Friday, August 10, 2012


Been busy – wait, let me redo that, BUSY!!! – lately with my daughter’s wedding which was an absolute joy!  So, I’m late to this party, the Friday Topic of the Loose Blogger Consortium.  Check out the other writers with links on the right side of my page to see what they wrote on this topic.  And, try to figure out what editing they did along the way …


One of my jobs in the early 80’s was to run the data import department for a leading Bay Area typographer.  Vera’s shop was top of the line for its time!  I took in data sent on disk or over the phone line (in the days when FAST transmission was over a 2400 baud modem and 300 baud still was operating for many); back when coding the data on the fly for the text editing department was essential and high-level functioning; back when manual cutting and paste-up was done by Bob in the art department; back when there were no spell checkers that didn’t have actual DNA.  And we were GOOD!

How good?  One day, we were looking at a fully published book of ours and found a single typo.  We were mortified!  How could it happen?

Now, shackman may be one of the few who know about the technical piece I’m going to mention next, for shackman and I worked together at the place that supported Vera’s computer operation until I moved on and became a member of her staff.  The technical precision at Vera’s went down to the level of manual kerning of letters in the text until it looked precisely right!  Kerning is the art of moving individual letters closer to or further apart than they standardly are produced by equipment so that they are more pleasing to the eye!  A capital “W” next to a lowercase “a” needs to be squeezed together a bit, for example.  No two fonts required the same amount of kerning.

Perfection was the only acceptable end to us.  Literally.  The beauty was that it wasn’t forced on anyone, everyone desired it for their own reasons.  Vera soothed people when there were mistakes, not confronted them.  And, now, I am sitting next door to the man who officiated my daughter’s ceremony, the man whom I have considered a brother for many a year, the man who edited and re-edited the ceremony itself for six months, the man editing the pictures his wife took at the ceremony.  She served as the photographer (because she’s just that good!) and their son served as our DJ and Master of Ceremonies.  Their daughter served as a Bridesmaid and is like Lafawnda’s sister. The picture editing will be perfect when it is done and my friend will put in all the time it takes until each picture is just so, those that are keepers out of the 1400+ that his wife took!

There is a huge soft spot in my heart for people so dedicated to other people through art.  We promised the kids we won’t show you any of the pictures until they return from their honeymoon and they can see them first – so hold on for a bit, Grannymar!  The one I have shown you was taken by me.

But our appreciation for what our close friends are doing is enormous!  We are taking their whole family out to dinner tonight at the finest Italian Restaurant in town.

Buon Appetito!


  1. I'll wait. The young couple should be the first to see the photos, it was after all their day.

  2. FOS - I'm dying to know where dinner is!!! LOL - and I sure do remember Veras.

    1. It is at Buon Appetito. Down on A Street right next to where Zorn's used to be.

    2. Vera opened the door to Silicon Valley for me!

  3. After all the exertion and delay, you deserve a reward TOF. I think that I have got just the right one for you over at my blog.

    Here, let me express my gratitude to you for teaching me about kerning. Never knew that something like that existed.

    Yes, friends like that are rare and are to be treasured. Oddly enough, I have written a post on the same subject earlier this morning.

    1. You know, another way to put our synchronicity is to say that we tend to walk the same streets.

      If you would like to see an example of the old typography out of Vera's shop, one has been turned into a pdf that can be found online at:

      It was done with an old linotype machine and a minicomputer with terminals hung on the front. The artwork was all paste-up and the type all adjusted to run around or under it appropriately. Then, the entire thing photographed for publication.

      It is a true example of publishing art. Vera Allen Composition was one of the three top type shops in the Bay Area. When UC Berkeley made its bid for a linear accelerator at the level of the one used by CERN that has probably uncovered the Higgs Boson, we were the shop they went to. HP used us. It went on and on.

  4. A human spell checker? Manual cutting, paste-up done by hand? A fully published book with one typo? You should all reach over and pat yourself on the back.

    Fantastic, Consort.

    Blessings - Maxi

    1. We are just glowing, Maxi. It was everything anyone had hoped for and now the kids are having a fantastic honeymoon.

      The proofreaders were the best! However, proofreading happened in layers like an onion and that is how we simply could not believe that one typo slipped through to publication, it was just that rare. I proofread the copy coming in as data. The typographers proofread as they formatted, honed and polished. THEN it went to the proofreaders and they were consummate professionals.

  5. There is a particular kind of satisfaction to be gained from text layout.


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