Scale of Typefounders’ Measurement

The following is written by Mr. P. M. Shanks, of the Patent Type Founding Company:—

It is much to be regretted, that in consequence of the want of combined action on the part of the English printers no definite scale for the sizes of the bodies of types exists. Founders agree (with one exception) that the Pica shall be one-sixth of an inch, that two Nonpareils shall be equal to one Pica; two Pearls to one Long Primer; two Diamonds to be a Bourgeois; but beyond this there is no relation between one body and another, and each founder seems to make it a matter of principle that the dimensions of Long Primer, Bourgeois, &c, shall differ materially from the nominally similar bodies of every other house. In France this state of things does not exist.

Many years ago, by common consent of the printers, through their Trade Council, the Chambordes Imprimeurs, a definite standard was adopted, and the founders are obliged to conform to the rules laid down, so that from whatever source obtained, the type of a given body is of uniform dimensions. The evils of the want of such a system was recognised and remedied even as early as 1730. Fournier, in establishing his foundry, determined to put an end to the confusion that then prevailed among the French founders, as in our own. The plan he adopted is the basis of that which now universally prevails. He took two inches as his standard measure which he called his Prototype, and divided these into twelve parts, which he called lines, and each of these again into twelve parts, which he named Points, thus forming one hundred and forty-four divisions.

To apply this in practice, he assigned to each body a definite number of Points. Thus the body Cicero, corresponding to our Pica, was twelve points, and it was rendered exactly of these dimensions by laying twelve Cicero types on the two inch standard, and dressing them until they exactly fitted the required space. Nonpareil, half a Cicero, was six points, so that in dressing this body twenty-four had to be made to fill the Prototype. Leads were made to a certain number of points, and thus any body worked with another without justification. Fournier’s standard is still that used in the Imprimerie Imperiale, but it was modified by Didot, who adopted as his Prototype, or Typometre, as it has since been called, a definite portion of the metre, and thus brought type-founders under the French decimal system of measurement.

An attempt was made some years ago by Messrs. Bowers, of Sheffield, to introduce in England a similar system; the chief objection to its introduction arose from its discrepancy between the new bodies and those of the other founders. The Patent Type Founding Company, in introducing their Patent Hard Metal in 1854, laid down a system of measurement which appeal's to us deserving of the attention of printers. Without deviating from the usual sizes of bodies more than the other founders differ from each other, a scheme of bodies has been formed which possesses all the advantages of the French system. The standard taken by the Company is the Pica Type, which is divided into twenty points, and to each body is arranged a certain number of these points, thus:—

Body. Picas. Points.
Semi-Nonp. 0 5
Brilliant 0 6
Gem 0
Diamond 0 7
Pl.-Diamond 0
Pearl 0 8
Ruby 0 9
Nonpareil 0 10
Emerald 0 11
Minion 0 12
Brevier 0 13
Bourgeois 0 14
Long Primer 0 16
Small Pica 0 18
Pica 1 0
English 1 2
Primer 1 4
Great Primer 1 8
Paragon 1 12
Double Pica 1 16
2-line Pica 2 0
2-line English 2 4
Dbl. Primer 2 8
Dbl. G. Primer 2 16
3-line Pica 3 0
4-line Pica 4 0

On this system any body with Pica spaces and quadrats, or with leads cast to the Pica body, will work with any other body in table work without justification, and with most of them the relations are of a very simple character. Pica quads may be used in any emergency for the blanks and margins of any body without justification, using leads only. To take an illustration.—

  • 4 Picas equal 4 Small Picas and 8 points, which may be made by 8 brass space rules, or 41/10 leads, or 21/5 leads.
  • 4 Picas equal 5 Long Primers without leads.
  • 4 Picas equal 6 Breviers and 2 points, which may be either 2/20 brass space rules or 1/10 leads.
  • 4 Picas equal 8 Nonpareils without leads.
  • 4 Picas equal 10 Pearls without leads.
  • 4 Picas equal 10 Diamonds and 8 Points, which may be either a ½ lead, or 2¼ leads, or 4⅛ leads, or 101/20 brass space lines.

It may be shown that the same simple relation is true of any number of lines with any other body. The following is the proportionate scale for Leads, Brass Rules, &c.:—

  • 10-to-Pica 0 Picas, 2 Points or 20th parts of a Pica.
  • 8-to-Pica ,,,, ,,
  • 6-to-Pica ,, 3⅓ ,, ,,
  • 5-to-Pica ,, 4 ,, ,,
  • 4-to-Pica ,, 5 ,, ,,
  • 2-to-Pica ,, 10 ,, ,,
  • 10-to-Pica 1 Pica, 0 ,, ,,

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