What’s the Point in Printing?

by admin on March 23, 2009

Taken from the 8th editon of The Print and Production Manual, edited by Michael Barnard:

"All printing measurements derive from the term "point", which was the base unit of measurement used in the early days of printing to describe the common sizes of type. In those days it was used with no particular sense of precision. Founts were cast in 6 point size, 10 point size, 24 point size etc. but were known more commonly by their name: the 6 point size came to be known as Nonpareil, 8 point as Brevier, 10 point as Long primer and the commonly used 12 point size as Pica, etc...

"...A disastrous fire in a Chicago type foundry in the 1870s led to a call for standardization and the point was defined at .013837 inches, the pica at .166044 inches. These subsequently became the accepted - and exactly defined - units of measurement for all typographical purposes in America and Great Britain (blogger's note: And Canada too).

"In Continental Europe, a similar move to standardization had already been under way using a slightly different definition of the point as its standard - the didot point - and its equivalent to the 12 pt pica, the cicero. This system - called the Didot system - continued and has become the standard system used in Europe, Didot points and picas are some seven per cent larger than Anglo-American points and picas.

Anglo-American point = .013837 inches (0.351mm)
Didot point = .0148 inches (0.376)

Old Anglo-American Names for type bodies

Minikin (3.5 pt)
Brilliant (4)
Diamond (4.5)
Pearl (5)
Agate or Ruby (5.5)
Nonpareil (6)
Emerald (7)
Breview (8)
Bourgeois (9)
Long primer (10)
Small pica (11)
Pica (12)

You know, I really love typography trivia. And I now I just own the Google query space for Bourgeois 9 pt type. It's mine, mine, mine. Give Google one week to index, type in Bourgeois 9 pt type, and this blog will be ranked #1.

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