Wednesday 28 April 2010

Intense Seeing Page Layout

I have been pottering about with the typesetting of my Intense Seeing text. The example below is based on the Tufte class,  I have changed the layout so that it fits onto a Crown Quarto size paper 189 x 246 mm. The font is Palatino. 

Monday 26 April 2010

The Tex & I

In the summer of 2009 I took on the task of re-typesetting a book I had originally co-authored with my PhD supervisor, colleague and friend Professor Vyvyan Howard. We had originally published Unbiased Stereology in 1998 and it had sold steadily enough that by 2004 another publisher had picked up the rights and we made and published a second edition.

By early 2009 our publishers had sold all the copies of the second edition and had hit on the idea of making a Print On Demand (POD) version that allowed them to keep selling copies of the second edition, but not have to pay upfront for a print run of thousands. This also made sense to us as authors because the book was still current and widely read – by early 2009 it had a total of about 800 citations from other papers and books.

Unfortunately, the overall POD quality was poor. Although the glossy book cover looked good ,the print quality of the figures looked like cheap photocopies and more importantly for us as technical authors the scaling of key images was unpredictable and thus unacceptable in the book. Vyvyan and I decided to pull out of the POD route and walked away from the publisher – prompted by my assertion that I could ‘do it myself’.

I knew that many, many academic scientists active in physics and maths routinely used the TeX and LaTeX systems to prepare papers and books, but I had never learnt how to use these systems myself and previously had been put off teaching myself because of the learning curve and because I thought using MS Word was good enough.

The following is based on my experience of going from a complete novice at  TeX  to someone with a fully typeset 296 page book finished and printed. In the process I have recently learnt a huge amount about fonts, typography and book design.

The TeX program was created by computer scientist Donald Knuth in 1984 driven by his own inquisitiveness and talents. Within two years Leslie Lamport had created a set of macros called LaTeX that made TeX easier to use and since then a myriad of unnamed Open Source programmers have extended and furthered the vision that Knuth had when he first created TeX. In the process over the past 10 years there has been a quiet, but nevertheless remarkable, revolution in how text is printed onto paper to make physical books.

The latest version of LaTeX is one of the very best things you can get for free, on Mac, Linux or PC. Once downloaded and installed a modern LaTeX  system (depending on the one you choose it will have either a fancy text editor or a a plain one and will have a LaTeX  engine that creates PDF output) will allow you to create a whole book of professionally typeset text, figures and equations.  Virtually all of the defaults help you do something sensible, or better, and hundreds of years of the art and craft of typography, typesetting and page design is opened up.  

The output above is some classic advice on typography from Beatrice Warde. It was created with the raw text file  which has the content text and a small number of TeX commands - to format the text in the same way that a typesetter would have done in the past with physical cast metal text.

The example uses the excellent memoir class which allows you to compose a whole book worth of type. The LaTeX system is pretty complete and comes with a number of useful high quality fonts as standard. I have used both Palatino (for the example here) and a Robert Slimbach designed font called Utopia.

Note that the Crystal Goblet piece has clever hyphenation and justification of the text -  LaTeX uses a hyphenation algorithm based on work by Donald Knuth and Michael F. Plass and further enhanced by Frank Liang. This method considers a paragraph as a whole to decide where to add line breaks and language specific patterns to decide hyphenation patterns. More recent developments enable LaTeX to move characters slightly into the margin to generate optically straight margins. These are cleverly NOT geometrically straight but when read they look straight. These computer algorithms are able to simulate the decision making of master typesetters of the past.

Equipped with LaTeX an amateur typesetter can begin to learn about typesetting by  practicing on eitiher their own text or using some existing electronic files (Project Gutenberg has hundreds of classic books in flat text files you can be Charles Darwins typesetter if you wish). If you have Robert Bringhurst's, Elements of typographic Style available and a couple of Edward Tufte books for inspiration you can really get going on more sophisticated things.

The LaTeX  memoir class was developed by Peter Wilson, it is a professional strength typesetting package that is capable of managing all aspects of a complete book project. As well as page by page typesetting it does chapter headings, layout on the paper size of choice, and gives incredible flexibility. Just by using default settings in memoir you can easily give you great page design and typesetting. For example, the command \medievalpage will use the paper size you have selected and produce a medieval page layout based on classic proportions such as those of the 13th century French architect Villard de Honnecourt who devised an ingenious method of setting out optimum proportions for margins and text block on a book page. Other simple commands deliver Robert Bringhurst layouts. If necessary you can set up your own or use a whole class that implements the iconic book layout of Edward Tufte’s books on information design.

And there is a worldwide community of like minded souls. For example, in a thoughtful essay by an Australian philosopher called Adrian Heathcote on how using free, robust and clever LaTeX typesetting programs can help small printers in the UK and Australia make better, more beautiful, books, you can find the following:

There are, however, many other aspects of LATEX that facilitate high quality typesetting. For one, the lines are not justified individually, as they are in Pagemaker and Quark, but in entire paragraph blocks. This simulates the decision making of the master typesetters of old, who would set a page so as to get the greatest evenness of word spacing. LaTeX - or rather the underlying TeX hyphenation-justification algorithm - is able to produce that evenness automatically. This has been so successful an implementation of this old technique that it has been borrowed now for Adobe's InDesign program, where it is called the multi-line composer.

So not only is LaTeX free, but it is also remarkably sophisticated. Donald Knuth knew something when he created TeX – that although computers are a modern science, in the end placing marks on paper is an old art and all art requires craft.

Friday 23 April 2010

The Anatomy of Texture

“…the anatomy of texture, is that which shews the composition of the organs: it is a kind of analysis, reducing these into their constituent elements.”

William Lawrence FRS 1829. On the Nature and Classification of Diseases. Lecture III October 5th 1829. Printed in the London Medical Gazette.

William Lawrence was an outstanding surgeon and famous in his time for two volumes of lectures he published when he was in his mid thirties - these contained pre-Darwinian and essentially evolutionary ideas on man's nature. Wikipedia has a good article on him. 

The Majoor skeleton

Here is a figure showing some of the excellent work of Dutch typographer Martin Majoor and his large family of fonts Scala, that include very closely matched serif and sans-serif faces.

His website explains that "In my opinion, mixing serif with sans only makes sense when the serif and the sans typefaces are both derived from the same foundation, or even from the same skeleton."

This figure shows how he made that come to life for Scala.

Top Left. How Majoor cretaed Scala Sans from his face Scala. "Scala Sans was literally derived from Scala. Using a black marker and some correction fluid, I changed the serif characters into sans."

Bottom Left. The lowercase letters a-g for serif (upper) and sans-serif (lower) show that the final published forms of the fonts retain the closeness of origin.

Top Right. Majoor shows that both serif and sans-serif sit on the same skeleton; "When I was designing Scala and Scala Sans my motto became: ‘two typefaces, one form principle’. This can be demonstrated by isolating the common skeleton of the roman and the italic in both Scala and in Scala Sans."

Bottom Right: Exactly overlain examples of a-b-c lower case are shown. Although both serif and sans-serif give markedley different texture and colour to a block of text set in the two different typefaces they differ less than about 10% in shape between the two faces.

Robert Bringhurst has a very complimentary write up on Majoors Scala faces in his book Elements of Typographic Style.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Anatomy of Utopia

Here is a figure that I have just knocked up to illustrate some aspects of typography for an article I'm writing. It uses the Utopia font that Robert Slimbach designed for Adobe and which found its way (via some controversy between 1992 and 2006) into a free software font that is packaged with LaTeX distributions.

Left panel;

Top - examples of the font including full alphabets of capitals, lowercase, and italics. The Utopia font as parcelled with LaTeX doesn't have a proper set of small caps or old style numerals (the full price version from Adobe does).

Bottom - An illustration of terminals, serifs aperture and axis. Utopia is a transitional font (transitional between old style and modern faces).

Right panel;

Top - the fi and fl ligatures that come as standard in the font.

Middle - In a proper typesetting software, such as LaTeX, the letter spacing should be modified so that certain pairs of letters are moved slightly closer together, this is called kerning. Each pair has a yellow box added to indicate the overlap.

Bottom - An example of LaTeX hyphenation and justification engine on a fragment of text from the Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. The algorithm not only very cleverly breaks the words in the most appropriate manner it also adjusts the right hand edge so that it is optically straight (even though as you can see if you look carefull it is not geometrically straight).

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Many Dimensions of a Book mapped out

I am working on a journal piece on Text and have tried to get my head around the idea of a book being a multidimensional mapping of black ink into a structured 3D space.

As part of this I wanted to try and show that if you break open a book and consider it as a 2D object then there is an extended dynamic range of lengthscales that have to be right for the book to work. It has to have a coherence and structure in the use of black ink in white space over a set of objects: Book - Page - TextBlock - Paragraph - Line - Word - Glyph.

[Robert Bringhurst makes the point in ETS 3.1 - when describing the Digital typeface Requiem by Jonathon Hoefler that, "...Requiem, unlike Bembo, Centaur and Dante, was born in the digital medium, where two dimensions have to do the work of three" p244.

In an interview with Jonathon Hoeffler he returns the compliment and says; "Robert Bringhurst put it best when he said that typography is an art where the microscopic and macroscopic constantly converge."].

I have chosen to measure the area of each of these 'objects' in millimetres squared and plotted these areas as a measure of the length scale of coherence of the text. The example is based on some pages of text from an article I wrote a few years ago about Ancient Geometry, Stereology and Modern Medics.

The typesetting has been done with the memoir class in LaTeX and the free font Utopia that was designed by Robert Slimbach and released for 'free' use by Adobe.


Book [Here represented by an eight page spread - but a 296 page book is this multiplied by 32 times]
Page [Here shown as a grey on white diagram.]
Textblock [Here is the actual textblock, individual words can now be seen and the structure of the paragraphs and headings etc. If you zoom in you can read it.]


Paragraph [Words and their spacing, leading between lines, justification.]
Line [How words interact and word and letter white space, punctuation]
Word [how glyphs and whitespace interacts]
Glyph [the fi glyph looks close up]

In each case I have measured the area of the object (page or line or glyph etc) in squared millimetres and plotted these estimates in the graph lower right on a logarithmic axis.


Saturday 17 April 2010

Reducing Fraction (2)

Friday 2 April 2010

Reed's Razor

Reeds Razor*;

For Intense Seeing, magnify just enough to gain new insight; but no more

Matt Reed 2010.

*This is a nod to two other Razor aphorisms. 
One great one, Ockhams Razor; Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity,
and one facetious one, Hanlons Razor; Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

The Reducing Fraction problem

I arrived at Intense Seeing via a particular and contingent route; from quantitative microscopy. This routing both colours my view and provides me with a chance to describe an analytical insight into the whole area. In quantitative microscopy there are a number of issues that have to be tackled to make progress, one of which is the `reducing fraction' problem. It's a really obvious problem; the higher the magnification you are using to resolve the details you are looking at, the lower the fraction of the whole object you can see in any one `field of view' (Unbiased Stereology. Howard & Reed First Edition 1998).
It can be illustrated in a number of ways but the figure shown is a very simple two dimensional example.

Note that however attractive the Eames Powers of Ten film and book it is quite disorienting. Even increasing the linear magnification by factors of 2, after a small number of iterations, leads to a vanishing fraction of the original area. The 8x gives a 1/64 th; keep going another two powers of two and you get to 32x magnification, which is a /1024 th of the original area.

Clearly in three dimensions things are even worse.