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Large 019 ts

Type spaces: in-house norms in the typography of Aldus Manutius

Peter Burnhill

The books of Aldus Manutius possess an enduring appeal, for their sense of order and visual-semantic structure. After intensive examination of some Aldine books, Burnhill proposes a hypothesis about the co-ordination of the dimensions in type in this printing. It seems that a system of typographic measurement informed this work, two hundred years before such a system was made explicit in printing.

Out of print. Find out more

Entries

‘Type spaces’ reviewed

2004.05.24

In an unusually perceptive appreciation of the book in his ‘Schrift & Charakter’ column (Institut für Textkritik), Roland Reuß defends Burnhill against the charge of over-interpretation (‘the usual objection when someone has thoroughly reflected on something and the public is ashamed’), and even suggests that our book can bear comparison, in its production, with its Aldine subjects. But some hundreds of the public have gone so far as to buy this item; a reprint is being planned.

‘Type spaces’

2000.12.31

The new issue of Typography papers (no. 4), published by the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading contains an article by Peter Burnhill, ‘Type spaces’, and a symposium on these ideas. This is the first presentation of his research into the typography of Aldus Manutius. Burnhill finds a unified system of dimensions to be present there, as both a physical and a syntactic structuring device. A group of designers then respond to this thesis. We plan to publish Burnhill’s work fully, as a book. Meanwhile, readers are urged to get hold of this interim publication.

The Stafford papers

2007.02.22

The ‘Optimism of modernity’ project has posted its first ‘documents’: here

Peter Burnhill

2007.03.13

Peter Burnhill died in hospital at Stafford on Sunday 11 March, aged 84. We will publish something here soon about him and his work.

Remembering Peter Burnhill

Large burnhill 2004

Robin Kinross / 2007.04.17

Peter was there in Stafford as a constant point of reference for me for about thirty years. I remember making what seemed like a pilgrimage from Reading to Stafford, in 1977, to meet him for the first time, and the others around him in the group that made and ran the typography course at the College of Art and Design. Before this, as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, I knew about him as a co-writer of a fundamental article in the journal Visible Language (‘Experiments with unjustified text’), as a presence in the thinking behind our course at Reading, and as one of the people on the network that I had begun to discover – of designers such as Anthony Froshaug, Norman Potter, Ernest Hoch. They were intellectual and practical father figures, who were all apparently ageless in their immediate democratic engagement with anyone: serious (and often very funny), dissenting and leftist, disseminating. Read more

The x-height ribbon

Large xheight ribbon

2007.05.08

Sergei Egorov (it must be him) has made an analysis of a column of Aldine text that seems to correlate with Peter Burnhill’s findings in Type spaces. Read more

Burnhill obituary

2007.06.22

Paul Stiff’s obituary of Peter Burnhill is published in The Guardian today: here

‘Type spaces’ discovery

Large typespaces 200909

2009.09.10

In another of those warehouse discoveries, a few copies of the late Peter Burnhill’s Type spaces have come to light, after we had declared it out of print here (our North American distributor still has some left). There are several reasons to get hold of this book, which we are unlikely now to reprint. The most important reason is that, in effect, it puts forward a new theory of typography. Along the way, you can find advice on how to determine linespacing (‘leading’); after digesting this you will never need to spend time agonizing over this fundament of text-setting. And the book is a model of industrial production, especially in its binding. These last few copies are for sale only from this website. Read more

‘Modern typography in Britain’ arrived

Large tp8 arrived

2009.09.10

This week we received copies of Modern typography in Britain: a very packed and rich set of discussions, which will surely come to define its still too little comprehended subject. The book is at the same time Typography papers 8, and continues Typography papers’s work of publishing fully serious, lively and comprehensible articles. Read more

‘Type spaces’ sold out in Europe

Large 019 ts

2011.11.20

We have sold the last copy of Peter Burnhill’s book Type spaces. Our North American distributor, Princeton Architectural Press, still has some copies left.

The memory lingers on

Large poster 1983 whole

2018.08.20

This poster by Peter Burnhill has emerged from a tidy-up in the office. It’s a nice example of his talents as an artist, and of his activity as a political campaigner. Peter worked for his local, Stafford branch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, helping to run a weekly CND stall in the town. This was at the time of Cold War escalation, with the installation of US missiles in Europe. Read more

Risen spaces

Large carter 80 detail

Robin Kinross / 2016.07.04

Comments on the picture-sharing service Instagram (here and here) have pointed to an interesting detail in Harry Carter’s book A view of early typography. Our edition of this work was a facsimile reprint of the book published by Oxford University Press in 1969, with added editorial matter. On page 80 (line 18) of the original book, and of our edition too, one of the word-spaces has risen to the height of the type, been inked, and has left an impression on the paper. This was a not uncommon occurrence in metal typesetting and letterpress printing, and, like a slip in Freudian analysis or a clue in a detective story, it can tell us something. In fact we published a book that took risen spaces as its starting point: Peter Burnhill’s Type spaces. Read more