How could letters overlap in manual typesetting?

Generally speaking, ascenders and descenders should not touch each other in the text body.
This is self-explanatory as it could lead to text that is difficult to read.

However, Erik Spiekermann points out that there are use cases that profit from partly overlapping letters, e. g. to render headings more forceful (Spiekermann 1986: 43).

He also provides an example (Spiekermann 1986: 42, arrows by me), which says:

There’s a rule according to which descenders and ascenders must never
touch. There’s an exception to this rule which states that they may
touch if it looks better.

In this example, the letter g touches the letters ü and R in the following lines.

Spiekermann 1986: 42

In digital typography, letters are not necessarily connected to the size of their “metal” block (which still exists virtually) anymore, e. g. in the font Amsterdamer Garamont, the lowercase h exceeds its block on the top while the lowercase p exceeds its block on the left and bottom side (Forssman and de Jong 2014: 86). The authors write (transl. by me):

In manual typesetting, this would not be possible; the overlapping
parts of the letter would collide with the letters on the lines above
and below, and break.

The question:

Before the invention of digital type, in manual typesetting with lead body type, how were overlapping letters produced, and how were the problems described above solved?

Works referenced:

Forssman, Friedrich and Ralf de Jong. Detailtypografie. Mainz 2014 (2002).

Spiekermann, Erik. Ursache & Wirkung: ein typografischer Roman. Erlangen 1986.


I agree with @BillyKerr — 1986 was at a minimum movable type and Photo Mechanical Transfers (PMT). In other words, absolutely hot type and not cold type. Also realize it was the early 80s when computers were starting to be in use. In the later 80s they were already becoming a staple of many workflows as the software started catching up. Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Pagemaker, and QuarkXpress all existed by 1987. So it’s also not impossible that the type was set on a computer in 1986.

But… if it had to be done with metal type..

A Double-Hit or Multi-Pass run would work

Remove the Gs.. print it.. put the Gs back, remove everything else.. hit it again.

Or just run every-other line once, then run the other lines as a second hit.

Printing presses are not restricted to doing everything in a single pass. In fact it is still very common today to see a multi-pass press run. Often varnishes or gloss is applied as a second pass, but you could just as easily run a second pass of ink. Some smaller offset presses only have 1 or 2 inkwells so they have to run a multi-pass system to print anything more than 1 or 2 colors.

It’s impossible to tell in your attached image because it’s a digital image, but when looking at a printed price on paper, in real life, not digitally…. with a linen tester/loupe… you can often see that the ink may be a touch more dense in the overlap areas… which would indicate a multi-pass of the ink.

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Source : Link , Question Author : Philipp , Answer Author : Community

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