Sunday, April 5, 2009

Saucy Romans take the field

On Thursday I printed the first two pages of the Pervigilium Veneris (one each of Latin and English) in my new Cancellaresca Milanese type. Printing a bilingual text presents many challenges to the typographer, one of the most difficult of which is whether to pursue a feeling of typographic equanimity or to emphasize the differences between the two texts. In the case of the PV, the solution to this problem was aided by Bruce Whiteman's approach to the translation. Rather than producing a symmetrical syllabic rendering of the Latin, Bruce (thankfully) chose to set the English to his own music. The resulting translation is nearly twice as many lines as the original Latin. One of the pitfalls of using a Cancellaresca Corsiva type (like my Milanese) is that it tends to visually break up when freighted with too much white space. The ascenders and descenders need to be close to their own kind or they hang on the page like forlorn tendrils, disconnected and exposed. If I were to set both the Latin and the English in upper and lower case, the Latin would not hold its own on the page but be subsummed by the empty chasms separating stanzas. As a solution I chose to set the Latin in all caps and the English in upper and lower case. The Latin stakes out its territory with a horizontal epigraphic presence while the English is allowed to flow in a more vertical thread.