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InDesign Type: Professional Typography with Adobe InDesign, Third Edition by Nigel French

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Chapter 12. Drop Caps

The use of decorative first letters as a design element has evolved from a long tradition of illustrated first letters stretching back to before the invention of the printing press. Before printing, books were dictated to scribes, and each book was regarded as a unique treasure. The scribes incorporated individual flourishes to distinguish their work from others. It was with the decorative first letter that a scribe could really cut loose and show his stuff. Each major section usually began with an illuminated letter made with metallic, mineral, or vegetable pigments that were bound by glue or gum to the paper or parchment.

The purpose of the initial letter, or versal, was to call attention to the beginning of the book. ...

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