Palatino and his inkwell

Giovambattista Palatino’s inkwell
It probably held boiled oak gall tannin and soot. Given a choice, would the great man have insisted on home-made supplies?

Divisive passion

Stretched tradition

M ost of the reasoning about the traditions of lettering also applies to plumbing, which has work practices that go back many centuries. The traditional methods of elbow soldering may have been abandoned and some plumbing amateurs probably deplore this. But we still get the water in and the sewage out. It works. What matters in a piece of lettering, too, is whether it works. For romantic reasons, it may be crucial that the egg in the tempera was laid by a free-range hen. More important, however, is what the thing looks like.

There is great joy in the perfect spacing of an apostrophe. Through the centuries, most of the problems in fitting lettershapes together have been solved by printers and typographers, often gracefully. Their work is available for all to see, but not often put to work in lettering. Instead, schisms come about over technique.

To outsiders, this looks hilarious. But making fun of earnest people is not fair, They see a noble tradition defenseless in an unchartered, treacherous world. They want to protect what they love. If they are a bit vague about parts of it, then so are we all, I suppose, on some subjects. Some of my friends allow their tempers to rise over an irresponsible serif, and that is their privilege.

Who we are
As obsessions go, lettering is wonderful. Anybody with a pen and an idea can have a go.

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Scots rule 2