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Type anatomy: The term 'beard'

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I’d suggest that the beard is the space between the baseline and the bottom of the body. In the context of the other terms on the image shown above, this is the only description that makes sense to me. I do not see why a beard would relate to something like a ‘descender line’, simply because a beard is not a line. To a descender? Yes, in the case we use it to describe the space used by descenders and the like, such as in the PostScript Language. But when on The Basics of Typography  it is suggested that there should be such a thing a a beard line, we also have a beard. And when the beard line describes the lower end of the beard, the beard itself clearly is the the space between the baseline and the bottom of the body. 

Looking at the image from Letter Printing Process (b.t.w. I have never seen a type setter holding a composing stick like that) we either use the same term to describe various parts of a (metal) letter, or the placement of the arrow is wrong and Collins related to the image without questioning it.

The ‘projection on the bottom right of the Capital G’ is usually referred to a spur, but in the 19th century this (optional) part of G was sometimes shaped with a curl to the right. Therefore, ‘beard’ may have seemed to be more appropriate for some time in some cases.

In Dutch printers terminology we have the word baardwit (beard white). According to the book Typografie, uitgangspunten, richtlijnen, techniek by Tom Bolder, Joost Klinkenberg, Huib van Krimpen, Stefan Henning, Paul Mijksenaar, Bart Oosterhoorn, Kees Ruyter and Wim Westerveld, issued by GOC-Uitgeverij and Gaade Uitgevers in 1990, baardwit is defined as follows: handzetterm: wit tussen de basislijn en de onderkant van de staartletters. This translates into: hand setting term: white space between the baseline and the bottom of the descenders.

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The part of the letter as referred to in the image from Letter Printing Process (when does the image appear in the video?) is called ‘Konus’ in German (in English: cone). It is described as such in Hermann Hoffman: Der Schriftgießer, Ein Lehrbuch für das Gewerbe. Verein Deutscher Schriftgießereien e.V., Leipzig 1927 and in Gustav Bohadti: Die Buchdruckletter, Ein Handbuch für das Schriftgießerei- und Buchdruckgewerbe. Ullstein AG, Berlin 1954. In Dutch it is called ‘talud’ (in English: slope).

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On 5/18/2020 at 3:04 PM, Riccardo Sartori said:

it can also be used to denote the descenders’ line.

57 minutes ago, Albert-Jan Pool said:

I do not see why a beard would relate to something like a ‘descender line’, simply because a beard is not a line.

To be fair, in the page I linked to the complete term is “beard line”.

9 minutes ago, Albert-Jan Pool said:

when does the image appear in the video?

It does not, it is simply used as a thumbnail. But I found other similar ones that confirm the definition linked by Ralf (incuding the one on this page that hints at multiple terms for the feature).

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Thanks for your quick reply Riccardo!

33 minutes ago, Riccardo Sartori said:

It does not, it is simply used as a thumbnail.

Sorry, maybe I’m too unfamiliar with YouTube videos and their ‘special effects’. Where can I find that thumbnail?

But when it comes to beard, it seems that the term is used for two different things. The same goes for ‘shoulder’ I think.

And what exactly can/should be seen on this page? I’m afraid that I do not get the clue …

No beard, but ‘instead’ I encountered a strange interpretation of an ‘aperture’. To me most letters have one (c, b, d, p, q, o) or more counters (a, g, e), be it the white space enclosed by the black letterform. In this sense, the white form is the counter form to the black form. Just as the counterpunch creates the counter form of/into a punch as described in Fred Smeijers: Counterpunch, making type in the sixteenth century, designing typefaces now. Hyphen Press, London 1996. And some counters (such as c, e and h, n, u) usually have an aperture. I do not see why the counter itself should be ‘renamed’ when it has an aperture.

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34 minutes ago, Riccardo Sartori said:


(notice there’s something written before “Beard”.)

Thanks! I just discovered that Safari only displays the first three images and Google Chrome displays ten! Sorry for the confusion. For now, I am eager to know what that something is which is writen before ‘Beard’ ;–)

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1 hour ago, Riccardo Sartori said:



hmm … I think that the measure of type height is illustrated wrong here … For the letterpress printer, the total height of the letters was the only relevant measure. It is called ‘letterhoogte’ in Dutch and ‘Schrifthöhe’ in German (Bohadti 1954). The measure of the beard usually varies between type founders. It is the printing press which defines the type height of the letters that could be used on that specific press. That measure is critical, because many printers used letters from different type founders on the same press. Normally, a letterpress printer would specify the type height which suited his or her printing press when ordering type from a foundry. In Hoffman’s Der Schriftgießer you’ll find German-French(!), Austrian, Russian, Dutch, Belgian and English type height / Schrifthöhe. The difference between the largest (Russian) and the smallest (English) measure as listed is almost 4 Didot points.

Edited by Albert-Jan Pool
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