The decline and fall of Publications Mathématiques de l’lHÉS

I want to discuss the decline of a once great journal.

How did IHES go from this:

and this:

to this:

It is a sad state of affairs. To be clear, I am talking about the typesetting here. The old IHES typeface was a delicious rich dark Baskerville (according to this source). The math displays were always a little wonky, but that was more than compensated by the charm of the text. Now? Still the same wonky formulas, and an inferior electronic typeface that is the equivalent of replacing some find fine hand-made Belgian chocolate with a Cadbury flake bar that’s been left out in the sun too long. This is very sad. How good was the typeface? It was so good, some people submitted their papers to IHES precisely for the beauty of the typesetting, even though it doesn’t look like that anymore. I think I even prefer \usepackage{baskervald} to the SMF version.

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5 Responses to The decline and fall of Publications Mathématiques de l’lHÉS

  1. find hand-made Belgian chocolate –> fine hand-made…

    I hope to get some from you if and when we meet — as a reward.

  2. Michael says:

    This could be an online game, if someone wants to create it: display a random page from a famous paper, minus the running heads. Score depends on how many seconds it takes the player to identify the paper. A decent score could even be a Ph.D. graduation requirement.

  3. Perhaps you are well aware of the following story (maybe I told it to you already and/or you’re alluding to it) — in 1995 or so I asked Johan de Jong where he was going to submit his (breakthrough) Alterations paper and he said IHES and I asked why and he instantly replied “the best font”. For a paper which could probably have been published in an arbitrary journal, I thought that this was fine logic. I didn’t know that they’d changed the font until I read this blog post, but at least I can proudly claim a total score of essentially 0 seconds for the three rounds of Michael’s game alluded to above (although I suspect I got lucky). [In other news I can confirm that I’ve not had time for chess for over 25 years now]

  4. Galie says:

    I noted that Y. Haralambous has made an old-IHES-like Baskerville math font for SMF 18 years ago:
    I believe that this is the font that is used in Voisin’s book on Hodge theory (French version), and in Sabbah’s Hodge theory notes
    Sadly, since the IHES journal is owned by Springer not SMF…

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