typography (tĪpŏgˈrəfē) [key], the art of printing from movable type. The term typographer is today virtually synonymous with a master printer skilled in the techniques of type and paper stock selection, ornamentation, and composition. Before the development of typography, related arts flourished for centuries. Scribes in ancient Egypt and the Middle East perfected the craft of writing on papyrus scrolls and clay tablets. Hellenistic and Roman makers of books developed the art, which reached a peak of aesthetic perfection in the exquisite illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages (see illumination, in art). The first European typographers imitated these manuscripts, but the introduction of metal types in the 15th cent. brought about a radical transformation. Crisp and uncompromising, metal types imposed new standards of composition. A highly conservative art, modern typography adheres closely to tradition. Since legibility is of the utmost importance, the forms that print most legibly are retained. Now created on computers, new typographic styles (type faces) continue to develop, to suit myriad uses in the design of advertisements, posters, newspapers, greeting cards, almanacs, and fine books. For a list of notable type designers, see type.
See E. Gill, An Essay on Typography (1931, reprint 1988); J. R. Biggs, Basic Typography (1969); W. Chappell, A Short History of the Printed Word (1980); P. Baines and A. Haslam, Type and Typography (2002); J. Felici, The Complete Manual of Typography (2002); S. Fussel, ed., Bodoni: Manual of Typography (new ed. 2010). See also bibliography under type.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.