Glossary

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  • Reed pen
  • Readability
  • Roman type

Reed pen

A section of reed or bamboo, cut at an angle at one end, and used as a writing implement.

Readability

In 1783, Étienne Anisson, director of the Royal Printing Office, convened a panel of experts to compare the first "Didot system" as it was called then, and Garamond. The panel was given the same text printed in both faces, and judged that "the page that furnished the greatest reading distance was that printed using the Garamond system, and that it could be read at several intervals farther, after the page printed in Didot could no longer be made out." Citizen Sobry, member of the Société Libre des Sciences, Lettres et Arts de Paris, recounting the experience at a public gathering on 9 Brumaire, Year 8 (31 octobre 1799), concluded: "[It is] an act that peremptorily settles the issue between the old and the new characters. [...] The greatest perfection in this art was found in Garamond [...]" It should be pointed out that the "Didot system" has not achieved the level of perfection that it later attained in the 1800s. Moreover, research into character readability is still being conducted, and the results remain inconclusive. In 1905, in his book Physiologie de la lecture et de l'écriture, Émile Javal showed that individuals read blocks of letters, and that the upper part of a word is its most recognisable part. Later, Brör Zachrisson (Studies in the Readibility of Printed Text, 1957) emphasised that typefaces with excellent readability (Garamond among them) owe this fact primarily to their harmonious construction and rhythm, embodied in the quality of their counters and, to a much lesser extent, of their serifs, such than the serifs provide at least an equivalent level of readability.

Roman type

Generic term used to refer to upright characters, as opposed to slanted ones (italics).