Stanley Morison

Editor’s note – shown above: The first page of Stanley Morison’s 1930 text, ‘First Principles of Typography’. Although the advice he gives is definitely ‘of its era’ which of these principles still apply (or can be adapted) to using type today? Click here for source credit for this photo and to view related images in a gallery (Flickr).

Quick overview: observations by Grant Robinson
In his booklet, ‘First Principles of Typography’, Stanley Morison concentrates on the use
of typography in books. Each page has its own heading. They are:

• Novelty in printing

• Design of type

• Imposing and printing

• Choice of type

• Leading of type

• Paragraphs

• Page headlines

• Title page

• Decoration in books

• Restraint in typography

• Preliminary pages

• Size of books

• Fine printing

When Morison discusses the printing of type, he is referring to letterpress. In the early sections of the book, he speaks about the printer’s role and how they must make decisions which now days because of digital type setting, are decisions which us designers have to make. Some examples of these decisions include:

• What type to use

• How to compose the type (kerning & letterfit)

• How much leading (space between lines) is required

In each section Morison gives pointers (I won’t use the term ‘rules’ because I see these pointers as pieces of advice that the designer may wish to use), on how a book should be set. I would imagine that some of these pointers could also be of help setting type on other graphic products. Some examples of what he gives advice about are:

• Line length

• Paragraphs (particularly how a paragraph should be opened)

• The setting of page headlines

‘First Principles Of Typography’ is definitely worth a look at in my opinion. The way in which Morison writes and the way the type has been set just makes this book a pleasure to read.

If you wish to take a look at it in class or want to make some copies from it, just ask.


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