First Principles of Typography

Stanley Morison

¶ Morison's classic essay on the foundational principles of typographic design first appeared as the entry for "typography" in the 1929 Encyclopedia Britannica, then, in a revised form, in Volume VII of The Fleuron (1930), followed by a variety of editions, each including minor changes, leading to the 1946 Balkema edition from which the text was taken for this edition. Laying out the ground rules in Morison's distinctive upright British, the essay is both an informative, entertaining, and seminal examination of the do's-and-don'ts of proper typesetting and printing.

¶ The original plan for this project was to hand-set the entire book in foundry Romanée (designed by Jan van Krimpen), which is the type that I brought back from Holland last year, and I've been very eager to put it to use. However, on setting the first two test pages, I discovered that the 500lbs of the 14pt size consists of two heights (.928 and .933), and so I'm going to have to mill down the .933 to get all of the 14pt to the same height-to-paper.

¶ Thus, in order to get the season's printing underway, the front and end matter were hand-set in metal (the 12pt & 16pt is all .928), and the body of the book in the 14pt digital revival of Romanée that I designed 2 years ago. The latter was printed from polymer, offering an opportunity to examine both the original metal and the digital revival in close proximity.The book has been printed into handmade Magnani Velatta, hand-sewn and bound into a stiff wrapper of the same stock, the binding executed by Alanna Simenson.


Stanley Morison was the typographic consultant to the Monotype Corporation from 1923 to 1967, heading up a program of typographic revivals that has influenced the field of typography to the present day. Morison was also typographical consultant to The Times newspaper from 1929 to 1960. He was the author of dozens of important works on the history of paleography, typography and printing, and, of course, he is the designer of the typeface Times New Roman, although we'll try to forgive him for that.



6" × 9.75", 32pp. 50 copies.
ISBN: 978-1-894744-32-4

Out of Print


Alcuin Society Book Design Award Winner


The wrapper, half-title, copyright, preface and colophon are set in Jan van Krimpen's foundry Romanée, cast in Haarlem, The Netherlands, by the House of Enschedé in 1928. The 48pt initials are foundry Lutetia, with a single 72pt digital Romanée initial to kick things off. The rest of the book is set in a digital revival of the Romanée types, with the specimen on page 11 in a digital revival of Lutetia, both redrawn and developed into OpenType fonts by Jason Dewinetz. The book was printed into handmade Magnani Velata on a Vandercook 15-21 at the Greenboathouse Press in Vernon, BC. The binding was designed by Jason Dewinetz and executed by Alanna Simenson in Vancouver.

Thanks are due to David McKitterick of Cambridge University, Stanley Morison's executor, for his kind permission to reprint the essay. The text here presented is taken from the 1946 Dutch edition, printed by Joh. Enschedé en Zonen for Balkema-Vijf Ponden Pers-Five Pound Press.

Limited to 50 numbered copies.