The Lost Art of Typography

The legend goes that when Don Knuth published the first volume of The Art of Computer Programming in 1969 it was typeset on equipment from the 1800s. His second volume was typeset on more modern equipment and he was very displeased with the end result. He set about creating TeX, a digital typesetting system, and the rest is neckbeard lore.

I have a chronic-to-severe fascination with computer lore, and reading about TeX, I instantly became fascinated by typography too. Typography is an art dating back to the invention of the printing press and many of the terms used in digital typography (leading, kerning) trace their roots to that time period as well. I love the hidden-in-plain-sight aspects of typography like ligatures. Whenever I come across a ligature in something I’m reading, it is like finding a small hidden treasure, or being a part of some secret club.

And so when Cassie’s mom brought me a local newspaper from 1900, I just had to take some pictures and think to myself, “they sure don’t make them like they used to.” Click each image for a larger version.

Perry Journal from
1900 You can see from the black ink at the top of the page and the missing splotches in “Perry” that this newspaper was actually pressed. Running my fingers over the page I could feel small indentations on each letter.

Ad for "Tinware that don't
rust" Detail of the advertisement. I believe the bucket graphic is an etching.

Ligature in the word
"fine" Look at the ligature in the word “fine.”

Etching of
a man Another graphic. There were no photographs in the paper. I don’t think the capabilities existed at the time. So any image had to be an etching like this one.

Etching of
a shop This was one of the largest etchings in the paper. If my assumptions are correct the paper would have had an artist on staff to create these images.

Wall of text on an inner
page It’s not all roses. Some pages were walls of text.

schedule It would be 2 more years until the first assembly line began producing automobiles and another 25 years until the Model T. I don’t know why, but the train schedule caught me off guard. When have you ever seen a train schedule in the newspaper? But it makes sense.

Union Journal front
page This paper is a little older. I am not sure if the Union Journal became the Perry Journal or if the town had multiple papers.