Most programmers who write programs for setting type have only a passing knowledge about the aesthetics of good composition. The programs are adequate, but to do a first-rate job of typesetting still requires a lot of handwork.
Donald Knuth has written a different kind of program. First of all, he spent considerable time learning the book compositor's art, and that shows in the details of TeX -- as with the oft-mentioned paragraph optimization routines. But more than this, TeX is malleable. It is a tool that lets skilled compositors automate more of the niceties of fine composition, rather than having to add them by hand.
What makes TeX an exemplary program is that the skills and knowledge of various people can be added to the program for all to use, whether or not they actually possess that knowledge and skill. Isn't that the finest purpose of a computer program? -- Charles Ellertson
This is an electrifying book. The essays collected here helped lead typography from its mechanical and photographic past into its electronic, digital future.
Knuth's far-ranging approach was markedly different from the usual articles about digital typesetting, which tended to dwell myopically on the minutiae of gadgets and gizmos. With the engaging charm and enthusiasm characteristic of so much of his writings, Knuth discussed the typography of mathematics, and the mathematics of typography. He examined the history, the art, and the mathematical ideas that joined them. In his illuminating vision, mathematical typography took its proper place in the history of ideas, not as a niche subject, but as a broad and richly fascinating field that deserved and invited deep investigation. -- Charles A. Bigelow
One of the foremost figures in the field of mathematical sciences, Knuth has written papers which are widely referenced and 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.