Saturday, October 1, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

format: the way in which something is arranged or set out. As in, the DVD format, or the Kindle format. That's if we're using it as a noun, of course. As a verb, it means to prepare something to be presented in some particular style. So one can format one's book. I'm doing that right now, adding bells and whistles. I ponder, as I do, all the years in which this process has occurred, and all the ways it has occurred. A thousand years ago, monks would have spent their time illuminating pages, working on massive capitals to start chapters with, rubbing gold leaf here and there and worrying that their lapis lazuli was running out, so how would they make a proper blue? That sort of thing isn't quite gone as of yet. A fellow is working on finishing a hand bound and illuminated copy of the Silmarillion. In more recent centuries, it's been a matter of typesetting at the printers, hand laying your letters in a carefully chosen font and then printing up pages before moving on. And then full on printers, which still had some of that typsetting for the longest time. Now, of course, it's all computers, and so you format on your laptop or what have you, and a really fancy printer masters every font and type, including hundreds and thousands you can just download. It's neat, and it's very fast and sleek compared to former versions, but there's still something about all those scribes, mapping out their individual pages, working for months or years, that's terribly exciting to me.

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