Frank Romano has spent over 60 years in the printing and publishing industries. Many know him best as the editor of the International Paper Pocket Pal or from the hundreds of articles he has written for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East to Asia and Australia. Romano lectures extensively, having addressed virtually every club, association, group, and professional organization at one time or another. He is one of the industry's foremost keynote speakers. He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.
Frank looks into the past of predicting the future. As the Internet began to grow and usurp printed products in 2000, a number of studies were undertaken to understand future impacts. There is no doubt that the Internet has had as profound effect on printing as printing had on human communication.
Frank rants about the high prices of textbooks. Barnes & Noble built bookstores on or near college campuses in order to get the textbook business. Amazon also entered the market with e-versions as well as print versions. College kids pay the price.
Belle Da Costa Green was the librarian for J. Pierpoint Morgan, the richest man in the world. He hired her in 1904 to help him build one of the greatest libraries in the world. She became its first director in 1924. She was one of the first women to succeed in a male-dominated world. The book “Personal Librarian” by Heather Terrell and Victoria Christopher Murray, tells the story.
Frank goes historic. Before Gutenberg printed the Bible he printed indulgences. These were “passports to Heaven” which allowed you to bypass Purgatory if enough money was paid. There were blank spaces for the variable data. The first thing that Gutenberg printed was a form!
Newspapers continue to move from atoms to bits. Frank uncovers more news about newspapers reducing or cutting their print editions in favor of digital editions. Within the next two decades, the printed newspaper will be a vestigial product.
European consultant Eddy Hagen has researched and produced an excellent report on brand colors: “Project BBCG: a Better Brand Color Guide.” It should be required reading for anyone working with Pantone and specialized color systems. Frank the discusses brand colors in the context of the Pantone system.
Printed batteries are an important part of printed electronics. Until now, the density of the inks required screen printing. Now, a breakthrough allows three inkjet inks to print a battery. This will provide new opportunities for security printing, direct mail, and packaging that literally sings and dances.
In this second part of Frank's interview with digital font pioneer Joe Treacy of https://treacyfaces.com, Frank and Joe talk about the current state of typefaces. With more than one million fonts and 20 programs for making digital fonts, there is no end in sight.
In this first part of two videos, Frank talks with Joe Treacy of TreacyFaces, one of the pioneers in digital fonts. He began making fonts in 1984, before PostScript and “desktop publishing.” His library now includes 500 fonts.
Frank found a 1975 article about the New York Times’ first entry into cold type (aka photocomposition). They initially used an MGD MetroSet CRT phototypesetter to set the classified section (what used to take three days was cut to 20 minutes). John Werner, then Director of Prepress Operations, was in charge of that transition and is quoted in the article.
Frank shows his latest acquisition: an 1896 "History of the Horn Book." Horn books date back to the 1500s and were used to teach the alphabet. They were very common during the American Colonial period.
Frank comments on paper shortages affecting the book industry. As mills close down, book publishers have been hard-pressed (no pun intended) to find paper. They have been applying narrower margins and negative letterspacing to squeeze more lines on a page to cut paper use.
Frank bemoans the “electronic-ification” of American newspapers and traces the evolution that went from hot-metal type, to flongs, to curved plate cylinders for high-speed rotary presses, to offset printing with negative film and aluminum plates, and to CTP (computer-to-plate). He predicts that circulation drops will move some newspapers to rollfed inkjet and the only thing that might be displayed might be a PDF file.
Frank is intrigued by a book produced in 1983 by graphic designers Milton Glaser and Jean Michel Folon called "A Conversation." The book is all images; one of the designers began an image and the other finished it. Seemingly printed on one long continuous sheet of paper, it folds out to over 19 feet long. (Frank and his detectives figured out how it was actually produced.) It, perhaps literally, stretches the definition of book.
Frank tells a tale of three books, each with 50,000 words and none of those words use the letter e. Ernest Wright’s book “Gadsby” in 1939 was the first, followed by Georges Perec’s 1969 “La Disparition” in French and its English translation “The Void” translated by Gilbert Adair. Try writing a sentence without the letter e. It’s not easy. (Obviously the authors’ names didn’t count.)
Frank discusses mark up for typesetting. Once upon a time, typesetting began with a typewritten manuscript. Typographic format was communicated with marked-up instructions. The typesetting person then followed these instructions to provide the specified font, size, etc. He shows off the special copyfitting rulers and tools that were used to determine copy depth and page count.
Formed in 1937, the Bookbuilders of Boston was an acclaimed organization that supported the book publishing industry. Sadly, it just closed down. Through its workshops, meetings, and annual events, it educated generations of book professionals. Frank has saved most of the annual catalogs from their annual book awards.
Frank takes us back to a time before electronic presentations. He shows us an overhead transparency projector and a Kodak Ektamatic 35mm slide projector. These are from the time before Aldus Persuasion, MS Powerpoint, and Apple Keynote.
Frank discusses a project to X-ray pages from a Gutenberg Bible, Caxton’s Canterbury Tales, and a Korean Buddhist page from 1100 AD. The goal is to see if there is any relationship—in terms of ink, paper, or other properties—between European printing and earlier Asian printing. Maybe they will find Gutenberg’s DNA.
Frank discovers a study that says offices still run on paper, and harkens back to the predictions of a paperless office. Copiers and printers increased paper use just as personal computers and the Internet decreased the need for paper.
Frank found two books of engraved invitations that graced the counters of small printers throughout America from the 1960s through the 1980s. For weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, confirmations, and other memorable events, you went to the printer down the street and ordered them from these books. Today, much of the printed engraved invitation world is ordered online. Unless you use Evite.
Not since "Quark On Broadway"... The world may not be ready for this. Frank channels his inner Johnny Cash in a rendition of "I've Been Every Place Man" re-imagined as "I've Set Every Face Man." Rob Romano did the editing and his counseling bills have been paid.
Frank talks about the integration of print and augmented reality (AR) using your phone. A free app called Zappar lets museum visitors perform audio and video self tours of the exhibits by scanning printed codes. And a printed book reproduces those codes and gives visitors a virtual and portable museum.
Master mechanic Dave Seat is one of the few specialists who keep Linotype and Ludlow type casters running. His recent visit to the Museum of Printing lasted three days, and was part of an extended tour where he will visit more than 20 locations in 11 states that still have this vintage equipment.
Frank opines about how advertising is following eyeballs from print to digital media. Within a year, digital media will exceed print media in terms of advertising revenue. Magazines and newspapers are moving to digital subscribers to keep their advertising base, as Facebook and Google monopolize advertising.
Frank talks about clipping services and Google Alerts—two methods that are used to find information that appears in print or digital media. He shows the alerts that he receives to keep up with industry news.
Frank interviews Dan Wood of DWRI Letterpress in Providence, R.I. Dan is one of the growing number of printers who use wood and metal type to print. Although he specializes in wedding invitations, the company produces a wide variety of letterpress-printed products.
Frank bemoans the digital displacement of print and describes new markets based on substrates other than paper. As the volume of printing on paper declines, printers must find new opportunities in new markets.
Frank looks at the typesetting and printing of languages other than English. As usual, he takes us on a little trip through the evolution of type, with the history of Linotype, Monotype, and phototypesetting. He ends with the publication of the Unicode standard. He is the only WTT presenter to ever mention King Farouk.
Frank goes off on two rants. First, he reports that some newspapers will not have sports scores from afternoon or evening games. Their front pages will contain commentary and little news. Then, he saw that printers were blamed for errors in ballots and asks who signed off on the proofs.
Frank talks about the Ludlow Typograph and the book he wrote about it. Introduced at the beginning of the 20th century, the active production lifespan of the Ludlow lasted just over 80 years, but its impact has continued. As typography evolved from metal, to film to digital, many of the fonts in use were based on hot-metal libraries, especially the Ludlow Typograph. He also demonstrates how to cast a type slug on it.
Frank bemoans the loss of local bookstores—and takes responsibility for some of it. He shows two books he bought online and one produced via on-demand printing. The changes in the way book buyers—like Frank—buy books has had a profound effect on the local bookstore.
Frank bemoans the steady decline in the number of small printers—those firms having fewer than 10 and 20 employees. They have largely been replaced with web-based services, office supply services, FedEx Office (Kinkos), and even home printers. He presents a short history of the so-called quick printer.
Frank discusses how typefaces evoke feelings. He shows a few examples and discusses how movies—especially on streaming platforms—TV shows, documentaries, and books use evocative typography to appeal to potential viewers. Each uses type and imagery and there are a multitude of choices. That is why we need a million typefaces.
Frank talks about kerning and how it evolved as we moved from wood type up through phototypesetting. A piece of rectangular wood type would be cut to allow tighter spacing with its adjacent character. Fast forward to the 1960s and the advent of the Visual Graphics Corp. PhotoTypositor which introduced the concept of tight spacing to typography.
Frank notes that WhatTheyThink now offers audio versions of its many articles. He harkens back to his early years and radio and how it competed with print advertising. It was television in the early 50s that took advertising away from print and the Internet that took even more.
Frank uses a new book called “Poor Richard's Women” as a launching point for a discussion on how authors and others often saved their written correspondence, which could then be used as references and sources for historians and biographers. For example, most of Ben Franklin's correspondence is available in 47 volumes from Yale. But what of his emails? (Author Nancy Ruben Stuart will be at the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass., on May 21 to give a talk about “Poor Richard's Women” and sign books. If you’re in the area, be sure to attend!)
Frank talks with Chris Obert, who works with budding authors to publish their own books. Through his consulting and trade shows, Chris helps them navigate the world of publishing. On-demand printing and Microsoft Word have provided opportunities for anyone to be a book author.
Frank finds a stash of old research reports on the printing industry and segues into the new WhatTheyThink PRINTING OUTLOOK 2022 report. Printing and communications executives were surveyed to ascertain the industry's print and service offerings. The results are always enlightening.
Frank talks about Ben Franklin's 1789 codicil to his will, where he left money to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. He focuses on Boston and the Franklin Institute, a vocational college, which does not teach printing. The tale takes 200 years to tell. (Don't worry, the video is not that long.)
Frank talks about almanacs (or almanacks) and shows a collection of them from the 1800s to the 2000s. Almanacs became popular in England in the 1700s and were published in the Colonies by the likes of James Franklin and his brother, Ben. These were well-thumbed publications and few have survived fully intact.
Frank talks to Adi Chinai, president of King Printing in Lowell, Mass., about the current state of book printing. This was apropos, as he delivered the second edition of Frank’s “History of the Phototypesetting Era.” The book industry is doing well and print books are outselling ebooks by a mile.
Frank takes a quick tour of the world of paste-up artwork in the days of offset printing. Using wax and rubber cement, we used to assemble type and line art on boards called mechanicals. These were shot in graphic arts cameras to film. It is now a forgotten world in the age of electronic page preparation on computer screens.
Frank takes a trip down memory lane when he finds a stack of old printing industry trade magazines. At one time there were more than 20 monthly magazines for every aspect of the printing trade. Today there are only a handful.
Frank acquired a recent reprint of a 1682 book showing color swatches. However, only one 300-page book was ever produced. It reminded him of how the Herbert brothers created the Pantone swatch book and how color is used for branding.
Frank was on Cunard's Queen Mary II recently, and what does he talk about—printing! Cruise ships run on paper. From the daily program, to daily newspapers, to menus, to promotional and informational material, passengers are bombarded with paper.
Frank was near Annapolis, Md., visiting Smithsonian warehouses (because of course he was) and stopped by Annapolis Junction to visit Ironmark, a local printer. He interviews president Jeff Ostenso, who has built his 150-employee company into a Top 500 printer through organic growth, mergers, and innovative thinking.
Frank found a number of articles about former newspaper and printing buildings being re-purposed for other uses. Print-related structures were sturdy in order to handle the weight of presses, Linotypes, and metal type. Now they are condos, apartments, or even new businesses.
Frank read an article that said there was less fake news in printed newspapers and he disagrees. Hearst and Pulitzer built their empires on “yellow journalism” and many newspapers were founded specifically to be partisan and, to this day, have the word “Democrat” or “Republican” in the names.
Frank celebrates the 45th anniversary of the founding of Apple Computer in a California garage. Frank received his first Macintosh in 1984 and shows a collection of almost every Apple product, including the handheld Newton.
Frank starts by reading the famous “Pause Stranger: You Stand in a Composing Room” poster by Beatrice Warde and segues into a book review for “Baseline Shift: Untold Stories of Women in Graphic Design History” by Briar Leavitt, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Portland State University. She and others tell the tales of women who have advanced graphic design.
Frank takes us into one of the hidden treasures of the Museum of Printing: the type vault. Here you will find the drawings for every glyph in every typeface done by Linotype, plus type art from Photon, Intertype, and others.
Frank saw the latest James Bond movie and—naturally—all he could think of was the typeface used on the promotional materials. Futura Black came out in 1929 and had a stencil look to it. It was part of the Futura geometric sans serif family, the hottest typeface of its day.
Frank tells the tale of how a printing press saved the Pilgrams and Thanksgiving. It involves an old Gutenbergian press, a less-than-seaworthy ship called the Mayflower, and Squanto, the one Native American who spoke English.
In this article and accompanying video, Frank celebrates the release of the one-millionth digital font, looks back at the evolution of typeface design and distribution, and provides a comprehensive list of sources of digital fonts.
Frank talks type in this video and accompanying article, as he calculates that we have reached the one millionth font in the 36 years since the advent of the digital type age. Beginning with PostScript in 1985, graphic designers have had access to a steady stream of fonts of all kinds from designers around the world.
Frank talks Ken Hanulec, VP of WW Marketing for EFI, at their recent “Ignite” press event. EFI inkjet printers print on plastics, ceramics, corrugated board, fabric, and other materials. These print systems—some of which are the size of a small house—allow commercial printers to enter new markets.
Frank talks about student preferences for printed textbooks and then segues into a mini history of textbooks for teaching printing. As the printing industry grew in size and technology adoption, its textbooks became bigger…and more expensive.
Frank found a number of news items that were too short for a full video and combined them into a faux newscast. He channels 1950s newscaster John Cameron Swayze as he reports on pricey antiquarian books and ephemera as well as technological developments. He especially likes the news that they can print brain cells, which leads to his latest mantra, “Print makes you smarter.”
A recent donation of paper samples, newsletters, and booklets leads Frank to wax nostalgic about how paper companies promoted their products in the “heyday of paper,” the 1960s to the 1980s. Considering that there are fewer paper companies and mills and some availability issues today, it is interesting to harken back to another time.
April 3, 1973, a date that will live in infamy: the first cellphone call was made. “Cutting the Cord: The Cell Phone Has Transformed Humanity” by Martin Cooper inspired Frank to drag out some vintage telephones, from the vintage Bakelite phone, to the bulky first cellphones, to the Blackberry to the iPhone. Today, almost everyone on earth has a mobile phone.
Frank takes a trip through the graveyard of printed products. The electronic age has seen the virtual elimination of most road maps, annual reports, phone books, forms, and other products that can be replaced by electronic methods. We have gone from atoms to bits. As Benny Landa has said, “Whatever can go digital, will go digital.”
Frank reviews “The Bookseller of Florence” by Ross King, which tells the story of a world of beautiful handwritten books by Greek and Latin writers upended by the invention of printing. Printed books were not as beautiful, but much cheaper to produce. In fact, there were even instances of scribes hand-copying printed books. Still, within a decade, printing puts the scribes out of business.
Frank goes off on a rant about The History Channel series “Machines That Built America” because of one glaring omission: they did not include the Linotype. Frank contends that the American-made Linotype helped to increase literacy and facilitated documentation and helped the companies that made the machines that built America actually build them.
Frank talks about stock photography with Stewart Monderer, Principal of Monderer Design, a corporate graphic design and branding firm in Cambridge, Mass. What began as a black-and-white print became a slide or chrome and then a JPEG on a CD-ROM. Now stock photography is a website and a download.
Frank talks with Dave Seat, one of the few Linotype repair experts. Dave and a few of his peers keep these mechanical marvels running. The 1886 Linotype revolutionized typesetting and many museums are struggling to keep them running.
In the past three years, Lawrence, Mass.’s LaPlume & Sons Printing experienced a gas explosion and then the pandemic—but then this 85-year-old family business has faced its share of challenges over the decades and has managed to change with the times.
Mark Michelson of Printing Impressions sent Frank a collection of materials for the Museum of Printing. (Or perhaps he was just cleaning out his office.) It is interesting what he saved after four decades in the printing industry. Each piece tells a story, and Frank adds his footnotes.
Frank heard that American Airlines is discontinuing its inflight magazine. This prompts a discussion of the “war on paper” that began more than 30 years ago, which had led to many paper mill closures—a situation only made worse by the pandemic.
Frank talks about very old printing presses, specifically, the evolution of the two-person hand presses into the single-user platen presses named for George Phineas Gordon of Salem, N.H. The advantage of the platen press was that it used a foot pedal, and thus could be operated by one person, unlike the older hand presses which required two operators. The platen presses were the workhorses of the 1800s and early 1900s, and many are still in use.
What the Hell? Frank talks about color scanners and emphasizes the granddaddy of them all, the venerable Hell Scanner, named for Dr. Rudolf Hell. Their use in the 1960s made color common in the printing industry, and trained scanner operators could pull in a decent salary. Soon, more than 10 companies had scanners and prices dropped so that every designer could have one. Now scanners are built into most desktop printers.
There has been a noticeable uptick in printing directly on food, such as cookies, cakes, and other comestibles. He still has his archival carton of printed (and deteriorating) Pringles from the 1990s, but with inkjet, you can print on anything—even foods.
Frank learned that the Oxford University Press printing arm is closing after hundreds of years. He talks about their best known product, the Oxford English Dictionary, a monumental work that traced the derivation and first usage of every word in the English language. It took 30 years to produce the first volume—A and B. Simon Winchester’s “The Professor and the Madman” is an excellent book about the creation of the OED.
Frank bemoans the increases in first class postage and the proposal for 58 cent stamps. He goes back in time to the venerable Addressograph mailing machine that ushered in the era of mass mailings, especially catalogs. From the telephone, to the modem, to the Internet, we have changed how we communicate with each other—and mail has been the loser.
Frank discovers an article that says that Jeff Bezos of Amazon prefers multi-page memos over Powerpoint and this prompts a discussion of office printing. Along the way, we are reminded of paper memos and phone call slips, some printed with Mimeographs, Dittos, Gestetners, and Xerox copiers. Today, almost everyone has a printer/scanner a few steps away.
A recent study shows that one-third of all newspaper subscriptions are for digital versions and that this could reach 100% between 2024 and 2027. But for digital subscriptions to be worthwhile, there needs to be an easy way to read them. Frank takes us on a quick tour of these digital enablers and how they evolved—from the Apple Newton, to the Powerbook, to the MacBook Air, and then to the iPhone and iPad.
Photography and printing have always had a symbiotic relationship. Frank shows off the Museum of Printing’s collection of antique (and some not so antique) cameras. The challenge after the advent of photography was how to get photographs into a form that could be printed—hence the halftone and, eventually, scanners. Now images are digital from the start, since everyone has a camera with them and there is a glut of images.
Frank waxes nostalgic about the Compugraphic CompuWriter phototypesetter and how it helped expand the newspaper market. Working for Compugraphic at the time, Frank’s first book was all about how to start a profitable newspaper—with a CompuWriter that made typesetting easy. But now newspapers are trading paper for pixels and the traditional paper is sadly going away.
Frank excitedly recommends a new book called “The Fabric of Civilization” by Virginia Postrel. He learns that the words “text” and “textile” some from the same root, and the “Stone Age” is misnamed. He ties it all together with a letterpress press used by the Folly Cove Designers to print fabric.
Frank shows us two beautiful case-bound books. Both are histories of the Weyerhaeuser Paper Company produced in 1999. One was printed with offset lithography and the other with Xeikon toner-based printing at RIT using the same PDF file—and if not for a production note on the cover of the digital version, you’d never know it wasn’t offset. In the decade that followed Weyerhaeuser got out of the paper business and Xeikon flourished in digital printing.
Frank takes us on a quick tour of the only type specimen book done by type designer Giambatista Bodoni in his lifetime. Dedicated to Napoleon, it presents the “Our Father” prayer in 97 languages. The 1806 folio-sized book is now in the Romano Library at the Museum of Printing, as are the research materials that Valerie Lester drew upon for her definitive biography of Bodoni.
Frank pontificates about how we will see and interact with information as we move into the future. He goes from ancient scrolls, to the book, to the screen. How will information be presented in the future—and is there a future for text in the electronic age?
Frank opines about museums that once had printing exhibitions and those that have them now, and it's a sad fact that major museums around the world no longer have printing on display. There are now specialized museums that emphasize printing—but they all have the same problems with space and public interest.
Frank looks at vintage textbooks for printing and reviews how technology has changed graphic arts education. Early books covered letterpress but the change to offset and then digital complicated the teaching of print. Schools that are still teaching print are grappling with the problem of what specific digital equipment to teach, as there is no standardization the way there was with letterpress and offset. Frank also wonders who will run the printing devices of the future.
Frank talks about Johannes Trithemius, the Abbot of Sponheim, Germany. His monastery had a large scriptorium of monks scribbling their way to Heaven hand-copying manuscripts. He wrote a book in 1516, some years after the advent of printing, called “In Praise of Scribes” in which he extolled the glory of handwritten books and urged monks not to give up the practice. But—in a great moment of historical irony—in order to get the book published in the quantities he needed, he had it printed.
Frank found a video from a past trip to Antwerp, Belgium, where he interviewed Patrick Goossens, noted print historian and collector. Goossens’ 2,500-square meter facility holds a vast collection of ancient printing equipment which is unequalled in the world.
Frank takes us on a whirlwind tour of the history of photographic typesetting. Starting with the 1949 Fotosetter and progressing through ATF, Compugraphic, Linotype, Itek, and ending with the laser-based Linotronic. By the mid 1990s, computer-to-plate and digital color printing negated the need for separate typesetting machines.
Frank shows rare newspapers produced during the 1923 New York City pressmen’s strike. There were 22 daily newspapers and they combined to print a morning and evening paper. The New York Times only printed a single page—and only for archival purposes (not distribution), as they were “the newspaper of record.” Newspaper strikes increased in frequency in the 1960s, usually involving new typesetting technologies.
Frank describes the advent of PostScript fonts with the Apple Laserwriter 1 and the Linotype Linotronic 300 photo imagesetter. PostScript allowed jobs to be typeset in PageMaker, proofed on a Laserwriter, and then output on film on a Linotronic. P.S.: Adobe has announced that support for authoring PostScript Type 1 fonts will be discontinued in 2023—although it’s not all that clear what exactly is being discontinued.
Frank tells a tale of two types: the sans serif font called Arial (let’s be honest, Helvetica, really) and the serif font called Times (New) Roman. It is said that Times will cut your ink use when printing. Frank, of course, investigates further, and what follows is a twisting tale of mistaken point sizes and shady serifs.
Frank waxes nostalgic about newspaper issues from the past. He relates how many newspapers have cut back on the number of issues per week that are printed—and points out that we will someday no longer have iconic front pages announcing major events, such as the sinking of the Titanic or the death of JFK. He shows a copy of the NY Times from the day he was born, proving that print had been invented by then.
Frank uses the retirement of a former Linotype operator at the New York Times as a jumping off point to trace the evolution of newspaper typesetting, from the advent of paper tape, to computerized hyphenation and justification (H&J)—and to the great New York City newspaper strike.
Frank reviews “The Creation of the Media” by Paul Starr. His long, detailed, occasionally ponderous, but completely fascinating book touches on technology, literacy, capitalism, and other factors to ultimately explore what led to the news media that we understand today. The book was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
Frank comments on reports that 2020 was a great year for book publishing. Book sales were up, and some of them may even have been read. More often than not, Frank muses, they were bought to use as backdrops for Zoom calls.
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