July 2

One of the earliest experiments in the creation of a roman alphabet which could satisfactorily lend itself to the more economic aspects of typesetting was granted the approbation of a patent on or about this day to Philip Rusher in 1802 by the British Patent Office. Rusher’s patent (No. 2620) reads as follows:

“Various Improvements and Alterations in the Form of Printing Types, and the Manner in which Printing is to be performed therewith, so as to Diminish the Trouble and Expence of Printing, and to render it much more Uniform and Beautiful. . . .

“Each capital letter, with few exceptions, should be comprized in the compass of an oval, or made to occupy the space that might in printing be filled by an oval, in which form they will occupy less room than usual, and be much more uniform. Each small letter is to be without any tail piece or descender, and the metal of the type (usually forming the shoulder) in its whole length, both in the small and capitals, is to extend no lower than the body of the letter, consequently the letters will occupy less room . . . in printing, without being less legible. Those of the small letters, whose heads or ascending points rise above the body of the character, should have their heads shortened or lowered about one third, which will make them appear more uniform with the other letters, and will likewise allow room for a greater space between the lines in printing; or the type may be placed closer.

“In printing, each line may be placed immediately under the body of the preceding line, and thus a great part of the paper heretofore occupied by the type will be saved; or spaces may be placed between the lines to extend them to the usual distances asunder.”

Rusher’s place in English typefounding was set for all time by Talbot Baines Reed in his classic history of the art, A History of the English Letterfounders. In a footnote Reed described him as “a misguided reformer.” Rusher found it necessary to finance personally the first use of the type by commissioning a printer to produce an edition of Samuel Johnson’s novel, Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia. The type was a modification of Caslon with the lower-case characters changed to conform to Rusher’s system. Two editions were actually printed, but the venture was not successful. The idea therefore expired with the first experiment.

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