Reading between the lines: What the Oxford English Dictionary can teach us about typography

Dictionaries can be fun. This is an amusing article exploring the subject of typography through the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary.

“Take this 1688 quote for bake: “when Letters stick together in distributing… This is called the Letter is Baked.” So we learn that, when printing, the physical pieces of type occasionally stuck together, but we’re left to wonder why this happened, how severe it was, and how printers corrected it. Did baking ruin the type? Did each printer have his own method to prevent baking, a trade secret he passed down only to his apprentice? Did some Elizabethan Edison develop a method for casting type that eliminated baked letters altogether? These are the sorts of questions that the OED can raise, which can be investigated later (but will more likely just be blended in with the actual definition, creating a fictitious pseudo-history in the memory of the reader). Though sometimes the dictionary answers its own questions, as a similar citation for bake from 1963 shows that printers likely never overcame the issue of sticky letters.”

Here’s why the Oxford English Dictionary is cool:

“Indeed, the dictionary serves as an ad-hoc catalog of every experience that any English-speaking person felt interesting enough to write down.”