TY3LF-History of letterforms and typography

Module Provider: Typography
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Rob Banham

Email: r.e.banham@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
An introduction to the evolution of Western letterforms and their contexts.

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of factors that influenced the broad evolution of Western letterforms until the middle of the 20th century, with special attention to inscriptional lettering, formal writing and printing types, and their use in specific environments.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • distinguish the chief categories of letterforms
  • describe the technical, aesthetic and social factors that determined their evolution
  • appraise critically the primary sources and historical interpretations of the subject

Additional outcomes:
The module also aims at encouraging the development of sensitivity to the appropriate use of typefaces in particular contexts.

Outline content:
The content is organized chronologically. Two preliminary sessions cover, first, the evolution of the Greek and Latin alphabet, with particular attention to the structure of the inscriptional lettering of the Republican and Imperial periods in Rome, and, second, the development of writing, from the minuscule scripts of the Roman Empire to gothic formal and semi-formal scripts of the later Middle Ages.
Subsequent sessions cover the invention and technique of printing and typefounding, and gothic types; the Italian Renaissance inscriptional letter; humanistic script, and the first roman types, with particular attention to Venetian typography (Jenson and Aldus); the adaptation of the humanistic cursive as the formal Italian 'Chancery script', with its radical transformation in the work of G. F. Cresci in the second half of the 16th century.
Later topics are the establishment of the 'Aldine' letter by Garamond and his contemporaries as the mainstream roman letter of the 16th to the 18th centuries, with attention to its 'Dutch' or 'baroque' variant; the evolution of calligraphy in the 17th and 18th centuries and the subsequent development of a 'modern' or neo-classical typography in France, England and Italy; the development of commercial display typography in the 19th century; aspects of 19th-century reaction towards revived historical models; and the development of an anti- historical 'art nouveau' approach to letterforms.
Concluding summary sessions examine the renewed assertion of the primacy of the broad pen as a letter-making tool (with special reference to the influence of Edward Johnston); the role of Morison and the (English) Monotype Corporation in providing revived historical models for machine composition; and the creation of a modernist typography adapted to the new technical processes of printing of the 20th century.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
One 50 minute lecture per week.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10 10
Guided independent study 40 40
Total hours by term 50.00 50.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 100

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    One three-hour paper requiring four answers to be taken at the time of Part 3 examinations.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40%.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Examination on an August/September date to be notified.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

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