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Agate (unit of measure): Wikis


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An agate is a unit of typographical measure. It is 5.5 typographical points, or about 1/14 of an inch. It can refer to either the height of a line of type or a font that is 5.5 points. An agate font was commonly used to display statistical data or legal notices in newspapers. It is considered the smallest point size that can be printed on newsprint, then read legibly.

From American Dictionary of Printing and Bookmaking (1894):

Agate: A small size of printing-type, between pearl and nonpareil, half the size of small pica. A little over thirteen lines go to the inch. By the point system, it corresponds to five and a half points. Its chief use is for advertisements and market reports in daily papers, on which it is generally the smallest size used. It is also largely employed in time-tables. It was unknown before 1822, when George Bruce, who was endeavoring to have a truer relation between the bodies of type than then existed, saw the gap between pearl and nonpareil, and introduced this size to fill it. In England it is called ruby. Hansard's Typographia, published in 1825, says that a few years before it was by him absolutely necessary to give some distinguishing appellation to this size, as the founders had him one-nick pearls of two bodies, one of half small pica and one of half long primer. He therefore called the former ruby.


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