Saturday, December 17, 2011

π

Frank Felstenstein's talk the other day on "Smollett Then and Now" was exceptionally interesting: he summarized some insights that emerged from his editing Smollett's Travels Through France and Italy for Clarendon (published in 1979, and composed of course primarily on a manual and then on an electric typewriter), and then reediting it over the past few years for a new Broadview edition.  All sorts of fascinating reflections on how things have changed in terms of research tools, but I was captivated by the detail that when Frank edited the volume for the Oxford World's Classics edition, Oxford was just transitioning from type to digital, but had only an italic digital font for Greek: which posed a problem because Smollett at one point describes a building he sees as being much like the Greek character π - and an italic font produced an entirely unfounded Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa effect!  They tried using II instead, and in the end had to substitute a handdrawn figure prior to photoprinting, which is a bit of an eyesore on the page....

(Frank has also recently been involved with an amazing project that originated with  his discovery of a remarkably complete set of records concerning library borrowers and the items they read in Muncie, Indiana from 1891 to 1902.)

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