What typefaces writers compose in, and why

Daisy Wheel

Slate presents “My Favorite Font: Anne Fadiman, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Posner, and others reveal what font they compose in and why.” Some bits I appreciated:

I like Courier because it seems provisional—I can still change my mind—whereas Times New Roman and its analogues look like book faces, meaning that they feel nailed down and immovable. —Luc Sante

Most of my books have been set in Walbaum, which sounds like a chain store but is in fact an early-19th-century font designed by Justus Erich Walbaum, a German punchcutter whose luscious serifs may have been influenced by his early apprenticeship to a confectioner. —Anne Fadiman

Obsessing about fonts is a form of procrastination, so of course I have indulged in it ever since I graduated from a TRS-80 Model III to a Macintosh. —Caleb Crain

There’s a strong preference for Courier, which I happen to think is a good idea. Keeps the writer from getting to hung up on presentation. When I worked on the PEN literary journal, I’d format files in Courier for the staff, but in Times New Roman for the editor in chief. The book was then set in very small Adobe Caslon, and we’d find another round of typos on that version—you see different kinds of errors every time you change the typeface.

The default fonts in most of my non-layout applications are set to Georgia, Verdana, and Andale Mono. Yours?

(P.S. Man, remember daisy-wheel printers? I used to take mininaps between pages when I printed out my papers for school; each page took, like, five minutes, and I found the tat-tat-tat-tat-tat soothing.)

Photo: APL 10 by Paul Downey; some rights reserved.

Open-source bitmap-to-vector converter

Hand with a quill pen

For those of you who don’t have Illustrator CS2 (or an ancient copy of Adobe Streamline), Cathi Stevenson points out that there’s an open-source program that will convert your bitmaps to vector art: Inkscape. It’s available for Linux, Windows 2000/2003/XP, and OS X (with X11 installed—this is on the Tiger disk somewhere).

I could have used this often at my last job, where I was stuck with Illustrator CS. Instead, I either e-mailed files to my personal account so I could convert them at home (if I had time) or traced them by hand (if I didn’t).

Has anybody tried Inkscape besides Cathi? I’ve downloaded it but haven’t got X11 set up yet.

Photo: Hand with a quill pen by Barbara Smith; some rights reserved.

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Baby's First Commissioned Illustration

Nextbook.org home page, May 22, 2007

After all my whining and demanding of assistance, I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that I finally commissioned my first illustration, and it is now online, live, in brilliant RGB:

This hot, hot pixel-on-screen action was produced by the multitalented and genial Aaron Artessa, whom I met at the club. It’ll be on the home page for only one week, so see it in its glory while you can. Next Tuesday, it will be replaced by the fruit of my second go at working with an illustrator.

The rock I've been under

view from under a rock

In case you’re wondering where in tarnation I’ve been, the answer is “chained to my desk.” Man, this whole “job” thing is really cutting into my blogging time.

For a while there, I was cranking out a shocking quantity of ads and posters and booklets and thumbnails and Quicktime clips. Now our two “festivals of ideas” are behind us, and the website redesign has finally gone live, and I’ve been settling down to trying to make reasonably attractive images for the new home page—they’re much larger than they used to be, which makes my job simultaneously easier and more difficult. (I can’t work around totally crap images as easily, but I also don’t have to crop good images in painful ways to fit a cramped horizontal slot.)

Some tools I’ve been leaning on lately:

I’m sure there are more gadgets I’ve forgotten, but these are the first that come to mind.

Also: bless ye, all Flickr users who not only offer Creative Commons licenses allowing others to share and remix, but who also tag your photos. There is some great stuff on Flickr, and my job would be absolutely impossible if it weren’t for youse guys.

Photo: Pinnacles-30 by Ken Conley; some rights reserved.

Book restoration in the Adirondacks

Walden binding by Jack Fitterer and Taff Mace

Bridget sent a link to a sweet article from Adirondack Life about Jack Fitterer, a book restorer and binder in upstate New York: Page Turners: The art and craft of bookbinding in Indian Lake.

The earliest volume they’ve mended is a 15th-century prayer book with minute channels chewed through the pages by generations of actual bookworms. “Wormholes get little patches of Japanese tissue,” explains Jack. Repairs like this are visible, and he says, “Everything doesn’t have to be pristinely restored. It’s possible to over-restore things. Our goal is to keep a book’s integrity but make it something a modern person can touch and even read.”

It’s a short article with few photos, unfortunately, but there is the promise of more goodies at the Fitterers’ site (“under construction”):

In the future, this page will present a series of reflections on Books and Bookbinding. Some of the topics will include “How does restoration affect the value of a book?”, “How should I best store and display my books?”, “What repairs can I do myself?”, “Should I use leather dressing on my books?”

Keep an eye on it.


green leaves

Has anyone been playing with Panic’s Coda yet? I just downloaded it yesterday, and I like it, so far, though I’m still feeling my way around. The CSS editor, in particular, makes sense to me. The tag autocompletion has been driving me a bit crazy, but not so crazy that I’ve turned it all the way off yet.


Photo: green leaves by Friedemann Wulff-Woesten; some rights reserved.