Monday, 13 December 2010

Word of the day

One of my favourite words is kerning. I've always liked it for the sound and the relative rarity of it's initial letter. It's doubly satisfying therefore that it relates to one of my interests, typography (how I'd love to do a module on the subject).

Kerning is the art of letter spacing. It's definitely an art rather than a science, and it's counter-intuitive. For instance, if you make the space between each letter exactly the same, it will look uneven, because of the letters' different shapes. So typographers play around with the spacing for harmonious or emotional effect. There's a useful introduction here.

On another subject, if you're in London, head to the British Museum for their exhibition of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I went with my friends Adam and Katie. Adam's an Egypt boffin, so educated my very impressively. Basically, the Egyptians didn't really believe in death and the soul in the same way as us. Death had an initial stage in which the person's consciousnesses were free to wander around during the day, and the trick to reaching heaven was to reunite them. Then it was like a platform computer game: using the Book of the Dead to cheat the gods, escape their traps and prevent your heart telling the truth, you get past judgement to arrive in the afterlife, which was remarkably like Egypt without the manual labour (as long as you'd paid the priests for enough spells and statues which would do the farming for you).

The surviving books are astonishing: brightly coloured, perfectly readable, detailed and beautiful. Another example of how cunning élites can be in organising a society for its own ends.

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