From boiling lead and black art: An essay on the history of mathematical typography

I've always felt like constructing printed math was much more of an art form than regular typesetting. Someone typesetting mathematics is less a "typist" and more an artist attempting to render abstract data on a two-dimensional surface. Mathematical symbols are themselves a language, but they are fundamentally a visual representation of human-conceived knowledge -- knowledge that would be too inefficient to convey through verbal explanations. This brings the typesetting of mathematics closer to a form of data visualization than regular printed text. [...]

To fully appreciate mathematical typography, we have to first appreciate the general history of typography, which is also a history of human civilization. No other art form has impacted our lives more than type.

Previously, previously, previously.


4 Responses:

  1. cthulhu says:

    My office "upgraded" to MS Office 2013 last year, and I discovered that the equation editor has regressed significantly from previous versions. I much prefer the TeX family for writing technical papers, but management and customers want Word, so I write in Word - like an animal.

    • k3ninho says:

      I've kept parallel documents running when I was going to be the final publisher and collaborators wanted doc/docx. I defined LaTeX-like substitutions in Word for many greek letters and other symbols.

      Is there a LaTeX-commands -> MathML layout -> TeX render -> EPS figures workflow that can set your equations in Word?


      • cthulhu says:

        You could probably do displayed equations that way, but inline equations would be a lot harder, and I do a lot of those. My real preference would be TeX/LaTeX directly to HTML + MathML/MathJAX and SVG for figures, and maybe in another few years us engineers will have management totally weaned off of Word and PowerPoint and onto wiki pages for everything, but it ain't there yet.

        As an aside, the best example of of this kind of thing I know of is the online Feynman Lectures on Physics, http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu, which has impeccable typography of some complicated math, and some good diagrams too.

  2. Will says:

    I found the conclusion where the removal of barriers for ease of use and speed of production may, in itself, is a problem to be an interesting insight:

    [W]e now face the challenge of imposing more constraint on the publishing process for the sake of leaner output and the longevity of our thoughts

  • Previously