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Re: [css-inline] Summary of drop-caps/initial-letters discussion

From: Liam R E Quin <liam@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 20 May 2014 21:01:27 -0400
Message-ID: <1400634087.8600.84.camel@slave.barefootcomputing.com>
To: Tony Graham <tgraham@mentea.net>
Cc: Dave Cramer <dauwhe@gmail.com>, "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>, James Clark <jjc@jclark.com>, fantasai <fantasai.lists@inkedblade.net>
(joining a couple of threads to save responses)

On Tue, 2014-05-20 at 23:49 +0100, Tony Graham wrote:

> Liam shows an example from a Dutch book [1], but I now think it's not
> something you'd see in a modern book, so maybe it's not necessarily in
> scope.

It's indeed not modern - neither is Shakespeare nor the Bible, of
course. I don't know what a modern edition of the same text would look
like.  Some conventions of typography have been dropped because they
were too hard to do for the perceived benefit and others because they
were deemed not beneficial at all. And others for fashion reasons.

Some typesetters might have done something similar in English with a
sentence starting with o’Clock, were that to be at all likely. You might
find something similar in Scots writing I suppose.

Charles Lamont wrote,

> I can well see someone wishing to give the flavour of journeyman 
> letterpress printing, in which case 'suboptimal alignment' may
> actually be desired. I imagine few printers had founts that exactly
> spanned the height of two-lines-of-text-plus-one-thickness-of-leading.

Indeed I have examples from Bruce Rogers on my blog with exactly that
issue, and notes about best how to handle it. Similarly, regular
(non-titling) fonts would have room under the baseline for a possible
descender, and that created extra space too.

It's difficult with layout issues to look at a finished design and try
to guess why it looks the way it does (I feel like I'm channelling
Sharon!) and often with initial caps it's indeed been about mechanical
physical fitting-things-together or, more recently, weird and stupid
limitations in typesetting software!

Putting an open quote in the margin before an initial cap was so hard in
some systems (including Quark Express) that many style guides suggest
dropping the quote altogether.

Similarly, an enlarged initial doesn't work with all writing systems,
but, because of Word, Open Office/Libre Office, InDesign, etc., and
because of seeing them in Western documents, people have experimented
and started to use them elsewhere - this appears to be the case in
Arabic for drop initials (as opposed to drop words). It doesn't stop
people from wanting them though :) and they can be wanted because they
can perform a useful function. So we just have to spec something vaguely

Drop numerals also might not work with ::first-letter, but they are a
useful style for numbered lists. But they may work anyway with the
proposed approach.


Liam Quin - XML Activity Lead, W3C, http://www.w3.org/People/Quin/
Pictures from old books: http://fromoldbooks.org/
Ankh: irc.sorcery.net irc.gnome.org freenode/#xml
Received on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 01:01:31 UTC

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