Josna Rege

308. Ems, Ens, and Endpapers

In blogs and blogging, Books, Media, Stories, Words & phrases, Work, writing on April 6, 2015 at 10:02 pm

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B.PicaRuleTypography, design, and printing have units of measurement all their own: points and picas. A point is 1/72 of an inch (or as close as makes no difference) and 12 points make a pica (as 6 picas make an inch). Every print shop and design studio has a number of pica poles, with points and picas on one side and inches on the other.

Well and good, you may ask, but what about the letter E? How do the ems and ens of the title relate to this system? Only inasmuch as they vary proportionally with the point size of the type that is being worked with. An em quad is a square spacer the size of the type. So, for instance, if you are using 24-point type, an em quad would be a 24 x 24-point block. The em quad is so called because in many early type designs the set-width of the capital M was more or less a square. The en quad would be half the width of the em—in this case, 12 x 24 points.

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If you’ve never heard of em quads and en quads, and don’t care if you ever do, chances are you have heard of em dashes and en dashes but didn’t know that they had their origins in letterpress printing. images-1

So now you know: what are you going to do about it?

 –— –— –— –— –— –— –—

I thought I’d better end this dry disquisition (to some, at any rate; to typophiles, it’s like candy) on spaces and dashes with a delicious E-word: endpapers. Endpapers are found in the inside front and back covers of beautiful hardcover books. Marbled endpapers are a treasure and a never-ending joy. Endpapers with maps or guides to the characters in the book are a source of boundless delight for children of all ages. Closing with an example of each.

Endpaper, Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham's Treasure

Endpaper, Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham’s Treasure

Endpaper, Sir Thomas Browne's A Letter to a Friend (Godine, 1971)

Endpaper, Sir Thomas Browne’s A Letter to a Friend (Godine, 1971)

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

 atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

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  1. Fascinating Josna. So enjoying your posts.

  2. I never heard of en and em but I have heard of end papers 🙂

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