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Chapter 9. Fonts and Printing > A Short History of Fonts

A Short History of Fonts

Before Johannes Gutenberg’s 15th-century invention of the movable-type press, the text in books and documents was almost exclusively handwritten. There were some fixed-page presses, but information was most often transcribed by hand— usually in very ornate writing known as black letter, which was hard to read. Black letter was very fancy, which conflicted with the surge of rational thought that was cropping up in Europe during the Renaissance. Art—including the written word—was being overhauled to fit the new line of thinking: the information on a page was much more important than how the information was presented.

The Gutenberg press made this transition possible. Since handwritten text was becoming the exception rather than the rule, the wild variations in lettering style would soon be replaced by more uniform typefaces that would be easier to read, and would therefore convey information more effectively.


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