The countries aligned against the Allies in World War II. The alliance originated in a series of agreements between Germany and Italy followed by the proclamation of an "axis" binding Rome and Berlin (October 25, 1936) and then by the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern Pact against the Soviet Union (November 25, 1936). The Pact of Steel (May 22, 1939), a full military and political alliance between Germany and Italy, and the Tripartite Pact, signed by all three powers on September 27, 1940.

In typographical terms, the axis of a letter refers to the axis of the stroke of the tool used to create the letter. If a letter has thick and thin strokes, the axis can be found by connecting the midpoints of the thin strokes and connecting them. A letter may have multiple axes as well if multiple tools (uncommon) or angles were used with the tool. A tool could consist of anything that can mark, usually a broadnib pen, brush, pencil, etc. Usually a pen or brush of some kind will be employed but, depending on the effect desired by the designer, other tools are possible.

Since type styles fall into general classes with particular properties, there are different names for the commonly used axes. For example, a Humanist axis generally runs from upper left to lower right while a Rational axis usually runs completely vertical. Some faces completely lack an axis.

The axis is sometimes confused with the slope of a letter which is defined as the angle of inclination of the stems and extenders. Italics are often sloped in a direction opposite to their axis. This might not make a lot of sense in technical terms so,

How about some examples?

   ..f""7TMN,            .JTMN,
  .MF      ?MN,        .@`   MMr
 .M#        dMN.     .d#     JMF
 JMN        .MM\     JMt     JM$
 ,MM|       .MM`     MM|    .MD
  ?MM,     .MM'      JMb   .d=
    ?YMa..d9^         TMNsY^

      Bembo         Bembo Italic

   .J#"""NJ.          .gT""TNJ.
 .MMF    .MMb       .MM^    JMM,
.MMMr     MMMb     dMMF     JMMN
.MMMr     MMMM    JMMM`     dMM#
.MMMr     MMMF    dMM#     .MMM^
 ,MMb    .MM@     .MMN    .MM#!
   ?Wm...M"!        TMm...M"!

    Bodoni        Bodoni Italic

     ..+gNNgJ.                .JMMMMMMMNJ
   .MMM""77TWMMm.           .MM9^     ?WMM,
 .MMD`        ?MMe        .MM3          ,MM,
.MM$           .MMr      .MM!            dMF
JM#             JM#      MM%             dMF
JM#             JM#     .MM.            .MM`
.MM,            MMF      MMp           .MM^
 JMM,         .MMF       ,MMa.       .MMD
  .TMMa......MM#^          TMMNag&gMMM"`
     ?"MMMMMY"`              .7""""!

    Avant Garde          Avant Garde Oblique

Here I've rendered the lowercase "o" of three different typefamilies into ASCII, each from different time periods and styles. In each case, I've supplied an italic as well as a roman so as to show the difference between slope and axis. Let's see each one in detail:

  • Bembo - This is a Renaissance typeface ca. 15th century Italy. Like most faces of its time, it was designed using a broadnib pen, essentially the same as the standard calligraphy pen (think of a metal fountain pen that comes to a short line instead of a point). If you consider an imaginary line running between the thinnest points, you'll see the line runs from approximately NNW to SSE. This shows that the axis is a right-handed Humanist one since it's the same axis a right-handed person would get if he wrote with such a pen.
  • Notice that the thin points are essentially the same in the italic even though the shape clearly leans to the right. This demonstrates the difference between the axis, inherent to the tool and angle of the designer's hand, versus the slope which is subject to the shape the designer writes.

  • Bodoni - This was based on typefaces of the 1780s and is representative of Romantic faces. Romantic and Neo-Classical faces (a contemporary to Romantic) are based on the a pointed quill pen. In the case of these figures, the designer usually drew instead of wrote the figure. This was intentionally done as the prevaling art movement of the time held rigorous consistancy and rationalism as its chief tenents. As a result, a the vertical, Rationalist axis was employed. This axis is considered to be no-handed since it isn't an axis one can comfortably maintain while writing.
  • The italic also shows a essentially a vertical axis as well but, in this case, seems to lean very slightly in the direction with the slope. This may be a result of making an italic closer to simply a sloped roman which would modify the axis via the sloping/sheering transformation.

  • Avant Garde - Representative of the Geometric Modernist faces of the 1920s, Avant Garde was created not with a pen but with a ruler and compass. Geometric Modernism put purity of form over reflection of humanity as its goal and therefore believed in geometric precision. Since a compass was used to make a perfectly circular shape, no axis exists because the human hand was completely uninvolved in the creation.
  • In the case of the oblique, there is still no axis. The only thing visible is slope which almost causes the appearance of one due to the distorted form; the thickness of stroke is still the same all around.

    In closing, here is a paid, public service announcement from a fellow noder:
    "This business about grotesque 19th-C faces, this might be related to the fact that they went completely mad and designed this shitty New Face crap and lost any sense of... well, you know… It was a horrifying massacre around 1804. (I really do think New Face was an intellectual crime of the millennium, like breaking stained glass windows.)"

    In short, that means earlier, Renaissance faces with their Humanist axis are generally more appealing than the Neo-Classical / Romantic faces. I agree with this sentiment but others may not. Oddly enough, that may partly be a matter of nationality and will be found in my eventual writeup on serif fonts.

    Remember to use your text figures, kids!

    Ax"is (?), n. [L.] Zool.

    The spotted deer (Cervus axis or Axis maculata) of India, where it is called hog deer and parrah (Moorish name).


    © Webster 1913.

    Ax"is (?), n.; pl. Axes (#). [L. axis axis, axle. See Axle.]

    A straight line, real or imaginary, passing through a body, on which it revolves, or may be supposed to revolve; a line passing through a body or system around which the parts are symmetrically arranged.

    2. Math.

    A straight line with respect to which the different parts of a magnitude are symmetrically arranged; as, the axis of a cylinder, i. e., the axis of a cone, that is, the straight line joining the vertex and the center of the base; the axis of a circle, any straight line passing through the center.

    3. Bot.

    The stem; the central part, or longitudinal support, on which organs or parts are arranged; the central line of any body.


    4. Anat. (a)

    The second vertebra of the neck, or vertebra dentata.


    Also used of the body only of the vertebra, which is prolonged anteriorly within the foramen of the first vertebra or atlas, so as to form the odontoid process or peg which serves as a pivot for the atlas and head to turn upon.

    5. Crystallog.

    One of several imaginary lines, assumed in describing the position of the planes by which a crystal is bounded.

    6. Fine Arts

    The primary of secondary central line of any design.

    Anticlinal axis Geol., a line or ridge from which the strata slope downward on the two opposite sides. -- Synclinal axis, a line from which the strata slope upward in opposite directions, so as to form a valley. -- Axis cylinder Anat., the neuraxis or essential, central substance of a nerve fiber; -- called also axis band, axial fiber, and cylinder axis. -- Axis in peritrochio, the wheel and axle, one of the mechanical powers. -- Axis of a curve Geom., a straight line which bisects a system of parallel chords of a curve; called a principal axis, when cutting them at right angles, in which case it divides the curve into two symmetrical portions, as in the parabola, which has one such axis, the ellipse, which has two, or the circle, which has an infinite number. The two axes of the ellipse are the major axis and the minor axis, and the two axes of the hyperbola are the transverse axis and the conjugate axis. -- Axis of a lens, the straight line passing through its center and perpendicular to its surfaces. -- Axis of a telescope or microscope, the straight line with which coincide the axes of the several lenses which compose it. -- Axes of coordinates in a plane, to straight lines intersecting each other, to which points are referred for the purpose of determining their relative position: they are either rectangular or oblique. -- Axes of coordinates in space, the three straight lines in which the coordinate planes intersect each other. -- Axis of a balance, that line about which it turns. -- Axis of oscillation, of a pendulum, a right line passing through the center about which it vibrates, and perpendicular to the plane of vibration. -- Axis of polarization, the central line around which the prismatic rings or curves are arranged. Brewster. -- Axis of revolution Descriptive Geom., a straight line about which some line or plane is revolved, so that the several points of the line or plane shall describe circles with their centers in the fixed line, and their planes perpendicular to it, the line describing a surface of revolution, and the plane a solid of revolution. -- Axis of symmetry Geom., any line in a plane figure which divides the figure into two such parts that one part, when folded over along the axis, shall coincide with the other part. -- Axis of the equator, ecliptic, horizon (or other circle considered with reference to the sphere on which it lies), the diameter of the sphere which is perpendicular to the plane of the circle. Hutton. -- Axis of the Ionic capital Arch., a line passing perpendicularly through the middle of the eye of the volute. -- Neutral axis Mech., the line of demarcation between the horizontal elastic forces of tension and compression, exerted by the fibers in any cross section of a girder. -- Optic axis of a crystal, the direction in which a ray of transmitted light suffers no double refraction. All crystals, not of the isometric system, are either uniaxial or biaxial. -- Optic axis, Visual axis Opt., the straight line passing through the center of the pupil, and perpendicular to the surface of the eye. -- Radical axis of two circles Geom., the straight line perpendicular to the line joining their centers and such that the tangents from any point of it to the two circles shall be equal to each other. -- Spiral axis Arch., the axis of a twisted column drawn spirally in order to trace the circumvolutions without. -- Axis of abscissas and Axis of ordinates. See Abscissa.

    <-- p. 108 -->


    © Webster 1913.

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