The birds and the bees

The passage experienced a surge in popularity during the 1960s when Letraset used it on their dry-transfer sheets, and again during the 90s as desktop publishers bundled the text with their software. Today it’s seen all around the web; on templates, websites, and stock designs. Use our generator to get your own, or read on for the authoritative history of lorem ipsum.

Lorem ipsum, or lipsum as it is sometimes known, is dummy text used in laying out print, graphic or web designs. The passage is attributed to an unknown typesetter in the 15th century who is thought to have scrambled parts of Cicero’s De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum for use in a type specimen book. It usually begins with:

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.”

The purpose of lorem ipsum is to create a natural looking block of text (sentence, paragraph, page, etc.) that doesn’t distract from the layout. A practice not without controversy, laying out pages with meaningless filler text can be very useful when the focus is meant to be on design, not content. McClintock’s eye for detail certainly helped narrow the whereabouts of lorem ipsum’s origin, however, the “how and when” still remain something of a mystery, with competing theories and timelines. But it seems reasonable to imagine that there was a version in use far.

ID Number

Product

Quality

Quantity

1423

Cotton

Good

200kg

3214

Evo

Prime

250kg

4323

Silk

Good

200kg

2342

Elastane

Mediocre

350kg

So how did the classical Latin become so incoherent? According to McClintock, a 15th century typesetter likely scrambled part of Cicero’s De Finibus in order to provide placeholder text to mockup various fonts for a type specimen book. It’s difficult to find examples of lorem ipsum in use before Letraset made it popular as a dummy text in the 1960s, although McClintock says he remembers coming across the lorem ipsum passage in a book of old metal type samples. So far he hasn’t relocated where he once saw the passage, but the popularity of Cicero in the 15th century supports the theory that the filler text has been used for centuries.

Remixing a Classics Interpreting Nonsense

And anyways, as Cecil Adams reasoned, “[Do you really] think graphic arts supply houses were hiring classics scholars in the 1960s?” Perhaps. But it seems reasonable to imagine that there was a version in use far before the age of Letraset.

As an alternative theory, (and because Latin scholars do this sort of thing) someone tracked down a 1914 Latin edition of De Finibus which challenges McClintock’s 15th century claims and suggests that the dawn of lorem ipsum was as recent as the 20th century. The 1914 Loeb Classical Library Edition ran out of room on page 34 for the Latin phrase “dolorem ipsum” (sorrow in itself). Thus, the truncated phrase leaves one page dangling with.

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