Sam reads his trackbacks — for interesting reactions on my last post, see his comment and the comments on his comment.
I haven’t even mentioned that my blog title (as defined in the blogging software I’m using) used to be
david ascher’s blog
(which is supposed to render with a curly right single quotation mark, the way it would in a proper book). That worked fine on the website, but the use of the same variable value in the RSS feed messed up blogrolls and aggregators everywhere (well, not everywhere, I’m not that popular). Jon Udell’s page, for example, lists my blog as “david ascherâ��s blog”. How frustrating to find out not only that my desire for typographic correctness resulted in typographic monstrosities, but, worse, that undoing the damage is much, much harder than doing it in the first place.
I had a job once producing some books — transforming “typewritten manuscripts” in Word files (no, really: huge tables were laid out with “space-space-space” alignment) authored by archaoelogists not too savvy about markup into bound full-color books that my employer would then compare to those published by real publishers.
That job fed a latent obsession for typesetting, which I’ve maintained for years (with the help of slow periods in graduate school). At this point, it’s heartbreaking to admit that pragmatism means that I have to give up on the pursuit at typographic perfection, simply because the tools get in the way so much. ASCII, XML, WordPress, markdown/textile, all of them throw roadblocks to proper typesetting of punctuation.
I’m not sure whether it helps or hurts to read books like The Elements of Typographic Style, or to have had another job trying to enforce the OUP’s rules regarding orphans and widows. Those tasks force you to realize that typesetting is truly a craft, and that automation will never really be able to replace the expert craftsman. Still, there’s real value to having mass-production of beautiful goods, even if few end up in museum pieces.