07 January 2010

Oh, be still my Hart!

Recently, cruising the subterranean stacks in the back corner of my local library, I stumbled across a tattered copy of one of the most important little guides ever published for typesetters. Originally published in 1894, Horace Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press, Oxford, is packed with practical advice. The copy I uncovered was from the twenty-sixth printing (1921). It was originally owned by Archibald Murry, and is signed and dated ‘August 1924’ on the first leaf. There is also the tag of the Oxford bookseller B.H. Blackwell Ltd. At a tidy 120 pages long and measuring only 9 × 13.5 cm, it was clearly designed to tuck into the compositor’s breast pocket, close to his, well, Heart.

Hart's guide covers everything from the basics of spelling, punctuation and word division to more obscure and specialized topics like division of Greek words, dealing with Errata and – my favourite – the distinction between O! and Oh! (Click on the image to zoom in.)