Day 157: Do not lower that cross-stroke, sir


Ellen Lupton notes, in Thinking with Type, that “words originated as gestures of the body.” That is, the gestures that form the letters in handwriting.

Think of this when reading: type as a record of movements of the hand, a dance of thought. We scan moves that convey knowledge. Movement becomes story becomes thought, energy becomes the stuff of the mind.

Lupton also writes that Gutenberg originally created variations in his letter forms that mimicked the irregularity of handwriting, and ligatures that did the same. In the 15th century, Nicolas Jenson created his eponymous typeface that emulated scribing with a broad-nibbed pen. This reflected the rejection of gothic script by Italian humanists in favor of the more open and humane letters antica.


Geofroy Troy asserted that letters should reflect the ideal proportions of the human body. Troy brought an oddly moral perspective to type, nothing that in regard to the letter A “the cross-stroke covers the man’s organ of generation, to signify that Modesty and Chastity are required, before all else, in this who seek acquaintance with well-shaped letters."