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Typography Timeline

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Timeline of typographic history
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  • Writing and typography Time Line: Megan ColwellFrom Cave Paintings to Modernist Publications

    15,000-10,000 BCE Cave paintings at Lascaux. Random placement and shifting scale signify prehistoric peoples lack of structure and sequence in recording their experiences (Meggs, 6).

    3,100 BCE Earliest Egyptian pictographic writing. Ivory tablet of King Zet, First Dynasty. The five-thousand-year-old tablet is perhaps the earliest known example of Egyptian pictographic writing that evolved into hieroglyphics (Meggs,14).

    197 BCE Rosetta Stone. From top to bottom, the concurrent hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek inscriptions provided the key to the secrets of ancient Egypt (Meggs,14).

    1,000 BCE Early Greek alphabet. It derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and was in turn the ancestor of numerous other European and Middle Eastern scripts, including Cyrillic and Latin (notes).

    200-500 CE Roman Square Capitals and Rustic Capitals. An ancient Roman form of writing, and the basis for modern capital letters.Square capitals were used to write inscriptions, and less often to supplement everyday handwriting (notes).

    1040 CE The invention of movable type. The worlds first known movable type system for printing was created in China around 1040 A.D. by Bi Sheng during the Song Dynasty.

    1530 CE Garamond establishes an independent type foundry. Claude Garamond was the first punch cutter to work independently from printing firms. His roman typefaces were designed with such perfection that French printers in the 16th century were able to print books of extraordinary legibility and beauty (Meggs, 111)

    1760-1840 CE Industrial Revolution. A radical process of social and economic change. Mass production created new products and the demand for mass communication and advertising came about because of this (notes).

    300 CE Discovery of printing. During the Han Dynasty seals called chops were made by carving calligraphic characters into a flat surface by pushing it into a pastelike red ink made from cinnabar, and then pressed onto a substrate to form an impression (Meggs, 39)

    400-600 CE. Illuminated Manuscripts. Decorated and handwritten books produced from the late Roman Empire until printed books replaced them. Manuscript writing was expensive and very time-consuming (notes).

    1450, 1455 CE. Gutenberg perfects typographic printing; Gutenberg Bible. Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing to Europe with the invention of mechanical movable type. This is regarded as the most important event of the modern period. Spread of ideas and knowledge through fast production of books (notes).

    1790s CE. Bodoni and the modern style. Bodoni led the way in evolving new typefaces and page layout that inspired the modern style roman type (Meggs, 133) ).

  • 1796 CE Invention of lithography. Printing is from a stone or a metal plate with a smooth surface. When the stone was moistened, the etched areas retained water; an oil-based ink could then be applied and would be repelled by the water, sticking only to the original drawing. The ink would then be transferred to a blank paper sheet, producing a printed page (notes).

    1826 CE. First photograph from nature. The first photograph from nature was taken by Joseph Nipce in France. The photo shows a view looking out over the rear courtyard of the Nipce home.

    1890-1910 CE. Art Nouveau. An international philosophy and style of design. It was inspired by Asian style of calligraphic line drawings, abstraction, and simplification.

    1906 CE. Lucian Bernhard and Plakatstil. An early poster style of art that originated in Germany. The traits of this style of art are usually bold, straight font with flat colors. Shapes and objects are simplified while the subject of the poster remains detailed (notes).

    1860-1910 CE. Arts and Crafts Movement. An international design movement that rejected industry and mass production and focused on hand-craft and decorative styles. William Morris was the leader of the movement (notes).

    1886 CE. Invention of Linotype. Ottmar Mergenthaler produces the worlds first linecasting machine in the USA. The linotype machine operator enters text on a 90-character keyboard. The machine assembles matrices, which are molds for the letter forms, in a line (notes).

    1909-1914 CE. Cubism. In Cubist design, objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted forminstead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context (notes).

    1916 CE. Dada. A design movement that startd in Zurich, Switzerland and claimed to be anti-art and against the carnage of WWI. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestoes, theatre, and graphic design. Art techniques like photomontage, collage, assemblage, and readymades developed in this movement (notes).

    1919 CE. Bauhaus School. Founded by Walter Gropius in Germany, it was a school that combined crafts and find arts and was famous for its unique approach to teaching design in which it ignored real world problems to focus on the arts. The movement influenced furniture design, typography, architecture and graphic design (notes).

    1941 CE. War Posters in America. Joseph Binder, poster proposal for the U.S. Air Corps. Extreme spacial depth is conveyed by the scale change between the close up wing and aircraft information (Meggs, 360).

    1909-1930s CE. Futurism. A revolutionary movement in which all the arts were to test their ideas and forms against the new realities of scientific and industrial society Meggs, 261).

    1919 CE. Constructivism. An artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia which was the rejection of the idea of autonomous art. Had a great effect on modernism and influenced trends such as Bauhaus and De Stijl.

    1923 CE. Jan Tschichold and the New Typography. New Typography movement brought graphics and information design to the forefront of the artistic avant-garde in Central Europe. Rejecting traditional arrangement of type in symmetrical columns, modernist designers organized the printed page as a blank field in which blocks of type and illustration could be arranged in harmonious, strikingly asymmetrical compositions.

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