Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hooked on colophons

It's a weird subject heading, I know. I'm banging this one out because I just finished reading a novel (from 2002!) which described a character who, seduced by colophon pages, with their information about the type used in the books she perused, became a book designer. As a book designer, I found the paragraph charming and hilarious. I also figured the author worked in publishing (she did at one point—as a copyeditor). Here goes Julia Glass's ode to the notes about the type, in her novel Three Junes:
Then she took to choosing from Jonah's shelves the artists' biographies, because they had fewer pictures to envy. Sometimes, at the end of one of these books, she would read—at first with skeptical curiosity, then with creeping eagerness—the postscript titled "A Note About the Type." Here she became familiar with names like William Goudy, Pierre Simon Fournier, Rudolph Ruzicka, and above all, Claude Garamond, the sixteenth-century typte cutter who came to resemble in Fern's imagination a celebrity with the public stature, simultaneously, of a Bill Gates and a Richard Gere. According to one book, Garamond won the patronage of a king for something as droningly obscure as the "elegance and lively sense of movement" in fifty-two letters, ten numerals, and a scattering of punctuation marks.
I'll forgive the phrase "droningly obscure." I'll also forgive the earlier sentence "Fern did not set out to be a graphic designer (did anyone?) . . . partly because Glass certainly did her homework (or copyediting) on the notes about the type and because many a designer in publishing set out (see the pun on typesetting?) to be something else.

Anyway, the book's a darned good read. My version, a paperback, didn't have a note about the type, but it sure looks like it was typeset in Garamond (probably—not perfect for purists—Adobe Garamond Pro).

A note to copyeditors and proofreaders: the designer of many a typeface is Frederic W. Goudy, who is rarely referred to as William.

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