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The problem with typography (with or without flow objects)

  • From: David Megginson <david@m...>
  • Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 07:06:39 -0400

typography decline
Sebastian Rahtz wrote:

> You are most convincing. I agree entirely. And yet I draw a different
> conclusion. FO can work, in its trivializing way, because people have
> learnt not to care. `Hamburger and coke' HTML has taught them that. We
> are, I predict, entering a period of rapid decline in typesetting
> standards. As a TeXxie, it saddens me hugely to see all the TeX work
> thrown away, but thats history for you.

That's right -- typography has been in decline since the Web ... no,
make that since desktop publishing ... no, make that since the Linotype
replaced hot metal ... actually, it might go right back to the invention
of movable type.

If you look at similar rants from 500 years ago, they figured that the
quality of book design was irrevocably harmed by printing, period.  Even
further back, the rapid, crowded professional scribal hands of the
12th/13th century on (designed for mass manual book production) are a
big step down from the beautiful, spacious writing of monks in the early
middle ages.  Then again, the Irish monks dumbed down Latin by adding
white space between words to make it easier for non-native Latin
speakers to figure out where each word started and ended.

Moving on back, Plato argued that the act of writing itself represented
a moral and intellectual decline, since people would become lazy when
they didn't have to memorize things, and the printed (sorry, written)
word couldn't capture all the nuances of a speaker.

Note that the common thread running through these examples is a
sacrifice in quality in exchange for an increase in quantity -- in other
words, a democratization of knowledge.  Vellum may last ten times as
long as paper, for example, but an awful lot more people can afford
paper, and you can always reprint.  

All the best,


David Megginson                 david@m...

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