Talk:Point (typography)

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Somewhat confusing[edit]

I find the history of the development of the point relevant. But right now the article does not "stick together". There is a reference to someone named Truchet, that appears to have been mentioned earlier but now he is nowhere to be found. Instead there is a Methusalem of a typographer named Neubauer. Perhaps someone can ask him because he seems to be alive for the next 67 years.

The article probably should be more chronological (it is anything but chronological), with alle the old definitions in a History-section and the current point sizes in another. I believe that there in fact are four current definitions of the typographical point. Two European-continental and two English-American. A few more has existed.

Maybe, just maybe, it should also mention the common names for various point-sizes used by non-English speaking. That is German and so on. They differ. In Danish e.g. we use (little) Sabon for 72 points. After all many tend to use the English Wikipedia as some sort of reference.

This article needs a complete work-through. Ditlev Petersen (talk) 22:09, 20 February 2013 (UTC)

An article tying all the sizes together?[edit]

Please see Talk:Pixel#Difference_between_px.2C_pt.2C_em about an article to tie all these sizes and DPI etc. together. - Omegatron 16:37, Apr 6, 2005 (UTC)


The usual description of the point was that the US and British inches were slightly different, one a bit larger than 25.4 mm/inch and one a bit smaller. This mattered because on a single page of newsprint there could be over a thousand points. In the nineteenth century, the standard was based on the centimetre, but not by a direct ratio, for both the US and Britain to have it be readily available to both domains.

In 1959, the International inch was settled upon, as that which the Australians had already chosen, and which had been suggested by many industries. The notes from French usage are appreciated, but no Commonwealth country, nor the US, calls it the "Anglo-Saxon" inch.

In the 1970's or so, the Germans wanted a metric basis, so their DIN chose 375 micrometres for their point. I wonder whether it caught on.

The main difference between the British/US and the Continental points is that other languages need extra room on top for all the diacritical marks on capital letters, e.g., É, Ö, Å... - so the point was a bit bigger for the Continental printers. Sobolewski 19:29, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Stating: "# Nelson C. Hawks, in 1879, used a printer’s foot of an Anglo-Saxon foot decreased by 0.375%." can't be right.

The definition of the foot has changed over the years. The ancient Anglo-Saxon foot dropped out of use centuries ago.

I've called it a statute foot in the article with a link to the Mendelhall Order, which is the most relevant explanation I've found on Wikipedia of the size of the foot over the relevant time period.

In 1959, the Imperial inch and US inch were both redefined in terms of the metre, so when the 375 micron point was invented in the 1970s, the point was already based on a metric standard. It just wasn't a nice round number of metric units.

(The Anglo-Saxons were a group of tribes that got their identity in first millennium AD England and lost their identity in the few hundred years after the 1066 AD invasion of England by the Normans (French!). You could (if feeling cheeky) argue that the modern English are every bit as much French as they are Anglo-Saxon.

The USA was inhabited by non-Europeans before the modern era, and then suffered massive immigration from many nations: centuries after the Anglo-Saxons vanished. More Irish (massive immigration in both the 18th and 19th centuries) and African people came over (the Africans mostly involuntarily as slaves) than English. And what about all those Spanish people?

So there's nothing remotely Anglo-Saxon about the USA. And even in England, the Anglo-Saxons are only of historical and archaeological relevance.) (talk) 02:31, 25 March 2011 (UTC)

Very Messy Article[edit]

This really needs to be cleaned up -- it needs to start with the basics of the American system, noting the transition from traditional measure to computer measure.

Then discuss the similar French system... simply.

It really doesn't need a lot about 19th Century meter-yard conversions -- you might refer to an article on that for those interested in calibrating atomic vibration to Helvetica printout.

Ciceros/French Points in Computer software?[edit]

What is the exact size used for ciceros in design software like Quark?

Also refer to the cicero article -- info there states a "standard" of 4.5mm for a cicero adopted in 1975 -- see talk section, and right sidebar with metrical equivalents.


I find 15 625 / 83 118 difficult to read. Commas would make clearer that this is the quotient of two five-digit numbers. (Commas without spaces as in 15,625 / 83,118 are unambiguous.) Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:45, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

In addition, it might be a good idea to explain the reasoning behind metric measures being listed as fractional values. Apart from a couple of maths lessons at a young age, I don't think I've ever seen metric values listed as fractions. I have always understood that the main benefit of the various metric units is that they can be scaled up and down by factors of 1000 so that one can eventually find a useful measure of that unit, whether it be millimetres or megametres.
Listing these mearurements as effectively, for example, "fifteen-thousand, six-hundred-and-twenty-five eighty-three-thousand, one-hundred-and-eighteenths of a millimetre" rather than "0.188mm" seems willfully perverse to me, and unless there's some concrete historical/mathematical reason to show the measure in this way, they should probably be listed as something more standard. Frosty840 11:30, 01 August 2008 (BST)

Vulgar fractions are perfectly fine with metric units, though somewhat uncommon. In this case, i.e. defining non-metric measures, they are the best choice, because the definitions result in these exact numbers, whereas a number with decimal fraction would have to be rounded (or repeated parts would have to be indicated). — Christoph Päper 15:57, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

So what part of a 12pt font is 12pts, in modern type systems?[edit]

The article doesn't seem to address this question. At least not clearly. —Pengo 08:07, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

That's because the answer is "no specific part of a 12 pt font is 12 pts, in modern type systems." Weird, but true. That's why the whole thing is hard to understand; when applied to digital fonts, the concept is non-obvious and odd. Thomas Phinney (talk) 02:06, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

For some reason, the main article recently contained this editorial question: "When measuring height, does this refer to the height of a capital letter or a lower-case letter (that is, is it the x-height or the cap-height)?"

The answer is "neither," and is covered in detail under [Em (typography)]. I deleted the editorial question from the body of the article. I'll go put in an explanation now. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tphinney (talkcontribs) 20:43, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Something is not right here. For example, I use a lot of 3/32" high text on architectural drawings. If 1 point =1/72"=0.013888889, then the 3/32" high text will be (3/32)/0.013888889=6.75 point font. In reallity, 3/32" high text looks more like a 12 point font instead of a 6.75 point font. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Plantingdesign (talkcontribs) 16:49, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

Can some one clear this up and explain it to me and others?

When you say you “3/32" high text” you need to define that. What part of the text measures 3/32"? Just for the sake of discussion, let's say it's the distance from baseline to cap height on a flat letter (like H, as opposed to a round letter like O). That distance is the cap height, but it is NOT the point size. The point size is the size of the em square, the imaginary design space the letter is designed in. In metal type it was the height of the piece of metal the letter was cast on. But in digital type, it has no physical meaning. I can tell you that on average the cap height is about 70% of the point size, but that's just an average. Sorry that it's complicated, but that doesn't mean "something is not right here."
Put another way, it's like looking at a sporting field of some sort, and trying to define the size of the grounds of the stadium that contains the field in terms of the size of the sports field inside it (could be football, soccer, whatever). Obviously the grounds need to be bigger than the field proper (or else the field won't function correctly), and there are doubtless some typical and roughly ideal relationships between them, but in most cases there's no set formula. This is despite the fact that all the parts within the field are clearly measurable....
Note also that the point size and em square are universal notions that "work" (in their weird way) equally well regardless of the writing system (Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Devanagari), and even for symbols and dingbats. Any notion based purely on, say the cap height would be quite ethnocentric. Thomas Phinney (talk) 17:14, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Another way of putting it, it's perfectly normal that when the font is, say, 12 pt, the cap height might be 8 pt. Thomas Phinney (talk) 17:30, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

Isn't this entry redundant?[edit]

We had already had the following entry: Typographic unit.

Why was this added? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Taro Yamamoto (talkcontribs) 01:57, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

Because no one calls them typographic units. It should be merged here. — LlywelynII 15:47, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

72/√8 ~= [in]/[mm][edit]

Interestingly, 72/√8 = 72/(2*√2) or ca. 280/11 is quite close to 25.4, which is the ratio between inch and millimetre. So if one used a typographer's foot of about 305.47013 mm (ca. 456/455 ft) with 72 points to it or if one used a point of about 1/71.84205 in (ca. 19/1365 in) one had a metric relationship that fit nicely with the ratio between ISO paper sizes, the following series: 1 pt, 0.5 mm, 2 pt, 1 mm, ... With reasonable rounding this is of course also usable for 1 pt = 1/72 in. (talk) 11:42, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

What is origin of word or etymology?[edit]

Someone should ad a section for etymology —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:08, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. You could be the person to add that section.--Aspro (talk) 21:14, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

Berthold Point Size Source[edit]

I was just looking at a 1908 Berthold specimen which specifies 2660 points to 1 meter, which is not what the article says. It agrees instead with the Tschichold reference. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:42, 15 November 2012 (UTC)


The section on Neubauer is dubious ... I can't find any references anywhere else, and the dates he lived are rather amusing. Jay Neubauer also doesn't sound much like the name of a French farmer from the 1600s. Nor does it explain why a farmer invented a point system. Myroundcar (talk) 20:45, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

Confusion about American point system[edit]

The part of the article dealing with the American point system explains the adoption of the Johnson pica. And the value of 303.5808 mm for the traditional printer foot corresponds exactly indeed to 249/250 times 304.8 mm, with 304.8mm = 12 x 2.54cm = 12 in (1959 value). This makes the printer point exactly 0.3513666666... mm, but then the paragraph concludes with the 72.27pt to an inch approximation, which is Hawks' point, and the value 0.3515 mm, whereas if there are 72 times 12 pts in a printer foot, we should have here 0.35136 mm.

With the Johnson Pica, one computes that 1 inch contains 72+24/83=72.28915662.. printer points, because 12inches is 250/249 of a printer foot, hence 1inch contains 250/249 times 72 printer points. I came to the page hoping to understand the status of the 72.27 thing, and I am now utterly confused.

Gottfried59 (talk) 14:08, 14 December 2013 (UTC)

Standardisation dates[edit]

There's something odd about the claimed standardisation in the "late 1980s and early 1990s". When I was involved with the our school press between 1969-1974 we were categorically told that a point was 1/72". We set from cases onto compositing sticks and printed on ancient treadle powered jobbing presses, no H&S then! Unfortunately I don't have any documentary evidence, not even the sheet we were given to learn the case layout from. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 18:16, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

What's odd is that you had a teacher that told you something that was simply untrue. Basically, he was rounding off the point. Obviously it was simpler this way... probably the same thinking that encouraged Warnock & Geschke to do the same thing for PostScript. But that doesn't mean it was true at the time. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tphinney (talkcontribs) 12:46, 8 March 2015 (UTC)


Ok. Finally found a thorough source. Will remove the alt names to Wiktionary and just leave the major present names. — LlywelynII 10:00, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

Bolded names[edit]


The bolded text are the names of the various obsolete points which receive redirects here. The values of those points are entirely obsolete and don't deserve any bolding whatsoever.


Now that there's more material, I bolded some of them to highlight the major English names, as opposed to the nearly unused ones such as American. Current criteria is OED entries or appearing in the EB, but probably better if there were an authoritative typographic guide that simply said "these are the major type body names prior to the pt system". — LlywelynII 15:39, 2 May 2015 (UTC)



The original types only used the middle values: great primer remained the largest type size in Britain as late as 1840.

which was presumably sourced to the offline Typographic Desk Reference and CJKV Information Processing as it's patently untrue. The OED includes citations including things like

1629, Charles Butler, Oratoriæ:
Genera literarum... corporum proceritate distinguuntur: Primier, Pique, English: & supra hæc, Great Primier, Double Pique, Double English.


1683, Joseph Moxon, Mechick Exercises; or, The Doctrine of Handy-Works. Applied to the Art of Printing, Vol. II., p. 13:
Most Printing-Houses have... Pearl, Nomparel, Brevier, Long-Primmer, Pica, English, Great-Primmer, Double-Pica, Two Lin'd English.

so sizes at least that large were already in use. — LlywelynII 21:54, 3 May 2015 (UTC)


Mixed usage before, but per WP:ENGVAR an article on an American unit should employ American English. — LlywelynII 10:00, 4 May 2015 (UTC)


Typographic unit should be merged here. They cover the exact same WP:SCOPE and this is the WP:COMMON WP:ENGLISH name for the topic. — LlywelynII 15:50, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

While I see your point I have to disagree in the entirety of the Typographic unit nos no detail for any of the units and unless you are planning on merging ALL the units onto one page I think we should leave it as is. DamaniRD (talk) 22:47, 6 September 2015 (UTC)
I also disagree. We do not merge the article "Length" with "Yard" and "Meter". Point is a particular measure while there exist others like pica or mm. On the contrary I propose to move the section "Point-size names" into an independent article (the name is already occupied by the redirect, we can just copy the text there).--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 12:06, 20 February 2016 (UTC)
I disagree for the reasons stated by User:LlywelynII and Lüboslóv Yęzýkin.—Finell 03:37, 25 February 2016 (UTC)
I deleted the merge proposal for lack of support.—Finell 03:28, 21 March 2016 (UTC)

American points[edit]

I set up the "Confusing" template on the section. It may deserve the "Original research" template as well. It is very unclear and ambiguous, the persons who wrote that must have been not sure what they wanted to say. The section begins with the notion of the typographic foot which seems to be non-existent, then compares it with the international and survey feet. Then it goes to various points. After all said it remains totally unclear why the American points exist, while it is very simple. The basic measure was a pica which originally was 1/6 inch, but the novelty of Johnson was that he did not decimate it to recurring 0.1(6) inch but rounded to exactly 0.166 inch (4.2164 mm). If we make a basic computation it turns out that a point in this system is 0.166/12 inch or 0.3513(6) mm. Another computation gives us 996 points or 83 picas per 350 mm (actually 996 of these points is ≈349.9612 mm), or in other words 35/83 cm for a pica or 35/966 cm for a point. The latter seems to be the original definitions though I still could not find a relevant source. The TeX point of 72/72.27 inch looks like nothing more than another mathematical way of representing the same numbers.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 12:00, 20 February 2016 (UTC)