About The Types

by | Dec 8, 2020 | Fiction, Issue Eighteen

I

This part of the story should be set in Times New Roman, a typeface designed by the draftsman Victor Lardent, under the direction of the typographer Stanley Morison and named after The Times newspaper, for which it was commissioned. Matilde had never heard of Lardent or Morison, but her mother lost several parts and wholes of her fingers whilst employed as an operator at the L____ Monotype foundry, wherein – in a freak, unpleasant and unfortunate incident – said priorly-complete digits became trapped [due to her mother’s deteriorating-for-other-reasons hand/eye coordination] within the sub-key depths of her control board and, in a panic, yanked herself away so hard and at such an angle, that those fingers that were more enmeshed than others became cracked, torn and transformed into stringy little extenders, both permanently and forever.

II

This part of the story should be set in Sabon, a typeface designed by Jan Tschichold and named for the Frankfurt setter, Jacques Sabon. Matilde had also never heard of Tschichold or Sabon, but then she had more pressing concerns than two long-gone typographers – one of whom could have moonlit as a Walt Disney-type kooky professor, going from extant photographs – given that her household’s main breadwinner had gone from being a fully-functional, fully-digited member of the workforce, to a mangle-handed wreck. She forwent her academic aspirations and took over her mother’s job at the foundry, taking great care, of course, where she placed her fingers.

III

This part of the story should be set in Futura, a typeface designed by Paul Renner. Renner was a close friend of Jan Tschichold, although this has no relevance here. Matilde’s mother might have heard of both these names during her time at the foundry, but if she had then she had also forgotten them, and as she never returned to work it was unlikely she would ever come across them again. Matilde’s mother retained only her thumb and forefinger on her left hand and the pinkie and ring finger on her right. She taught herself to be sinister, her remaining thumb and forefinger effective as a kind of pincer, the fingers on the right only ever being able to wiggle around in a half-controlledish sort of way. In this fashion she found that she could handle cups of tea and not-too-large glasses, most items of cutlery, some door handles and a hairbrush. She also developed an occasionally readable cursive in a sinistral script. Matilde’s mother actually knew a – different – Paul Renner once, but placed no significance on the fact, being unaware that she might have heard of another.

IV

This part of the story should be set in Erbar, a typeface developed under the German foundry Ludwig & Mayer. L&M were partly responsible for an early example of a geometric san serif typeface in their employment of Jakob Erbar, descendants of which [the typeface, not the designer] were used in a particular pro-forma that Matilde was repeatedly required to complete on behalf of her mother – whose cursive, as we know, was legible, but whose boldened caps were somehow not – in order to demonstrate her ongoing disablement, the fact of which was implied by Matilde’s completion of the form on said behalf, but proven through the satisfactory completion of all relevant sections, which ranged from questions like “To what extent does your disability affect your ability to lead a normal life?” to “Do you require assistance in toileting?” which her mother did, but on the grounds of personal dignity and self-respect refused to allow Matilde to disclose the fact, and all for the purposes of an industrial payout, this stultifying locking of horns with bureaucracy on such a recurrent frequency[1] contributing in part to Matilde’s own and personal breakdown, depression and temporary sequestration in a certain and particular type of institution, whose admittance and discharge papers were set in – what else, but? – Erbar.

V

This part of the story should be set in Baskerville, designed by the eponymous English businessman. Years after Matilde’s mother was self-planted, a study would claim that use of Baskerville type increased the likelihood of the reader agreeing with a given statement by around 1.5%. Matilde might have made good use of this knowledge had she possessed it, but as things stood, her typewritten letters to various offices and officials fell on ignorant ears. Baskerville was an atheist who printed Folio copies of the Bible, whereas Matilde and her mother were quiet believers who nevertheless didn’t own even a single copy of the Good Book.

VI

This part of the story should be set in Times New Roman because all endings are also their beginnings. Matilde lived a long and happy life, overall. Isn’t that what you wanted to hear?[i] It’s true, there were setbacks: the early hardships, as we’ve already heard, plus three divorces and two cancers, the second of which was fatal, if mercifully quick and relatively pain-free. But on the whole. Matilde actually left the foundry less than a year after she started; it wasn’t for her and there was something not right about working for the same employer that had crippled her mother, and naturally the subsequent lengthy and drawn out court battles and welfare claims wouldn’t have endeared her to the corporation over the years. But Matilde accepted these things and got on with it as best she could [unlike her mother, she was the type] and if, at the end, she was asked – perhaps she was, we can’t be sure – she would have indicated contentment, satisfaction: enough.


[1] Which form was always rejected, resulting in an appeal which was always won, in which case you might wonder why reject it in the first place, and then suspicions begin to surface w/r/t the design of all things, not just typefaces but certain and particular systems too


[i] It is. Of course it is. Of course

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