The story of type doesn't begin with type per se, rather it starts with the beginning of mankind and civilization. Type has only existed for about 560 years, but its beginnings are rooted in the life of the caveman himself, as it was his developing needs and habits that led civilization on a path toward the evolution of the alphabet and subsequently the invention of type and printing. It is certainly possible to learn to use type effectively and tastefully without knowing its roots; but to fully understand and appreciate type today, it is important to know something of the past.
Milestones in the history of type are highlighted throughout this chapter. Some of the dates, chronology, and details vary from source to source, but the spirit of the events remains the same. These events have taken mankind on a glorious ride from the crudest cave drawings to the bits and bytes of type in the digital age.
For many years, early humans communicated purely with sound. Verbal language–which is heard and not seen as opposed to visual language (or visible language, as it is often called)–has many limitations: it is gone the instant it is spoken and heard, and it is therefore temporary. Stories, history, and other information could not be passed on from generation to generation in a permanent way, only by direct word of mouth.
The earliest attempts ...