Press

  Printing in Relation
  to Graphic Art

  By George French


  The Imperial Press

  Copyright, 1903, by George French



  Prefatory Note                       vii

  Introduction                           1

  Art in Printing                       11

  Pictorial Composition                 23

  Type Composition                      31

  Proportion and the Format             41

  Color                                 51

  Tone                                  63

  Light and Shade                       71

  Values                                77

  Paper                                 83

  Style                                 93

  The Binding                          105

  Specifications                       115

Prefatory Note

It is not the purpose of this book to try to establish a claim for
printing that it is an art. It is hoped that it may show that the
principles of art may be applied to printing, and that such application
may lead to improvement in some essentials of printing.

Thanks are due to several experts in printing who have read the proofs,
and have given wise and acceptable counsel.

I desire to acknowledge that aid has been freely sought from books upon
art, and that in some instances forms of expression have been adopted
from them. No originality is claimed for the allusions to art, nor for
art terms and formulas employed.

  September, 1903.


Because it is difficult to perfectly transfer a thought from one mind
to another it is essential that the principal medium through which such
transference is accomplished may be as perfect as it is possible to
make it.

It is not wholly by means of the literal significance of certain forms
of words that ideas are given currency, whether the words are spoken or
printed. In speaking it is easy to convey an impression opposed to the
literal meaning of the words employed, by the tone, the expression, the
emphasis. It is so also with printed matter. The thought or idea to be
communicated acquires or loses force, directness, clearness, lucidity,
beauty, in proportion to the fitness of the typography employed as a

It is not primarily a question of beauty of form that is essential in
printing, but of the appropriateness of form. Beauty for itself alone
is, in printing, but an accessory quality, to be considered as an aid
to the force and clarity of the substance of the printed matter.

An object of art illustrating forms and expressions of beauty subtly
suggests esthetic or sensuous emotions, which play upon the differing
consciousnesses of beholders as their capacities and natures enable
them to appreciate it. The impulse received from the art object is
individually interpreted and appropriated, and its value to the
individual is determined by each recipient, in accord with his nature,
training, and capacity.

The motive of a piece of printing is driven into the consciousness of
the reader with brutal directness, and it is one of the offices of the
typographer to mitigate the severity of the message or to give an added
grace to its welcome.

The book has become such a force as had not been dreamed of a
generation ago. The magical increase in the circulation of books,
by sale and through libraries, is one of the modern marvels. It is
inevitable that the gentle and elevating influence of good literature
will be greater and broader in proportion to the increase of the
reading habit, for despite the great amount of triviality in literature
the proportion of good is larger than ever before, and the trivial has
not as large a proportion of absolute badness. The critical are prone
to underrate the influence of what they esteem trivial literature upon
the lives of the people who read little else. It is certain that there
is some good in it, and that it affects the lives of those who read it.
Even the most lawless of the bandits of the sanguinary novels has a
knightly strain in his character, and his high crimes and misdemeanors
are tempered with a certain imperative code of homely morality and
chivalry. The spectacular crimes are recognized by the majority of
readers as the stage setting for the tale--the tabasco sauce for the
literary pabulum. They are not considered to be essential traits of
admirable character. The cure for the distemper it is supposed to
excite resides in the sensational literature of the day; it is as
likely to lead to better things, it may be, as it is likely to deprave.

The cultivating power of any book is enhanced if it is itself an object
of art. If it is made in accord with the principles of art, as they are
applicable to printing and binding, it will have a certain refining
influence, independent of its literary tendency.

If we are to subscribe to the best definition of esthetics, we are
bound to recognize in the physical character of the books that are read
by masses of people a powerful element for artistic education, and one
lending itself to the educational propaganda with ready acquiescence
and inviting eagerness.

The business and the mechanics of printing have attained a high degree
of perfection. The attention bestowed upon the machinery of business,
the perfection of systems and methods, has brought commercial and
mechanical processes to a degree of perfection and finish that leaves
slight prospect of further improvement, more illuminating systems, or
more exact methods. The business of printing is conducted in a manner
undreamt of by the men who were most consequential a generation ago.
Only a few years have passed since the methods that now control in
the counting-rooms of the larger printshops were unknown. Now all is
system; knowledge, by the grace of formulas and figures.

A like condition prevails in the work rooms: in the composing-room and
the pressroom. The processes incident to printing have been improved,
in a mechanical way, until little is left for hope to feed upon. The
trade of the printer has been broken into specialized units. The "all
'round" printer is no more. In his place there is the hand compositor,
the "ad" compositor, the job compositor, the machine operator, the
make-up man, the pressman, the press feeder, etc., each a proficient
specialist but neither one a printer. To further mechanicalize the
working printers, the planning of the work has been largely taken into
the counting-room, or is done in detail at the foreman's desk. So
every influence has been at work to limit the versatility and kill the
originality of the man at the case. The compensatory reflection is the
probability that the assembly of results accomplished by expert units
may be a whole of a higher grade of excellence.

The process of specialized improvement has been carried through all
the mechanical departments, and has had its way with every machine
and implement, revolutionizing them and their manipulation also. The
time is ripe for a new motive of improvement and advance to become
operative. The mechanical evolution may well stay its course. It has
far outstripped the artistic and the intellectual motives. It is quite
time to return to them and bring them up to the point reached by the
mechanics of the craft, if it be found not possible to put them as far
in advance as their relative importance seems to demand.

It is not difficult to conclude that certain principles of art have
been influential in printing since the craft was inaugurated by
Gutenberg and Fust and their contemporaries, but it appears that the
relation between printing and the graphic arts has not yet been fully
and consciously acknowledged. Some of the older rules and principles of
printing are in perfect harmony with the principles and rules of art,
and undoubtedly had their origin in the same necessity for harmony that
lies in human nature and that was the seed of art principles.

Printing touches life upon so many of its facets, and is such a
constant constituent of it, that it requires no special plea to raise
it to the plane of one of the absolute forces of culture and one of
the most important elements of progress. This postulate admitted, and
the plea for the fuller recognition of the control of art principles
in printing needs to be pressed only to the point of full recognition,
and it requires no stretch of indulgent imagination to find printing
successfully asserting a claim to be recognized as an art. It is
manifest that printing is not an art in the sense that painting is
an art. Painting has no utilitarian side. It is, with it, art or
nothing. Printing is 99-100ths utilitarian. It is essentially a craft.
If there is a possibility latent in it of development of true art
through refinement and reform in its processes, and the application of
art principles, to the end that the possibility of the production of
occasional pieces that can demonstrate a claim to be art be admitted,
it is all that can be hoped. This is claiming for printing only that
which is conceded to the other crafts. There is no claim put forward
for silversmiths that their work is all artistic; the chief part of
it is very manifestly craftsmanship, yet examples that are true art
constantly appear. The same is true of wood carving, of repoussé work
in metals, and of many crafts. It may be true of printing, and will be
when printers themselves become qualified to view their craftsmanship
from the point of view of the artist, and feel for it that devotion
which is always the recognizable controlling motive of artists in other
graphic arts, and in those crafts that verge upon the graphic arts.

Art in Printing

There is this vital difference between other objects of art and
printing: That our association with them is purely voluntary, and that
printing forces itself upon us at all times and in every relation of
life. It is impossible for a person of intelligence to remove himself
from the influence of printing. It confronts him at every turn, and in
every relation of life it plays an important and insistent part.

Such examples of art as a painting or a piece of statuary exert a
certain influence upon a restricted number of persons; and it is at
all times optional with all persons whether they submit themselves to
the influence of such art objects. We are able to evade the influence
of other forms of art, but we are not able to ward off printing. To
it we must submit. It is constantly before our eyes; it is forever
exerting its power upon our consciousness. It is quite possible that
we may not at present be able to refer any quality of mind, or any
degree of cultivation, directly to printing, in any form it may have
been presented to us; but it is easily conceivable that printing has a
certain influence upon our esthetic life which has been so constant and
so habitual as to have escaped definite recognition.

If we engage our minds in some attempt to realize the quality and
extent of pleasure and profit derivable from the constant influence of
printing that conforms to artistic principles, we may perceive that
it may be a most powerful and effectual agency for culture. It is
understood that it is the gentle but constant influence that moulds
our habits and lives the more readily and lastingly. If therefore it
is possible for us to conceive that the printed page of a book may
illustrate and enforce several of the more elemental and important
principles underlying graphic art, we may thereby realize that printing
may readily be employed in the character of a very powerful art
educator, if because of certain inalienable limitations it must be
denied full recognition as a member of the sisterhood of arts.

The book page may be regarded as the protoplasm of all printing. If
we examine the relation of principles of art to the book page we will
be able to appreciate the exact importance of those principles in the
composition of any other form of printing, and to so apply them as to
secure results most nearly relating printing to graphic art.

It is the chief characteristic of this uncertain dogma of art in
printing that its limitations and variations defy the conventional
forms of expression, and almost require a new vocabulary of art terms.
It assuredly requires a new and a different comprehension of the terms
of art, and a distinctly varied comprehension of the word art itself.
It has ever been a stumbling block to printers that the word art as
applied to their craft must be given a more limited significance
than is given it in its usual acceptance. If we can come at some
intelligible appreciation of what we mean by art in printing the way
will be opened for the application of that motive to the work of the

If we recognize at once the fact that we do not mean exactly what a
painter means when we use the word art with reference to printing, we
will have taken the vital step toward a comprehensible employment of
the term, as well as qualified ourselves for an understanding of the
results we desire to achieve.

It is essential that we do not fall into the error of supposing
that scientific accuracy is art. It is destructive of art, and the
temptation to put too much stress upon exactitude is a mistake the
printer must guard himself from with the most sedulous care. It is
agreeable to recognize the touch of the artist, in printing as in other
arts, and scientific accuracy is certain to obliterate individuality.
It is not the cold, lifeless abstraction, the shining exemplar of all
the precepts and rules of art, that we love and desire, but the human
note speaking through the principles and rules. If the artist is not
the dominant note, and the rules submerged by the personality, there
is no value in the object of art. The picture is interesting because
the artist expresses through it his appreciation, his interpretation,
of a beautiful thought or a lovely thing. This is what puts the
most faithful photographs outside of the pale of art, and compels
the idealization of the performance of the camera before it can be
considered to be artistic. The photograph is not, usually, true to our
view of life. If it is indeed true to life it represents a view of
life that is quite strange to us, and often distasteful. We are not
familiar with the uncouth animal the photograph shows us the horse in
action to be, and we will not accept that caricature as the real horse.
The horse that is real to us is the animal we see with our eyes, and
the horse in art must be the animal we see plus the artist's logical
idealization. The facts are the same with regard to nearly all of the
work of the camera, and with regard to other attempts at scientific
accuracy in art. It is foreign to our experience, and does violence to
our ideals. We actually see no such automatons as photography shows us
men in action are, and we can never accept such disillusionment. If it
is attempted in the name of art we will turn upon art and throw it out
of our lives.

It is the irredeemable fault of some processes employed in printing
that they are too scientifically accurate. This is the legitimate
argument against the halftone plate as contrasted with the line
engraving or the reproductions of pen-and-ink work, etc. The halftone
is too accurate. It brings us face to face with the stark reality,
and brushes away all the kindly romance nature has made a necessary
adjunct to our powers of vision. Attempts to restore this quality to
halftones with the graver are only partially successful, as the defect
is too deep seated, too radically fundamental. Some other processes,
other than reproductive processes, employed in printing are exposed to
this danger of too much scientific accuracy, producing results that
have no warmth, no sympathy, no human power. Printing is peculiarly
the victim of this cold formality of sentiment, and must be considered
as upon that plane. But this fact makes the obligation to be alive to
every opportunity to mitigate its severity the more pressing upon
every printer who dreams of his work as of an art, and the closer the
sympathy between the printer and the culture of art the more warmth and
humanity he will be able to infuse into his work.

Some of the principles of art have a fundamental relation to printing,
while some have an influence upon it so illusive as to defy definition,
and compel us to look upon the connection as something no more
substantial than feeling. Indeed, the whole matter of the application
of art principles to printing may not unfairly be considered to be one
of feeling; involving the saturation of the printer with the rules and
tenets of art and the adding thereto of a fine discrimination tempered
by a resolute philistinism, and then the play of his cultivated
individuality upon the typography.

Principles and rules of art for the printer's guidance must be more
mobile than can be permitted for the guidance of the painter, the
draughtsman, the engraver, or the sculptor, because the medium for the
expression of the printer's conception is so nearly immobile. It is
the reverse of the general conception: The rule must adapt itself to
the medium and to the circumstances, at least so far as the measure
of its observance is concerned, if not in some emergencies where
its principle is also at stake. It is conceivable in printing that
emergencies may occur making it imperative to ignore the primary rules
of composition, of proportion, of balance, or of perspective; it may
be necessary to even do violence to principles relating to color or to
tone. Such emergencies must be exceedingly rare, but that we are forced
to regard them as possible emphasizes the subtle difference between art
and art in printing. There can be no good art if the principles of art
are violated in execution; there may be good printing if the principles
of art are occasionally modified or even ignored.

The motive of printing is not primarily an art motive. It is a
utilitarian motive. In printing therefore art is to be invoked for
guidance only so far as it will lend itself to the expression of the
motive. It is never, in printing, "art for art's sake"; it is ever art
for printing's sake. We do not print to illustrate art, nor to produce
objects of art. We print to spread intelligence--to make knowledge
available to all who will read. A painted picture, if of a high order
of art, is meant to appeal to a sentiment but slightly connected
with the "story" of the picture. The appreciative observer of a good
painting gives little thought to the "story," to the literary motive,
but is absorbed in seeking for the artistic motive, in order that he
may yield himself to the charm of the work of art; he seeks "art for
art's sake."

In printing it is the "story" that is told; it is the literary
motive that must be considered, first and most anxiously. Nothing
may interfere--not even art. The shaft of the "story" must go, swift
and true, straight into the comprehension of the reader. This is the
constant anxiety of the printer. The literary motive must not be
encumbered. It must be freed from the mechanics of the printed page
absolutely. This is the printer's problem. He must not seek to attract
to his mechanics. It is the essence of his art that he liberate ideas
and send them forth with no ruffled pinions, no evident signs of the
pent-house page from which they wing their way.

The printer's work and the painter's art exactly reverse their
processes, as their motives are opposed; but they must both work
with the same tools, measurably. Everything with the painter is
plastic, except his art. Everything is immobile with the printer,
except his art; and of that he hopes to employ only so much as will
gild the prosaic commercialism of the motive he must express. The
chief principles and tenets of art are all applicable to the craft of
printing, in some degree. Drawing, composition, harmony, balance,
proportion, perspective, color, tone, light-and-shade, values, etc.,
are qualities of graphic art that apply to printing with varying
force, according to the exigencies of each particular case in hand,
and particularly according to the comprehension and cultivation of
the printer. It is always possible to explain the beauty and power of
any piece of printing by reference to the same principles that are
responsible for the excellencies of other works of graphic art. It is
therefore logical to assume that those principles which explain the
excellencies of printing are responsible for them.

It is evident that the value of these art qualities in printing must
depend upon the care and intelligence exercised in their application.
They are refinements upon the usual and primary practices of printing,
and unless they can be employed with full sympathy and knowledge, as
well as with the artistic spirit and comprehension, they will appeal to
the printer in vain.

The question with the printer is: Is it worth while to give my work all
the beauty and distinction and power possible? If it is decided that it
is profitable to execute work as worthily as it is possible to execute
it, the printer will not be satisfied if he does not devote himself to
a study of this phase of his craft, and a study of sufficient breadth
and thoroughness to give him a reliable basis of knowledge and the
resultant self-confidence. Having proceeded thus far he will not fail
to apply all these art tenets to the full extent of his knowledge and
their adaptability.

Pictorial Composition

While too much science is often deadly to art, the true basis of
pictorial composition is rigidly scientific, and all of the principles
governing it are of use and importance to the printer, especially in
planning displayed work and in title pages.

Composition is that quality which gives a picture coherence, "the
mortar of the wall." It was not esteemed of importance by the old
masters, and many of their works do not show that they knew or cared
for that which distinguishes a picture from a map, a group photograph,
or a scientific diagram. It is the absence of composition, balance,
unity, that makes ordinary photographs something other than true works
of art. It is not primarily truth of representation that is necessary
in a work of art, but truth of idealization; and that quality is
beyond the conscious reach of the camera's lens. It is a redeeming and
a justifying element added by the imagination of the artist. There
may be a picture, by a photographer or by a painter, having all the
requisite component parts to make it a work of art; there may be, for
example, a woman, an axe, a road, a mountain, trees; but these thrown
together upon a canvas do not make a work of art unless they are
properly composed, even if they are arranged in an order satisfying to
the realist, and each faultlessly executed. It is not the same thing to
paint and to make pictures; to print and to execute artistic printing.

The application of the rules of composition to pieces of printing made
up in a whole or in part of "display" types is obviously essential
to their beauty. It is the touch of beauty given to science that
produces art. In printing the matter of securing balance and unity is
at once more simple and more difficult than in painting. The component
parts to be dealt with are more rigid and restricted, but are purely
conventional and precise. The painter's conception is given balance
and unity through the original drawing and color-scheme corrected and
perfected by constant scrutiny and by tests and continual alterations.
The printed piece must be balanced by a wise choice and skilful
arrangement of the types, and a careful distribution of white space and
black ink, or color. The actual center of a canvas is the center of
attraction in a picture perfectly balanced. This does not mean that an
equal amount of paint must be spread upon every quarter of the canvas,
nor that objects of equal visual importance in themselves must be
equally distributed over it. A tiny dot of distinctive paint, placed a
certain distance from the center of the canvas, may perfectly balance
an object ten times its size which is placed relatively nearer the
center. Balance in printing must not be understood to mean that there
must be an equal distribution of weight over all quarters of the piece,
but that there must be a compensatory distribution of weight.

In his lucid and interesting book upon "Pictorial Composition" Mr. H.
R. Poore gives a series of "postulates" which embody his ideas upon the
subject, and are expressed in terms intelligible to the non-artistic
as well as to those whose familiarity with art enables them to grasp
more technical phrases. To the printer it is only necessary to suggest
that he interpret "units" as meaning features in his work and he will
be able to appreciate that these art rules may not infrequently stand
him in good stead, especially when he is perplexed with some piece of
work that he is having difficulty in making "look right." Those of Mr.
Poore's "postulates" that appear to apply easily to printing, and may
be more profitably studied and heeded by printers and others interested
in typography, are here given:

      All pictures are a collection of units.

      Every unit has a given value.

      The value of a unit depends on its attraction; of its character,
      of its size, of its placement.

      A unit near the edge has more attraction than at the center.

      Every part of the picture space has some attraction.

      Space having no detail may possess attraction by gradation and by

      A unit of attraction in an otherwise empty space has more weight
      through isolation than the same when placed with other units.

      A unit in the foreground has less weight than one in the distance.

      Two or more associated units may be reckoned as one and their
      united center is the point on which they balance with others.

In the application of the rules of composition to graphic art it is
possible to minutely subdivide the topic and refer to specific examples
and explicit rules for practice. The selection of the particular kind
of balance to be sought depends upon the placement of the important
item or subject, which is in itself chiefly important in the scheme of
balance as giving the keynote, furnishing the starting point. There is
the balance of equal measures, which is a picture or piece of printing
which may be cut into four equal parts, by horizontal and vertical
lines drawn through its center, with each part showing equal weight;
the balance of isolated measures, where the chief item is placed away
from the center and has one or more isolated spots to compensate,
skilfully placed; the horizontal balance; the vertical balance; the
formal balance; the balance by opposition of light and dark measures;
balance by gradation; balance of isolation, and other varieties of
balance more technical and more especially adapted to the painter's
uses. Each of these variants of the basic rules of composition may be
of special value to the printer, if he studies the subject sufficiently
to gain a clear comprehension of how each applies in printing.

This is one of the art subjects that the practical printer may deem of
too slight consequence to merit his careful attention. But if it is
desired to produce printing of power--power to pleasurably attract the
eye of those persons who possess either an instinctive or a cultivated
taste for art--it is essential that the work adhere closely to the
rules governing pictorial composition. The eye is a relentless judge.
Here, as in all printing, the esthetic motive is identical with the
business consideration. There is a double motive for the best printing,
the esthetic and the business motive, and it is impossible to separate
them, or consider either apart from the other. It is unnecessary to
attempt to evade the force and meaning of the new appreciation of the
basis of good printing, as it leads so surely to financial as well as
esthetic betterment, and should be congenial to the tastes of every
printer who has advanced in his craft beyond the standards of the

Type Composition

The composition of type is the first task an apprentice is required to
undertake when he goes to "learn the trade," and his ideas regarding
its importance rarely rise above the level of the drudgery of his early
days at the case. But little of the effort to improve the quality
of printing has as yet extended back to this primary proceeding,
the setting of the type, yet in this fundamental operation lies the
possibility for very great improvement and distinction, and for
lamentable failure.

Progress in typography has been slower, and it has reached a less
advanced position, than have other branches of the printing craft.
Presswork for example has become so nearly perfect as to leave
little room for the exercise of the critic's art; and the choice and
manipulation of paper leaves little hope for radical advance. Type is
set as it was set one, two, three generations ago, for the most part. A
few printers have given this subject special study, and are executing
book pages that are the wonder and despair of the craft. Their
distinction has been rather easily won. It is quite possible to detect
the source of it, and not difficult to draw the same results from the
same fount.

It has become a habit to accept the composed page of type as the
foundation upon which to erect a fine piece of printing. The real
foundation lies somewhat further back. There can scarcely be
distinction in a printed piece unless its source is in the successive
steps of progress that antedate the composition of the type. The final
artistic result must be clearly conceived in the mind of the printer
before he drops one type into the stick. His scheme must be fully
developed, and it must be consistent in all its details.

The type for a piece of printing should be selected to give adequate
expression to the literary motive, to properly emphasize the subject
matter, with the view to the production of a handsome and worthy piece
of printing. To secure this latter quality in printing is the primary
object of the typesetter, and therein lies the proof of his skill
and of his taste. Whether the type selected is the best possible for
a given piece of work may be a debatable question, but however it
succeeds or fails in this particular, the printer may manipulate it
in such a manner as will result in a consistent and artistic example
of typography. He may use the sizes which should be in conjunction;
he may avoid the common anachronism of lower-case and capital-letter
lines in the same piece; he may place his white space so that it will
not only be agreeably proportioned to the black or other color of the
print but so that it will be as important an element of strength as the
ink-covered surface; he may adjust the margins.

These points are all vital, but none of them more so than the use
of lower-case and capital-letter lines in conjunction. The capital
letters of the ordinary font of type do not lend themselves gracefully
to the making of complete words. They are not designed for such work.
The lower-case letters are designed to stand together, but it is
impossible to combine many capital letters without making noticeable
gaps and breaks and some awkward connections. But the objection to
capital-letter lines in conjunction with lower-case lines does not
rest chiefly upon this point. There are fonts of type from which
capital-letter lines scarcely subject to the criticism suggested
may be set. The objection is not urged against capital-letter lines
in a prohibitive sense, but because their intrusion in a company of
lower-case lines destroys harmony. A like deplorable effect is produced
by the use of inharmonious series of type for the same piece of
typography. The war of styles of type is as destructive to artistic
effect as the poorest execution can be. In the old days the apprentice
was taught to alternate lower-case and capital-letter lines in job
printing, and avoid using two lines of the same series in conjunction.

No one of the small refinements which are now being applied to
composition has worked so radical an improvement as the newer ideas
relative to spacing, and the perception that the spacing between words,
the leading between lines, and the degree of blackness of the face of
the letter, must have a balanced relation. This has operated to abolish
the conventional em quadrat after the period, and to produce a page of
type-matter which lends itself readily to securing tone and optical

The activity and the fecundity of the type founders in producing
new type faces has operated, in the first instance, to furnish new
excuse for discord. Then a reaction began, and the liberality of the
founders in making complete lines and elaborate series of type faces is
suggesting uniformity in scheme and supplying material for consistent
execution. The elaborate specimen books are scarcely a temptation to
restraint however, nor do they tempt to classicism. Too much type at
the hand of the printer is a positive detriment. Until quite recently
a very large proportion of the new faces had no warrant for existence.
They were abortions, based upon the fantastic ideas of designers who
exhibited little knowledge of art or of history. The more recent
product of the foundries is much more creditable, and it appears that
the designing of type has been taken in hand by artists of capacity,
who are actuated by motives worthy of their ambitions and guided by
historical research that is true in aim if not always profound.

The typographic tendency is distinctly toward better things. It lags,
however. It is not on the level of the other processes of printing. We
are yet compelled to admit that presswork is far ahead of composition
in development, as is the facility for compounding and handling inks
and the selection and the manipulation of paper.

In this vitally fundamental matter we have made little real progress.
The disciples of better things are not honored with a following. They
are regarded with mild interest by a few of the more progressive ones,
with distinct disapproval by the many conservatives, and with utter
indifference by the mass. Yet they will win. That there is impending
a considerable reform in the composition of type is certain, and
the reform will consist in the general adoption of the refinements
now practiced by a few: In a closer study of the matter of spacing
and leading, with a view to bringing the tone of the page up to near
the artistic requirements; in a better balance between body type and
chapter and page headings; in a better, more consistent and uniform
management of the folio; in order that those features may be actually
the guiding and subsidiary features in typography that they assuredly
are in the literary scheme of the book.

The time is coming when a book page will be planned to harmonize with
and express the literary motive; to promote ease and pleasure in
reading; and to satisfy the innate sense of artistic harmony which is
felt and appreciated by the cultivated reader, even if, as must often
be the fact, he is quite unconscious of the existence of such a demand.

It is upon a basis somewhat like this that books should be planned:
Make one page that meets the requirements of art and of the literary
motive, and base the book upon it. Such is not the general custom.
It is more the fashion to fix the size of the book and accommodate
the page to the arbitrary scheme, forcing the type and the format to
adequate proportions. There are books that are artistically ruined by
the use of type of an inharmonious face, or that may be one size too
small or too large; there are many books that are, typographically,
abortions, because of neglect to conform to certain very simple tenets
of art, when they might as easily have been exemplars of artistic
motives and a comfort and delight to each cultivated reader.

It is doubtless because these neglected essentials are so simple and
so easily incorporated that it is so difficult to obtain recognition
and currency for them. But we may rejoice that books are beginning
to receive some of this kind of attention, even in the big printing
factories, where books are made very much as barrels of flour are
turned out of the great northwestern mills, or as bags of grain are
discharged from the modern reapers marching in clattering procession
over the horizon-wide wheat townships.

Proportion and the Format

It is a delicate and essential matter to fix upon the length of the
type page, and a difficult question to fix the margins. There is a
mass of literature bearing upon these matters, but they cannot in
every case be decided according to arbitrary rules. It is usually
safe to be guided by the usual rules in proportioning a page of type,
and in placing the page upon the paper. A thorough understanding of
the principles of art as they may be applied to printing will suggest
occasional infractions of mechanical rules in the interests of good
art. Exactly what is to be the procedure in every instance cannot be
formulated into rules, but it is always possible to explain justifiable
infractions of rules by reference to principles of art. When it is
found impossible to thus justify departures from rule, precedent or
convention, it is evident that art would have gained if the rules had
been adhered to.

The treatment of the format of a book has become somewhat of a moot
question, though it is evident that the advocates of the strictly
conventional method are gradually drawing practical printers into
agreement with them, and that their opponents rely upon the spirit of
philistinism for their chief justification, confining their arguments
largely to contradiction unfortified by either logic or precedent.
Philistinism is not entirely evil, but the present is not a time
of such slavish conformity as to clothe it with the appearance of
a virtue. Protest is the instinctive spirit of today. In printing
there is too much of it. We need more conformity, if conformity be
interpreted not to mean blind adherence to precedent but a large and
active faith in the saving virtue of demonstrable principles.

Proportion, balance, in a limited sense composition as understood in
art, and optics must be considered in adjusting the format of a book.
The size and shape of the book must determine the exact dimensions
of the page and the margins. The leaf of the ordinary book which is
generally approved is fifty per cent longer than it is wide. This
proportion is often varied, and for different reasons, but it may be
accepted as a standard.

The margins of a correctly printed book are not equal. The back margin
is the narrowest, the top a little wider than the back, the front
still wider, and the bottom, or tail margin, the widest of all. Why
this scheme for margins has grown to be authoritative, and adopted by
good bookmakers, is not entirely clear. Nearly all the literature upon
the subject is devoted to attempts to justify the custom instead of
explaining its origin. The best justification that can now be offered
is the evident fact that the custom is agreeable to publishers, to
authors, and to discriminating readers.

It is often alleged that there is some law of optics that is in
agreement with the custom, but it might be difficult to establish such
a claim though it is not necessary to attempt to refute it. We are
accustomed to this arrangement of the margins in the best books, and
that to which we have become accustomed requires no defense, scarcely
an explanation. It is certain that the format of a book appeals to us
as right only where this arrangement of unequal margins is strictly
observed. It is easy to imagine that our eyes rest more contentedly
upon the pair of pages before them when those pages incline toward the
top of the leaves and toward each other. The eye of the bookish person
is undeniably better satisfied if the margins are proportioned as
specified. There may be grounds for doubting the claim that the reasons
for such satisfaction are optical; there are some plausible arguments
to support such a contention. It is a question for oculists.

The other reasons for the evolution of the book format into its present
form are logical. If they do not lead to the conclusion that art has
been served and justified in full they assuredly do not lead to a
contrary conclusion. The early paper makers produced a sheet that was
uneven in shape and variable in size, and the pressman was compelled to
make large allowance on the front and tail margins. The back and top
margins could be reckoned, as when the sheet was folded by the print
they would be uniform. The front and tail margins were made wide enough
to allow for the unevenness of the paper and for the trim. It was
inevitable that the allowance should be too great, and that to preserve
the proper form and proportion for the book the front and tail margins
should occasionally be left wider than the back and head margins. This,
it may be imagined, did much to fix the present custom. The ancient
handmade papers were thicker on the fore edge of the sheet than in the
center, and as the bookbinder could not beat the edges flat they had to
be trimmed off.

In the old days books were taken more seriously than they now are, and
studious readers desired to annotate their copies of favorite books.
The front and tail margins were used for this purpose, and they were
therefore given their larger proportion of the sheet. In the fifteenth
century this motive for wide margins was recognized by all printers,
and many of them went so far as to provide printed annotations for all
four of the margins.

There were other motives for fixing the margins as we have them.
Whether the optical and the artistic motives, purely as such, may
explain the modern format more logically than the historical motives
do, may be debatable. The question is not vitally important. We wish to
see the format of our books made as the best practice makes it, whether
our taste is inherited as a habit or is acquired through our artistic

Accepting therefore the dictum as it stands, without pressing an
inquiry as to its authority or its legitimacy, it remains something
of a problem to fix the margins and place the page of a book. When
all suggestions and rules are considered it will be found that it
is not often that the ordinary book page will submit gracefully to
variation of the rule that the length be determined by cutting the
page into two triangles, the hypotenuse of either of which shall be
twice the width of the page. The page-heading should be included in
this measurement, but if the folio is placed at the foot, either in
bare figures or enclosed within brackets, it need not be included.
This formula must often be disregarded, especially when the book is
not to be proportioned in conventional dimensions. No other form is as
satisfactory however, and it is quite within the bounds of the practice
of the better bookmakers to consider it as the approved conventional
page. Whenever it is varied the guide must be a general sense of
appropriateness, having consideration for all the other varied elements.

There are other rules. One that was much in vogue at one time, and is
esteemed now by some good printers, makes the type page one-half more
in length than its width. This rule is restricted in its application.
It will not do for a quarto page, nor for a broad octavo. Another rule
provides that the sum of the square inches on the back and top margins
shall be one-half the sum of the square inches on the front and tail
margins. This is difficult to apply in practice, for obvious reasons,
except as a test to determine the correctness of margins already fixed.

The margins must be adjusted with the intent to make the two pages
lying exposed to view properly harmonize with the book leaf, and adjust
themselves to the tyrannical optical demands of the eyes of the
reader. This requires a very strict and careful adherence to rules well
understood by good printers, as well as a courageous disregard of those
rules when the exigencies of the case demand it. There are many other
things to consider. The general character and purpose of the book must
be taken into account, the size of type, and whether it is to be leaded
or set solid, the quality and weight of paper, etc. A bible, guide
book, or directory, need not have wide margins, nor a book printed on
small type and thin paper; and a book the type for which is not leaded
should be given less margin than is allowed for a page of leaded type.
While the same general scheme for margins is applicable to nearly all
good books, of whatever shape and size, when the contents and object do
not dominate the physical character, it is obvious that the dimensions
cannot in all cases be fixed according to the same formulas. A quarto
page must have wider margins than an octavo, but they must bear a like
relative proportion to each other. A quarto page must be proportioned
differently than an octavo; it must be shorter by about one-seventh.

The width of the margins must in some degree depend upon the amount
of white in the page of type, upon the tone of the type page. This
involves the character of the type face quite as much as the spacing
and leading given it, as some type faces have such light lines as to
give the page a very light tone, even when the type is set solid and
the spacing is close, other types have such heavy lines as to demand
wide spacing, leading, and wide margins, to bring the tone down to a
proper degree of grayness.

Consideration of all these questions affecting the format, and
especially the margins, of a proposed book lead to the conclusion
that it is good practice to select the paper as the first step in the
planning of a book that is intended to be made upon artistic lines, and
upon this foundation to build the typography and the binding, according
to the rules of harmony and of proportion.


In art, color is not essential to some forms and processes, as
engraving, etching, charcoal work, and the various forms of crayon
work; and in printing, it is absent from the large percentage of work
done in black and white.

This limitation of the application of the word "color" in printing is
quite arbitrary. If we speak in the strictest sense we must consider
that black and white work is color work. White is the concentration of
all the rays of the solar spectrum, the epitome of all colors; while
black is the appearance of the substance that most nearly rejects all
reflections of the spectrum colors; and black and white are as truly
colors as are red, violet, vermilion, or any of the other brilliant
tints. Yet as it is usual to allude to black and white as some other
qualities than color, and as they affect us so differently, it is
deemed to be more convenient to consider them in relation to light and
shade, tone, and values, and to confine the meaning of "color" to the
tints shown by the spectrum. This is not an insignificant distinction
when employed in relation to printing, as much of the beauty and
power of the plainly printed book page is due to the apportionment
of black and white--black type and white paper. So when we speak of
color in printing it must be understood that the word is not used in
its broadest, nor in its most exact, sense; but in an arbitrarily
restricted sense, applying exactly as it is applied by printers in
actual practice.

The printer's understanding of color, his appreciation of its
usefulness and power, is approaching toward the high esteem in which
it is held by the painter. He is coming to know that it is a high
quality of his work, and that by it he is able to suggest several other
qualities that are vital, such as lights, shadows, perspectives, etc.

There are no explicit rules for the guidance of the printer in the use
of color. There are certain fundamental principles, and many rules
deduced from them, a thorough acquaintance with which will enable
him to avoid serious blunders and greatly aid him in the working out
of a scheme; but that sense of rightness which the successful artist
or craftsman occasionally experiences, cannot be won by the mere
following of the letter and the spirit of rules. How true this is
becomes apparent when the work of the best printers is examined with
intelligent care, and it seems absolute when the meager list of great
painter colorists is reviewed: Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Paul
Veronese, Rubens, Velasquez, Delacroix, and a few with less claim to
the title. All that is known about color has been absorbed by hundreds
of artists; yet out of a great army of successful students there have
come so few good colorists that their names can be spoken in ten

To effectively deal with color a fair understanding of what science is
able to tell of its essential properties and powers is necessary as a
basis. To this may be added such of the deductions and rules as have
been formulated by the great painters and the students.

The important starting point is this: To realize that color is not
a material existence, not a substance, not a fixed fact equally
appreciable by all and equally demonstrable to all. It is a sensation;
and a sensation not of the same force or quality for different
individuals. Of itself it depends upon the waves of the ether in
space; for us it depends upon the power and truth of our eyes. One may
truthfully see a color that is quite another thing to another person,
if there should chance to be a difference radical enough or defects
serious enough in the eyes of either. The laws governing light are
of great importance to the colorists. There are subtleties that have
important practical application which cannot be guessed otherwise than
by direct reference to science. In no other way can a printer know for
example what colors are complementary or what effect a certain color
will have upon another when they are used together.

There are many curious facts about color which do not appear to be
regulated by laws at all similar to those we are accustomed to apply
in other matters; that there is this universal and radical difference
is of great importance to those who use color in printing. It is
interesting to realize that color is produced by light waves, the
different colors by waves of different lengths, or greater frequency;
that red appears to the eye when the light wave is 1/39000 of an inch
in length, or when the frequency of the vibration is 392 quadrillions
per second, by the American system of enumeration. It may be also of
practical money value to the printer to know such facts, and to always
be conscious of a fact more likely to be of practical use, namely, that
the sensation of color is produced upon our sensory nerves in a manner
closely analogous to that which produces the sensation of harmony: by
ether waves set in motion in a different way. These sensory nerves
are the most easily entered avenues to our pleasurable sensations;
far more delicate and responsive than the different brain organs to
the more obvious consciousnesses, as personal regard and literary
appreciation, etc.

The printer handling color is making an appeal of the most subtle and
delicate nature, vastly more so than is made by the type matter that
may form the body of the piece of printing he is embellishing with

There are three primary colors--red, yellow, and blue--and three
composite colors, which can be formed by mixings of primary
colors--green, orange, and violet. It is of importance to the
printer to know which of these colors are complementary and which
uncomplementary. Complementary colors are those that may be used in
close conjunction without one unfavorably affecting the other. This
is the secret of complementary, or harmonious, colors: Will they
make white if mixed? This means a natural and perfect union of the
light rays reflected from the color scheme upon the eye's retina,
and so passed along to the sensory nerves--the telegraph line from
the physical world to the appreciative brain. It appears that those
complementary color schemes which can be perfectly justified are
such as reflect light rays nearest like the rays that show us white.
Red and green, the two most pronounced and vigorous colors, are
complementary. When mixed in the proper proportions they produce white,
but this does not mean that they weaken each other when otherwise used;
when placed side by side they enhance each other's power and brilliancy
by reflection. Their very intimate relation is further shown by the
fact that red, by itself, is bordered by a faint halo of green, and
green by a tinge of red. Yellow and indigo also make white by mixing,
and easily reveal traces of each other when properly manipulated. This
interchange between complementary colors is carried still further: The
shadow of a color does not show the color itself, but the complementary
color to which it is most nearly related.

There is a curious law of optical mixture to deal with--that tendency
of the eye to unify the color scheme which changes colors when used
in combination upon a piece of printing or upon a canvas. This
sometimes so changes the expected effect of a color scheme that has
been carefully studied as to render it inadvisable to use it. It is
generally found that optical mixture verifies the taste and judgment
of the colorist who has been faithful to the complementary color laws,
and helps him to a harmony, rather than condemns his work. Optical
mixture is too nearly a mere name for a manifestation of the relation
of complementary colors to trouble the printer, though a consciousness
of it and its effect may at times aid him in producing some delicate

The reasons for desiring reliable knowledge of these qualities of
colors are clear. Brilliancy is obtained by using complementary colors
side by side, because each gives to the other its favorable halo of
color; and dulness of coloring follows the use of uncomplementary
colors side by side because each partially kills the other with its
unfavorable halo of color.

Careful observance of this law of colors will not give perfect harmony
to the color scheme, but it will give one of the more important
elements of harmony. But there is an important exception to be noted.
The law of contrast claims attention, though it cannot produce harmony.
Strong effects may be obtained by ignoring these rules relative to
harmony, or by boldly employing pronounced discords and seeking to
so mitigate the discord as to tempt the attention to divide itself
between the contrasting colors. Red and blue in the national flag are
so tempered with pure white as to subdue their fierce antagonism.
And so it may be with other examples--there must be either some
overpowering sentiment or some skilful expedient, like breaking the
main colors into lower tints, to ease the transit from one to the
other. A good piece of color work need not be composed of different
colors. It may be composed of different shades of the same color, or
of tints very nearly related. This requires a good workable knowledge
of perspective and of that rather elusive and indefinite quality known
in painting as "values"; which chiefly means that each tint employed
in a piece of work shall be placed as it would appear in nature and
shall properly harmonize with every shade or color in the piece. Such
a composition as this is difficult for a letter-press printer, less so
for a lithographer, with exactly the kind of delicate manœuvering that
delights some painters. It involves such fine discriminations as are
necessary to show the difference between a white handkerchief and white
snow, between a gray house and a gray sky, between a green tree and a
green mountain, between a carnation pink and a pink muslin gown.

It is well to appreciate the difference between color and colors,
and to recognize the fact that good color does not necessarily alone
mean the degree of brightness or contrast, but is oftener found in
accordance, mellowness and richness. Color does not always mean bright
color. There is beginning to be seen some low keyed color work, simple
in color composition. It is a good sign. It is only the masters who
are able to successfully cope with the high keyed compositions, and the
masters are, as they ever were, scarce.

The wise choose, when there is a choice, such harmonies as may be
indicated by mahogany wood and Cordova leather; Indian red instead
of brick red, peacock blue instead of sky blue, olive green instead
of grass green; golden browns, garnet reds, Egyptian yellows, deep
tones of brown, green, and orange. These colors are not gay, flippant
nor flimsy; they are dignified and good style; they have a quality of
beauty inherent in them--a depth; and they may be in keeping with a
motive in the printed piece that means something other and better than
a shock to the color sense.


No quality of printing is of more general importance than tone. It
has great weight as a purely artistic attribute, and it has a great
physiological value. If the tone of a page of print is not right--if
it does not conform very closely to the standard set up by the rules
of art--it will not be "easy" reading, and will severely try eyes that
are not absolutely normal and perfectly strong. Here as elsewhere, and
as is the unvarying rule, the art standard is the standard required by
hygiene and common sense.

It is of the greatest importance that a printed page shall be toned,
with respect to the proportion of visible white paper and black type,
in strict accord with the requirements of art, which are identical with
the rules that guard healthy eyesight.

Tone in painting has a radically different meaning in America from
the meaning attached to the term in England and in France, and it
appears to be less important. The American meaning of the word tone
as an element in painting is that it refers to the dominant color of
a picture; that is, as one would note that the prevailing color of
a certain picture is red, of another yellow, of another blue. This
makes of tone a mere descriptive adjective of small value as an aid to
a critical estimate or as a guide in creation. To the printer, this
meaning of the term would bar it out of his curriculum. The English
understanding of tone is quite different, and it appears more worthy
of acceptance. It is, at all events, the meaning that must be accepted
by printers if they are to derive any benefit from a study of tone
as a possible aid in their craft. The English consider tone to be
"the proper diffusion of light as it affects the intensities of the
different objects in the picture; and the right relation of objects
or colors in shadow to the parts of them not in shadow and to the
principal light."

It is easier, and may be clearer, to think of tone in a piece of type
composition, or in a black-and-white engraving prepared for printing,
somewhat as we think of tone in music. And we find upon getting further
into the subject that it is expedient to take advantage of the extreme
comity at present existing between England and America and let the two
meanings of tone merge into a more general one for the benefit and
use of the printer in practice. The painter's estimate of the tone
of a painting may be understood by applying a test cited by a writer
upon art: "If the canvas were placed upon a revolving pin and whirled
rapidly around, the coloring would blend into a uniform tint." The
color tone of a painting must then be the dominant color, modified by
the subordinate colors. If the color tone be yellow for example, as
it is in some of the good work of Dutch artists, there must be enough
yellow so that it will be a yellow blur if the piece is spun rapidly

In black-and-white printing tone must mean depth of color, and
diffusion of color, and the tone can scarcely be otherwise than
some shade of gray. If it is advantageous to strive for a certain
harmony between literary motive and type motive an appreciation of
the technical meaning of tone and the utilization of the unique test
suggested may be of great assistance to the printer of black-and-white

The printer has to consider the tone of his piece in a different light
than the painter. The latter has only his canvas to take account of,
and he works his canvas to its edge. The printer has his page of type
and his margins. This blends the question of tone in a very practical
way with questions bearing upon the format--with the question of
proportion for example, and with the important question of the balance
of the margins; and while the determination of the tone of the type
page itself, irrespective of the margins, involves one weighty question
in optics, the placing of the type page upon the leaf involves another,
quite different in nature but none the less important from an artistic
point of view.

It is easily perceived that the element of tone is of considerable
importance in what is erroneously called "plain" composition, the
black-and-white book page. In color printing it is apparent that the
knowledge of tone is of more practical importance, as colored printed
pieces should show a decided preponderance of that tone which best
illustrates or translates the idea that the piece is conceived for
the purpose of expressing. It may be important that a certain piece
emphatically presents to the eye a certain shade of red. It must be
just enough given over to the red to produce the effect required--no
more, no less. There must be red everywhere, but not too much. The
simple test will show the printer whether he is overloading his
piece with the dominant color or whether he has not yet used enough.
The color scheme must be keyed to the required pitch of color, as a
piece of music written in a certain key must be kept free from notes
belonging to another key. But not absolutely free, of necessity; short
notes of another key, and very few of them, may be introduced. So a
touch of a radically different color may be thrust into a composition
without ruining it, as a bit of brick red or small patch of blue in a
monotone, or a little green or yellow in a red composition, but not
enough to show plainly when we apply the whirling test.

This more obvious meaning of the term tone seems to be applicable to
printing, at least to the extent of informing and modifying the mind of
the printer. The more important significance of the term in painting
means but little to the printer, as it deals in modifications and
gradations in color not practicable in typography, and applying, so far
as printing in general is concerned, to engravings.

Light and Shade

Light and shade means nearly the same as the English idea of tone,
to the printer, as it has to do with the distribution of light and
shadow in such a manner as will best illustrate the motive of the
painter. This important element in graphic art has its value for the
printer. It is only necessary to note the part played by light and
shade--"light-tone"--in any work of art to conceive how important is
its office in good printing, particularly in the printing of the modern
process engravings. Some of the older Japanese and Chinese paintings
are nearly devoid of light and shade, and are therefore given that
appearance of flatness and false perspective which is their distinctive
characteristic. Egyptian and Assyrian wall painting, and many Italian
paintings of the medieval period, lack this quality, and they sharply
emphasize its importance in graphic art. In nature it is more important
than in art. We can recognize no form except by the aid of light and
shade, neither a grain of sand nor a mountain, nor any other physical
thing. It is probable that every piece of good printing owes some of
its excellence to this element of light and shade; and as directly to
tone. Light and shade has reference to the proper proportion of light
to shadow, and of shadow to light; not to the proper proportion of
light to shade in a composition. That is tone. Is there light enough
to supplement the shadow, and thus bring the object illustrated into
such reasonable harmony with nature as to warrant us in accepting it
as a faithful picture of nature? Does the composition, in other words,
appear natural to an untrained vision?

It is the persistent study of this question of light and shade which
has rescued the halftone engraving from the pit of oblivion into
which it seemed destined to fall during its early days, and placed
it in the forefront of illustrative processes. Probably the halftone
of today, which in competent hands is a superb and exact recorder of
nature, is not strikingly better in any other detail than it was in its
early days except the one quality of light and shade. This variety of
illustration was as flat and as expressionless as a Chinese painting
until artist, engraver, and printer conspired to give it expression
and verisimilitude by working up its capacity to bring light and shade
fully and broadly to its task. There can be no rule that will apply
to this employment of light and shade. Rules there are, but they
apply with truth only to one experience--that which prompted their
formulation. The eye of the printer is the guide. This is the reason
why he should study this question, and others of similar artistic
value, from the point of view of the artist, not from the viewpoint of
the printer.


The quality in a painting which is known as "values" may quite easily
be regarded by the printer as signifying to him the same as tone.
Careful study will show him that there is a difference, and also
that value is a vital element in his work which has for him a real
significance. Value may not unfairly be considered to be an element
of tone. It relates to the intensity of light; not the brilliancy of
color, but the capacity that resides in color to reflect light. In
color printing the value of the most common colors ranks with yellow
first, then orange, green, red, blue, and violet. That is, yellow is
capable of reflecting more light from the same quantity of sunlight
than any other color, and violet less than any other color. Scientists
have reckoned that chrome yellow reflects 80 per cent of light, green
40 per cent, etc. These figures serve no very practical purpose,
because the reflecting power of any tint is dependent upon the other
colors employed. Colors are dependent upon each other for their value
as well as for their intensity and their harmony. It is not difficult
to treat this matter of value in a mathematical way, as is suggested by
Prof. J. C. Van Dyke: "Let the chrome yellow with its 80 per cent of
light represent a sunset sky in the background; let the green with its
40 per cent represent the grass in the immediate foreground; and let
the orange-red with its 60 per cent represent the sail of a Venetian
fishing vessel upon the water of the middle distance. Now we have the
three leading pitches of light in the three planes of the picture," and
the problem would stand thus: 40:60::60:80 and the result will indicate
the relative power of the value in the picture.

Interesting, but not especially useful, the "practical" printer says.
No, not unless there is recognizable in this, as in all that has been
said about art in printing, the subtle relation between the vital
elements of graphic art and those refinements of knowledge and practice
which tend to bring printing nearer to the arts. The connection is
there, and is evident to the seeing eye. In nature and in life the
sense of values is of such importance that without it objects would not
have relative positions; all would be a jumble of shades and tones,
objects and colors; we would stumble, as we could not see depressions;
we would grasp an arm or the empty air, when we attempted to seize
a hand; we could not judge distances. It is upon the extent and the
thoroughness of the printer's knowledge of this question of values
that the degree of refinement and truth he is able to impart to a
certain class of work depends, and hence its money value to him and its
intrinsic value to his patrons.


Paper is as important an artistic or esthetic element in the well-made
book as it is as a technical element; and it is likewise to be regarded
from the point of view of the optician and the physiologist.

It is possible to select a paper for any book that will lend itself to
the artistic scheme of the book. It has not long been possible to do
this. The product of the skilled paper maker has more than quadrupled,
in artistic variety, during the few years last past, until it is
now the fault of its designer if a book intended to be harmoniously
artistic is not as true to its motive in paper as in typography or
binding. But it is evident that paper for a book cannot be selected
without reference to the typography, the plates, and other mechanical
features. A grade of paper that would be appropriate for the printing
of a rugged-faced type (like Caslon) upon, would not do at all for a
conventional type, such as the Scotch face, it might be discovered,
even though the paper, in texture and finish, seemed to be peculiarly
appropriate for the literary motive. There are certain type faces which
may be printed upon paper that is milk white, and certain other faces
that lend themselves more readily to the production of harmonious tonal
effects when the paper has a "natural" tint, or is thrown strongly
toward a brown color. Either of these combinations, or any similar
combination, may harmonize unfavorably with the literary motive, or
with the scheme for proportion and balance, or with the tone and values
element, and though admirable in itself have to be finally rejected.

The weight and texture of the paper have to be considered as minutely
and as carefully, and with the same principles in full view. A delicate
and shy literary motive must not be given the massive dignity of heavy
handmade paper and large and strong type. Such a scheme is harrowing to
a sensitive reader's nerves and rudely subversive of the more obvious
and elemental artistic principles.

It is a complex and an involved process to select the proper paper for
a given piece of printing, and the rightful decision of either of the
component elements involves the rightful decision with reference to
each of the others. It is impossible to consider the question of paper
apart from a consideration of the typography, the illustrations, the
format, and the binding; and it is not possible to consider either of
these elements apart from the literary motive, which must always be the
foundation of the structure.

Paper is one of the group of coördinately important elements in a piece
of artistic printing, and only one, and never otherwise than strictly
coördinate. It may not be considered by itself, unless possible
disaster be consciously and deliberately invited.

Therefore before the specifications for a book or other piece of
printing are otherwise fixed, it is necessary to decide upon the
paper to be used. It is one of the elements of printing over which
the printer exercises no control except the liberty of choice. He can
choose the paper he wishes to use, but he cannot adapt it. He can adapt
his typographic plan and his color scheme, and adjust them to the paper
in such fashion as will result in harmony for the completed work, but
his paper he is obliged to take as the paper-maker furnishes it. For
this reason, and because the paper is actually a foundation element
in printing, it is necessary that printers know about paper, and that
those who essay to execute work of a high standard be familiar with its
history, composition, and methods of manufacture.

Too much importance will not be likely to be attached to the history
of paper, for it runs parallel with the record of the advance of
civilization and learning, and it has been an indispensable factor in
that advance. When we note the important part played by paper in the
complicated scheme of our twentieth century lives, we may gain some
faint appreciation of its place and relative importance as a factor
of life. As a factor in printing it has been customary to place paper
first in the list. It is a safe practice, though the versatility of the
paper makers is yearly making it less essential to do so. Yet, when
all the progress in paper making has been considered, it paradoxically
remains that the selection of paper by the printer is not the simple
matter it was only a few years ago.

With the progress of the art of printing during the last quarter of
the nineteenth century there has come complexity in all its branches.
Type has been wondrously multiplied, inks are in greater profusion, and
varieties of paper have rapidly multiplied. The good printer of today
needs to know the history of the evolution of type, ink, and paper, if
he hopes to be able to cope successfully with the problems facing him.

One reason for this particularity of knowledge is the tendency of
the laity to study the technical phases of printing. Type founders
have courted the attention of large consumers of printed matter and
of large advertisers, and the lay knowledge of type has led to a
like result regarding paper. So that it at present happens that the
printer's patron is able to dictate the style of typography he desires,
and the quality and tint of paper he prefers. This predicates knowledge
on the part of the printer; and in the case of paper it necessitates
expert knowledge. Type is type, speaking somewhat loosely, and,
whatever the crotchet a consumer of printing may get into his head it
is not likely to cost more than about so much a pound. It is otherwise
with paper, and generally it is more the color, texture, and appearance
the patron wishes than the intrinsic value, and the printer must make
a choice that shall satisfy the artistic exigencies of the case, as
well as consider its financial aspects. One paper may be unsuited for
a particular piece of work, and another of the same tint, weight, and
price may be exactly suitable; and the reason may lie in so obscure a
cause as the peculiar process of manufacture, or the chemical nature of
material used by certain paper mills, or a slight variation in finish
that may affect ink in a different manner.

A bright and observing printer inevitably becomes more or less versed
in paper. He handles it continually, and cannot avoid recognizing
certain more evident differences. What is learned in this way is good
knowledge, but it takes a long time to get a comprehensive acquaintance
with paper, and there has not in the meantime been built up that
flawless reputation for good work which all printers regard as the very
best capital.

The printer who knows about paper knows about its history, its
composition, and the methods of manufacture. To him wood-pulp paper is
not all the same, and he knows what he means when he speaks of "all
rag" or "handmade." He knows that paper made wholly of wood varies in
goodness according as it is made by this or that process--mechanical
wood, soda, or sulphite; and knows that "all rags" may be all cotton,
or all linen, or a combination of rags, or a combination of wood and
rags, or indeed all wood, or some vegetable fiber not specified. It is
not the mere exhibition of this sort of knowledge that particularly
signifies; it is that it adds greatly to the printer's power to execute
good work, as it places him in a position to select the most suitable
paper, and insures his reputation. It enables him to execute a piece of
work intended to endure a long time in a manner that will preserve its
beauty, so that it will not fade or turn a dirty brown or yellow color,
as well as to make his paper play its legitimate rôle as the most
important inflexible art element he will usually find it necessary to
deal with. A knowledge of paper in this thorough sense is even more
desirable if a printer presumes to arrogate to himself the title and
qualities of an artist. It is scarcely too radical to assert that the
esthetics of printing depend for exemplification more upon paper than
upon typography. It has been said that type, ink, and paper go to the
making of good printing. This formula may be reversed and made to
read paper, ink, and type, since so much of the effect of decorative
printing depends upon the paper and the ink. If these two harmonize
properly it remains that the type must not interfere but must play the
negative rôle of conformity. It is the paper that is selected first,
then the ink, and lastly the typography is brought into the scheme.
Typography, as an ornate art, has dwindled, and the skilled constructor
of wonderful effects with types and rule is no longer esteemed in the
job room. The arbiter of style sits in the counting-room, and turns the
leaves of the paper and type specimen books before the critical eyes of
the patron. The job is built upon a paper sample, and the designer sees
it completed in his mind before he sends it to the compositor.


Style is that subtle atmosphere pervading literary, artistic and
handicraft work that suggests the cultivated personality of the author.
It is not a usual nor a clear conception of style to consider the term
as applicable to inferior work. The word, as used to designate quality,
has come to mean positive and recognizable merit, and generally
also that indefinite but powerfully distinctive merit indicating

The word is used somewhat in this sense, though more broadly, in
descriptive art nomenclature, as when the style of a Rubens or of a
Titian is spoken of; and in art it often appears that the word is
used more commonly to designate a school or a genre of painting,
than to point to the work of any particular person of the present or
the recent past. Yet it is noted that whenever an artist is able to
attract favorable attention through the exercise of talents markedly
his own, he is at once credited with a style that is distinctively and
peculiarly his. It is quite fair and just therefore to consider that
style in printing means that quality of beauty or distinction which is
to be directly referred to the printer, rather than those meritorious
qualities that owe their existence to careful following of established
rules and principles, concerning which all printers have, or may have,
a working knowledge. There are some printers whose work is so redolent
of a peculiar style as to be recognizable to observing persons; and
such work has a quality that may almost be said to be narrow. The
possessor of a style pronounced enough to have attracted attention is
also usually limited in his range; is, in fact, an exponent of his own
peculiar style and is but little else.

Style does not absolutely involve excellence; only a distinctive
individuality. That individuality may produce printed work that may be
wholly bad, or it may be the hall mark of a supreme excellence. This is
the technical meaning of the word. In usage the word style is generally
understood to imply excellence, and a high grade and peculiarly
distinctive excellence. The derivation of the word is suggestive of
the accepted appreciation of its scope. It is the Latin name for an
iron pen, but it has come to signify not only the art that wields the
pen but it is applied to the whole range of the productive activities
of man; to music, painting, architecture, sculpture, dancing, acting,
tennis and baseball playing; to burglary and picking of pockets, and to

In printing, style is an element of value, and may be accorded as
careful attention as is given to the type outfit, to the presses, or to
the employes. We can perhaps think of half a dozen printers who have
made great reputations and considerable fortunes through having a style
that appealed singularly to purchasers of printed matter. What is there
in the work of Mr. De Vinne's press that gives the name a distinct
value? Why do publishers announce in their advertisements that certain
books are printed by De Vinne? Mr. De Vinne's style is valuable to him
and to the publishers who employ him to make books for them.

Probably there is not an intelligent printer who may read this who
does not recognize the value of style in printing, and who does not,
more or less seriously, struggle to acquire for himself a distinctive
style, and chiefly because he knows that the possession of a style
that appeals to the buyers of printed matter is almost the only sure
means of gaining new clients and holding old ones, and obtaining
profit-making prices. While there are many printers who will be
inclined to scout the idea that the possession of a style of their own
would be of financial advantage to them, it is a fundamental element
in success. There needs must be some diggers of ditches, hewers of
wood and drawers of water, and it is probably true that the great bulk
of printing will continue to be done by workmen, a small proportion
of it by artisans, and an almost infinitesimal portion by artists.
Nevertheless, there is a gravitation toward the artisan class, and from
it to the sparse company of the artist printers.

"The only way," says an acute literary critic, "to get a good style is
to think clearly." That is in literature.

In printing, the only way to get a good style is to know thoroughly.
Yet it is not all to know. The knowledge must be expressed, and it must
be expressed in a manner agreeable to those to whom printed matter is
to appeal. They do not always know the point of view of the printer,
even if he has a style that is admirable. So his style must, after all,
be subordinate to clearness and comprehensibility.

In a piece of printing it is necessary to bring out "the extreme
characteristic expression" of the central motive. That is, if the piece
of printing is intended to promote the sale of a certain substance or
article it is desirable that all the suggestive power residing in the
types be brought into play to drive the motive home. This is however a
secondary quality of style. The primary quality is that which attracts
the eye, and style for the printer may be limited to those qualities
that do most attract the eye quickly and agreeably.

The secondary literary constituent of style, which is harmony, takes
first rank in printing. The three essentials of printing style may be
generalized as knowledge, harmony, and expressiveness. In literature
they are thought, expressiveness, and harmony, or melody, as some have
it. The greatest of these is, of course, knowledge--knowledge of the
fundamentals which go to the making of the best printing.

It is not possible to teach style. It is almost as impossible to
acquire style. This seems like a paradox, but a paradox is not always a
symbol of hopelessness. Style must be born in a man--style in any art
or profession. "Style," a writer has recently said, "is gesture--the
gesture of the mind and of the soul." We can eliminate the last clause,
and call style in printing the gesture of the mind, the evidence of
the amount and degree of knowledge possessed by the mind, tempered,
arranged, given distinction, by the born talent, aptitude, or whatever
it may be termed, which is the seed germ of style. We do not hesitate
to accept the obvious theory that artists are born, not made. Some
claim for printing that it is an art. Why then should we hesitate to
admit that a printer capable of cultivating and expressing a genuine
style must depend upon something other than mere knowledge; something
deeper and more subtle than knowledge, which is able to mould knowledge
into style?

Style, in the highest sense, is given to but few, and we cannot
hope that printers will be more favored, in proportion, than the
practitioners of other graphic arts. But they may be as highly favored,
if they avail themselves of the opportunities for culture that are open
to them, as they are open to other artists, and not otherwise. While it
is not to be expected that the printing art will produce Morrises or
Bradleys with great profuseness, it is to be frankly admitted that in
the grade next below--the grade of talent, that is, as distinguished
from the grade of genius--there is not found the high average of
attainment among printers that rules in other graphic arts. The reason
is as obvious as the fact: Printers are not students, in the sense that
painters, etchers, engravers, illustrators, and even photographers,
are students. Printers (the progressive ones) have in recent years
become close observers and good imitators, but there are few who have
attempted to qualify themselves for original work by thorough study
of those principles of graphic art that vitally control printing. The
artist, in any other line than printing, comes to the practice of his
art only after prolonged study and mastery of the principles and the
laws governing it. Not so with the printer.

The time has arrived when eminence in printing means much more than
good work along existing lines. It means a radical departure and
the full recognition of the power and value of art in printing. We
have been rather hesitant in accepting this word, art, as applying
legitimately to printing, and we have been hesitating merely because
we have seen the term so freely and ignorantly applied to work that
merited no better name than archaic; to work that, while it usually
possessed the common virtues of good mechanical execution, was wholly
deficient in those qualities which fairly entitled it to be called
artistic. But we must put away this prejudice against an innocent
and needed term, and boldly reclaim it from the philistines. We must
reinstate in the public mind, and in our own minds, the thing and the
name that fittingly describes the thing. We must make art printing mean
art printing.

Style should be the goal of the printer who cherishes hopes of
distinction or of wealth. We have said that style is born in a
man, not acquired by him. This is true, if we consider the highest
development of style. But we are all capable of greatly improving our
style by study. We cannot improve upon it in any other way. It is
almost useless for us to observe the good work of others, for this
purpose. We must go beyond that. The first step is to keenly realize
the need. We are on a par with every other person who wishes to truly
understand any art. We cannot arrive at that understanding by merely
wishing it. There is no understanding of art except through study of

We may spend a lifetime looking at the great paintings of the world
and then know so little about them as to appreciate but a tithe of the
rich store of culture and pleasure they hold in reserve for us. We may
cultivate a taste for paintings by putting ourselves frequently under
their influence, as we may build up a taste for literature by strenuous
reading. But knowledge, as distinguished from acquaintance, gives us a
very different conception of a painting, or a piece of sculpture, or
an example of any form of art, and reveals to us new beauties. So it
is in printing. We cannot do good color printing unless we understand
color as an artist understands it; we cannot get the best results from
a halftone engraving unless we understand tone, light and shade, and
values, as an artist understands them. We are not sure of our ground
with regard to a page of plain type matter unless we know something
conclusive about the fundamentals of art.

We cannot take one pronounced step toward acquiring style until we
realize the need, the vital need, of a good foundation knowledge of
art--not in a historical sense, but in a technical sense--for the
technique of printing that is better than good.

The Binding

It is a pity that bookbinding and printing have drifted so far apart,
since they are so intimately related. A good book cannot be produced
without the coöperation of both crafts, and that coöperation ought
to be of a much closer nature. The printing and the binding of a
book should be done by artists or craftsmen actuated by a unity of
purpose and effort similar to the unity that must prevail in the book
if it is to express anything worthy. In the production of books of
a high excellence it is necessary that the binding shall chord with
the general nature as expressed through the printing and as fixed by
the literary body. This result can only be assured if the printers
and the binders work in close harmony. When it is manifestly present
in the book of today it is necessary to assume that the agreeable
result follows the effects of some influence outside of printers and
binders, brought strongly to bear upon each, rather than the result of
a harmonious understanding of the artistic proprieties of the case by
either the printer or the binder. Binding has a double significance: It
is essentially artistic, and emphatically a mechanical process. In its
artistic phase it rivals printing; it is considered to be quite apart
from printing, in fact, since there is a pretty decided cult in binding
that takes no cognizance of typography or of literary character. With
this collector's estimate of bindings we are not here concerned. The
desire to cheapen production has led to serious deterioration in the
quality of binding, of the ordinary library editions of books, during
the past century. Machine methods, unobjectionable when used upon very
cheap books but disastrous to the lasting quality of library books,
have obtained an undesirable vogue, and they are so capable of cleverly
simulating good work that they have been a very active agent in the
decay of good binding practice. The results of the more recent binding
methods are extremely lamentable, and those results have but partially
made themselves manifest. The next generation, and the generations
after the next, will suffer for the sins of the binders of the books
issued during the last half of the nineteenth century. The twentieth
century may achieve no more creditable record, but the sinning will
be in the light and will not be due to ignorance. The English Society
of Arts charged a special committee with the task of investigating
the cause of the decay in bindings, and the report of this committee
may be one impulse urging publishers to require better workmanship and
better methods. This committee formulated five specifications against
prevailing methods, each of which constitutes a defect of a radical
nature recognizable and curable only by bookbinders or experts in
bookbinding. Books are, this committee found, sewn on too few and too
thin cords; the slips are pared down too much and are not always firmly
enough laced into the boards; the use of hollow backs is condemned;
headbands are not sufficiently strong to hold the leather of the back
against the strain of taking the book from the shelf; leather used is
often far too thin; leather is wetted and stretched to such a point
that little strength is left to resist wear and tear.

It must be noted in extenuation that at least one of the counts in
this indictment may be partially condoned, upon the ground that the
fault crept into bookbinding practice with the intent to facilitate
the reading of the book and not to cheapen its production. The hollow
back was adopted for the twofold purpose of allowing the book to be
opened easily and flatly and to preserve the tooling and gilding on
the back. This form of back need not be always reckoned as bad. It is
quite possible to bind a book well and use the hollow back, and it is
extremely easy to use the hollow back to cover sins that ought not to
be condoned in a binding.

The life of a book depends upon its binding. The leading idea in
planning a binding for a good book should therefore be to strive for
strength, durability, and convenience. To beautify a book in its
binding should be the secondary motive. But the idea of beauty, through
harmony and the application of elementary art precepts, may always be
considered with the strictly utilitarian processes, and the book may
be brought into close accord with the requirements of art without any
strain for art efforts being apparent nor any economical or mechanical
purpose being strained or perverted. This can be effected by arranging
the binding to tone with the literary and typographic motives, and
studying to have all details harmonious--such as the lettering on the
side and back; the design of the stamp for the cover, if there be a
stamp; the material for the cover, its texture and its color, etc.

It is manifestly impossible to put into print specific directions
for the binding of a book to bring it within the meaning of the term
"artistic" while it does not depart from the ordinary in quality or
form. It is quite easy to perceive however that for a book of a certain
literary quality a binding consisting of a buckram back and paper
sides is exactly appropriate, while a cloth binding with a gilt stamp
is obviously not harmonious. If the title-stamp on the back of a book
is made of type unlike that used for the title-page there is a jarring
note that might easily have been avoided. The motive of a book should
extend its influence to, and envelope, every process necessary for its
completion; it should be as apparently in control of every detail of
the visible binding as of the typography, the format, and the paper.
It produces an agreeable impression upon the reader if he discovers
this artistic unity in a book he hopes to extract literary profit or
enjoyment from--if the typography, the format, the paper, and the
binding all tone to the same key, and that key in harmony with the
literary motive.

This much of art is possible for all bindings. When they rise above
this mere expression of harmony, of unity, there is a widely different
question involved. Then there must be art for art's sake, rather than
art for the book's sake; and of bindings that are in and of themselves
works of art we have for the present nothing to say.

As to exactly what constitutes a proper binding for a given book there
may be differences of opinion, especially if the inquiry be pushed
so far as to involve questions of art, or questions concerning the
artistic qualities of harmony and unity. There are however certain
broad lines which may be indicated within which worthy bindings must
be brought, leaving plenty of latitude for individuality in taste and
in judgment. What these basic requirements are is perfectly known to
practical bookbinders and to publishers; to many printers as well.
They should be as familiar to the lay mind, and every book should have
printed somewhere in it a clear statement of the specifications of its
binding. Its typography is visible; so is its format and its paper. The
vital parts of its binding are concealed, from the expert as from the
tyro, and every purchaser of an ordinary book stands to lose heavily if
the foundations of its binding are not honestly laid.

The specifications for the binding of a fine book should show, then,
that the cover material is all leather of some one of the approved
sorts and properly manufactured, sheets carefully folded, single leaves
guarded round the sections next to them, all plates guarded, guards
sewn through, and no pasting or overcasting; end papers sewn on and
made of good paper, board papers of good quality of paper or vellum;
edges to be trimmed and gilt before sewing, or left uncut; sewing to be
with ligature silk around five bands of best sewing cord; back to be
as nearly flat as possible without forcing it and without danger of its
becoming concave in use; boards to be of the best black millboard, and
the five bands laced in through two holes; headbands to be worked with
silk on strips of vellum or catgut or cord, with frequent tiedowns,
and "set" by pieces of good paper or leather glued at head and tail;
lettering to be legible, in harmony with the typography of the book or
with the decorations; decorations such as may be wished.

These skeletonized specifications may be modified in some particulars
if they are to be applied to grades of books below the best, but great
care and good judgment must be exercised to guard against an extent
of deterioration which will bring the book below its standard of
utility and beauty. For library books, for example, the covers may be
half leather or any of the several serviceable cloths; the end papers
may dispense with the board papers; the edges may be cut guillotine
and colored instead of gilt, or the top only may be gilt; the sewing
may be done with unbleached thread and the tapes may be reduced to
four of unbleached linen; the boards may be of split gray stock or of
strawboard with black board liner, and the tapes may be attached to
portion of waste sheet inserted between the boards; the headbands may
be omitted and cord substituted, or they may be worked with thread or


The paper in this book is French handmade, 16 × 20--29, imported by the
Japan Paper Company of New York, and catalogued as No. 333.

The type is a liberal modification of the Caslon, 12 point. It was
designed and cast by the Boston branch of the American Type Founders
Company, and had never been used until set for this book.

The binding is according to the specifications of the Society of Arts,
of London. The sheets are folded with special care, end papers are made
with zigzag and sewn on, edges are uncut, signatures are sewn with
unbleached thread over three unbleached linen tapes, back left nearly
square, boards of the best black millboard, covers of imported marbled
paper, and the backs of art vellum, with paper label. The binding was
executed by the regular force of workmen and in the regular routine of
commercial work.

The composition of the type was by a journeyman and an apprentice, and
the presswork was done on a half super royal Colt's Armory press. No
attempt has been made to execute the work in other than the ordinary
manner, with ordinary appliances and ordinary workmen. All the material
is such as is regularly carried in stock by dealers.

      IS NUMBER 506

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note:

Duplicate chapter title pages removed by Transcriber

Page 35, "cristicism" changed to "criticism" (subject to the criticism

The edition number "506" is handwritten (OF WHICH THIS IS NUMBER 506)

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