Digital Typography (Center for the Study of Language and Information Publication Lecture Notes) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1999/3/13
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Donald Knuth's influence in computer science ranges from the invention of literate programming to the development of the TeX programming language. One of the foremost figures in the field of mathematical sciences, Knuth has written papers which stand as milestones of development over a wide range of topics. In this collection, the second in the series, Knuth explores the relationship between computers and typography. The present volume, in the words of the author, is the legacy of all the work he has done on typography. When type designers, punch cutters, typographers, book historians, and scholars visited the University while Knuth was working in this field, it gave to Stanford what some consider to be its golden age of digital typography. By the author's own admission, the present work is one of the most difficult books that he has prepared. This is truly a work that only Knuth could have produced.
'This wonderful new book contains Don Knuth's articles on TeX and METAFONT, and includes important archival material ... Reading this book is like holding in your hand twenty years of history. My view of TeX, and of the Computer Modern fonts that I use every day, has been changed completely by this book.'
The book's content is eclectic; some of it requires knowledge of calculus or algorithmic design to fully understand, while some requires deep knowledge of TeX to appreciate; some can be appreciated without knowing any computer science at all. For example, the first chapter is a speech Knuth gave to a group of mathematicians, showing what he was working on early in the development of TeX. He uses some calculus here to describe the theory behind finding the most aesthetically pleasing curve to use in a letter's shape. Later, he describes how he derived the formula for the curves of the letter S. In the third chapter, Knuth describes TeX's algorithm to break up lines into paragraphs, which uses dynamic programming, a somewhat advanced algorithmic technique.
But Knuth also shows that he isn't just a mathematician trying to ride in and save the ignorant humanities people with his equations; while writing TeX, he also studied traditional printing to see what methods were used in the days before computers, to find out what he could learn from five hundred years of movable type and presses. He comes up with some fascinating problems that printers faced, such as formatting polyglot Bibles. These are Bibles with versions of the text in multiple languages printed side by side, so that a scholar can easily compare the wording of the Greek or Hebrew original with that of a translation into Latin or a modern language. Knuth spends some time discussing how printers in the sixteenth century, and the scribes that came before them, solved the problem of justifying the text in each column so that the layout is easily readable. These sorts of examples can be appreciated even without knowing any math or programming at all.
I did skim over some parts because the knowledge of TeX much deeper than what I have was asked for. I also skimmed over some of the geometry and calculus. Some of the material was a little difficult, and some of it felt like fluff. Still, this book contains some brilliant work, and Knuth's writing style is not just readable but actually fun to read, which is pretty uncommon among mathematicians. As a former English major who moved towards programming, I really appreciated the way Knuth combines the classical with the technical. It may not be for everyone, but if you have even a little interest in TeX, or in how books on dead trees are produced in the modern era, I recommend this.
and just that chapter alone was worth the price of the book.
Having said that... when explaining algorithms, I find Knuth concentrates so
much on the minutiae that the bigger picture is often lost; but that's just
his style and the exposition is always very clear. I've gone through parts
of TAOCP, so his style of teaching wasn't a complete surprise to me.
The word-wrapping chapter itself has a very leisurely style with a lot
of history and background, and it was a very enlightening and pleasant read.
The book itself is a selection of papers, articles, transcripts
of talks and working documents by Knuth on TeX and Metafont
(for the most part.)
Some chapters were not particularly interesting to me, they dealt with
specifics of tricky typesetting with TeX, which I feel has a clumsy
Other chapters were great reading as they dealt with the historical
development of TeX and Metafont. For example, he writes about his collaboration
with Hermann Zapf on the AMS Euler typeface, which gives great insights
on how fonts were developed with Metafont. There are a couple of chapters talking
about his fascination with digital typography and his gradual descent (or is that
ascent!) into developing TeX and Metafont, and they were fun to read.
If you're a Knuth fan, you'll definitely want to get this book. The historical
material makes for nice, light reading, and if you get the urge, you can plunge
into the technical chapters and see some interesting gears within TeX