Robin Kinross

Robin Kinross is writing a history of modern typography.

Black Art

Robin Kinross, 31 March 1988

More than five hundred years on from its first practice, some mystery still surrounds the ‘black art’ of printing. And now, when the secure identity of the printing trade is threatened by instant printers, desk-top publishers and women compositors, the mystery has been displaced and further confused. Typographers feel this every time they are asked what exactly it is that they do. ‘Oh, newspapers?’ someone will hazard. ‘No, books, leaflets, that sort of thing.’ ‘You print them?’ ‘No, design them,’ ‘You make the illustrations?’ Then one tries to explain the function of editorial and visual decision-taking that should intervene – or may happen by default-between the writing of a text and its composition and multiplication as printed pages. The other familiar conversation is of insiders talking together: the obsessive discussions of the visual forms of text matter, of line-lengths and letterspacing. Between these two worlds, of the reader and of the designer of text, the gap may sometimes feel impossibly wide, and yet each depends on the other.’


Here we are

2 July 2020

Alice Spawls refers to ‘Monotype printing’, but Monotype was a method of composing text, not of printing it. The main distinction isn’t between Monotype and computerised typesetting (as Spawls observes, a computer can run a Monotype caster), but between letterpress and lithographic printing: between printing from a raised surface and a flat one. Hot-metal typesetting was deposed...

Quality Distinctions

17 December 1981

SIR: The exchange between Richard Webster and Edmund Leach (Letters, 18 February and Letters, 4 March) is further evidence of the continuing and useless conflict between the ‘human’ as found in literature and the scientific-technical. It is an argument that seems peculiar to British life – the Leavis-Snow ‘two cultures’ debate being only the most notable recent instance....

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