Saturday, 1 May 2010

Time capsule: 1

We are coming to the end of the embellishment of the outside of our house: repainting the windows, replacing the glass in the front door and the fittings on it and putting a plaque above it saying DIAL [7] HOUSE, a reference to the sundial I caused to be put up to mark my seventy fifth birthday on the auspicious date of 08.08.08, celebrated too by a billion Chinese with the opening of the Peking Olympics.

As soon as I've figured out how to get photos off my Better Half's digital camera, I'll add a picture of it. The plaque was painted by Les Edge of Banbury, a master of his craft. When I went across to pick it up I had a long and lovely chat with him about how he did it: a fascinating story. He succeeded superbly in matching the typeface (Trajan) used on the sundial above it, down to and including maintaining the same weight of character when emulating small caps by reducing the point size by 20%, which have not been created for this font.

The use of small caps has almost entirely died out with the dumbing down of typesetting and the decline in typographical standards since the onset of Desk Top Publishing. I cry that giving the uninitiated a hundred fonts in dozen of sizes is like giving a Stradivarius to a gorilla, but the response tends to be "Well, it's cheaper, innit?" But read what Beatrice Ward, the great typographer of the 20s and 30s, had to say here, and then try to deny that text is not as elegant or indeed readable as it used to be. "Does it really matter?", people respond, "Everybody will get used to it!" "Pshaw!", say I.

It occurred to me that it would be nice to write something to be encapsulated and put behind the plaque when it is screwed up, saying a few words about ourselves to the person who unscrews it sometime in the future, that person almost certainly being my successor as owner or his agent. I wrote the piece early this morning and it will go up when Trevor comes round to put the last coat on the front and kitchen doors. You can read it in Time capsule: 2.

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