Stanley Nelson

T-20: Introduction to the History of Typography

24-28 July 2006


1)   How useful were the pre-course readings? 

1: The readings were useful, and necessary. As with most RBS courses, I would have been fairly lost if I had not done the readings beforehand. 2: Very. But the list was too long (some 25), and organized by category rather than by how crucial it was to read them. Since I only had time to read a few, I felt I was reading randomly. We started from scratch, however, so I have to wonder how essential the readings were to the course. 3: No one text served as handbook; many gave history of typeface design but without distinguishing type characteristics or difference. Hard to get a grasp of development. 4: A very good variety of texts. It might have been helpful to rank them in an order of usefulness, so you know where to start. 5: Very useful. Could be trimmed down to two or three main texts. Also, future students should watch SN’s video From Punch to Printing Type before coming. 6: There were a lot of definitely thick. Maybe a short essential pre-reading list and then maybe a bibliography to give to the students with the notebook. 7: Very useful, but there is so much to know. I should have read more. 8: Lawson and Updike were helpful. The syllabus needs to be organized into required and recommended reading. More than one printing history book is simply distracting.


2)   Were the course syllabus and other materials distributed in class useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)?

1: Yes. The time-lines showing the different strands of type development will be useful to consult in the future. 2: Yes, but they’re missing so much. Specifically, specimen sheets of the important types, early and contemporary. 3: Course syllabus often not useful, because it omitted type specimens and discussion. Difficult to look at specimens passed around while instructors discussion continued to other points. Poorly organized so that the fellow had a lot of running around to do. 4: The syllabus is helpful, the charts SN drew for Roman, Italic, Black Letter, and Sans Serif will be a great help. It would be nice to have type examples included in the notebook. 5: Yes. The crib sheets designed by SN were great summaries for each major “family” of text. 6: Very much so! I would also like examples of specific types. Xeroxed page for each major type (Not even necessarily a specimen) would have been great. Flow chart “cribs” were fantastic. 7: Helpful, but the time-lines SN prepared were a nice addition. Because of the amount of material to be mastered, the most important type faces should be studied and the others left alone. 8: Recommended reading will be helpful in the future. There was little or no workbook/take-home materials with significant information about particular fonts. The typography boxes would have been helpful outside of class if every sample were labeled.


3)   What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: The typecasting and typesetting demonstrations were very interesting, as it is difficult to conceptualize these activities having only read about them. The intellectual content was perfect for an introductory level course. 2: The practical, hands-on instruction was invaluable for understanding the history of book production. 3: Knowledge of instructor concerning the type trade and technology was excellent. 4: Time line. When were particular typefaces popular. That information will be wonderfully valuable. 5: Intellectual level was very appropriate. The course will help me with bibliographical instruction sessions and rare book cataloguing. 6: Pretty much all of it. And definitely appropriate level. 7: Everything was relevant, but the lab time in composing and printing was very useful. 8: The laboratory work was enjoyable and informative. Discussion of Gutenberg types with the Blaise photographs also fascinating.


4)   If your course had field trips (including visits to the Dome Room, the McGregor Room, the hand printing presses in the Stettinius Gallery, the Etext Center, UVa’s Albert and Shirley Small Library, or RBS’s Lower Tibet), were they effective?

1: Yes. The trip to the rare books reading room was informative; however, I wonder if using that time to look at more examples of type would have been equally useful. 2: Considering that we saw many specimens here in the classroom, and that most of our libraries contain similar treasures, I’d have to say no. 3: Our session to SC was well-spent, although looking at more printed materials would have been just as useful. 4: Yes. Great fun to examine type examples from SC. 5: Very well spent. It was great to see real examples of the Gutenberg Bible, Aldines, Doves, Wm Morris, etc. 6: Yes, the SC trip was great. It was wonderful to see these types “in action”, so to speak. 7: The SC visit was good, but one visit was adequate. I’m glad we didn’t go again. 8: Not especially. Although I personally enjoyed seeing the material, there are enough real samples in the packets to convey information. It was a treat to see the Hypteromachia Poliphili, but unnecessary.


5)   What did you like best about the course?

1: Without a doubt, being able to cast and set type. Also, just being able to put a better handle on the overall progression of the history of typography. I feel that I can now make much better informed judgements when identifying typefaces. 2: The hand-on lab time, and the demonstrations. 3: Knowledge and humor (but not language) of instructor. Learned a lot from fellow students. 4: Learning the whole process (setting type, printing, and type casting). Those hands-on aspects really helped make sense of it all. 5: SN’s encyclopedic knowledge of type design and engaging personality. 6: I really enjoyed all of it, but if I had to pick, the typesetting (and casting) really stands out. 7: Composing, printing, learning about type faces were all good. 8: Setting type.


6)   How could the course have been improved?

1: I would have welcomed the opportunity to test myself more on identifying typefaces. Perhaps having several tests throughout the week. 2: Intermediate quizzes; more student participation in the classroom time; side by side comparisons of various typefaces; specific indicators of location, time-period, and design (tools for identifying typefaces by certain features). 3: Organize the course into type categories, with appropriate visual materials for students to take home. Instructor needs to articulate type differences and not just say it looks like ‘x’ typeface. 4: More organization. Examples of fonts as we discussed them with perhaps more time devoted to a few fonts. More work space for handling materials would have been nice. Generally just better organization is needed. 5: More examples of fonts to mark up and identify. 6: That’s a tough one. If anything, a cleaner sense of identifying nuances by eye between types, though that may be asking the impossible. I certainly can identify type much, much better, but there are still a couple of areas where I am not sure. The class did an excellent job of demonstrating how to look up identification. 7: See question 2. Also, add more black letter and italic to the type challenge. 8: One lab a day instead of two. Daily reviews of a small amount of material. Crib sheets for key fonts to help differentiate them.


7)   We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching collections and of materials owned by UVa’s Special Collections. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: N/A. 3: SC staff need to handle books. Not touch inked pages, know when to use extra cushioning with foam cradles. 4: We were a little crowded, so a larger table might have been better. 5: A little more space to lay out examples. 6: No suggestions. 7: N/A.


8)   If you attended the Sunday and/or Monday night lectures, were they worth attending?

1: Yes. 2: Yes. 3: Interesting, in terms of personalities presenting. 4: Yes. Both were interesting, engaging, and thought-provoking. 5: Very much so. TB’s talk is always a good way to catch up on RBS developments and faculty. 6: Yes. 7: Monday night was worthwhile. Didn’t attend Sunday’s lecture.

9) If you attended evening activities, was the time profitably spent?

1: Yes. 2: Museum Night (paper) was fabulous! Thank you! 3: Museum Paper Night was superbly organized and discussed. 4: The Paper Museum was fabulous! Really worthwhile. Movie Night was okay, but Museum Night was better. 5: Very much. The Paper Museum was great. Museum Night is always a highlight for me. 6: Yes. They were enjoyable and informative. The staff were very friendly and knowledgeable. 7: The tour of SC was great. Enjoyed spending time with SN during open nights in the lab.


10) Did you get your money’s worth? Any final thoughts?

1: Definitely got my money’s worth. 4: Yes. SN’s knowledge of all things type is really incredible. His passion for the subject is catching for sure. Be sure to read Lawson in preparation. 5: As always, I got more than my money’s worth. Christian Dupont was very generous with his tour, and setting (and casting) type was a once in lifetime experience! 6: Absolutely. 7: Yes. It was a worthwhile experience. I’ll never look at letters the same way. It was also a great opportunity to meet interesting colleagues in the classroom. 8: Unfortunately, the class was too disorganized to live up to its description. But I did learn something and enjoyed most of it. SN is a great guy and a rare artist.

Number of respondents: 8


Leave                       Tuition                    Housing                   Travel

Institution                 Institution                 Institution                 Institution

gave me leave            paid tuition               paid housing              paid travel

75%                            75%                            88%                            75%

I took vac-                  I paid tui-                  I paid for my              I paid my own

tion time                    tion myself                 own housing              travel

25%                            0%                              0%                              25%

N/A: self-                   N/A: Self-                   N/A: stayed                N/A: lived

employed, re-             employed,                  with friends               nearby

tired, or had              retired, or                  or lived at

summers off              scholarship                home

0%                              25%                            12%                            0%

There were five rare book librarians (63%), two full-time students (25%), and one archivist/manuscript librarian (12%).