However, once the editor and publisher got their hands on the process, the layout became very rich, with various fonts, drop-caps, in-line graphics, and mixed-size headings. The publishing industry has spent hundreds of years learning many tricks of the trade to help readers get the most out of the printed word, and the poor writer wasn't supposed to worry his little head about things like that. Layout was the publisher's job.
Then word-processors were invented. I even wrote one. At the beginning, they had little more capability than the typewriter they were replacing. The big advantage was the ability to delete without using white-out. However, that changed. In the software arms race, all the big players struggled to add features to word processors, with Microsoft Word winning the de facto standard. Today, whether with Word or any of its competitors, a writer has nearly as many options at hand as professional layout tools did a few decades ago.
A writer can bring to bear various fonts, a range of italic and bold flavors, dozens of underlining and framing options, and even drop-caps. And that's just for the manuscript. The thing is, because new writers have all this power, they assume that they can use it. The standard manuscript format, instead of being a shining template of order, is viewed as a straight-jacket that chafes. Many people writing their fantasy opus or convoluted mystery use changing fonts like setting a scene. I've heard writers muse about writing a story where every character had their own distinctive font so that they could get away from all the he-said, she-said stage direction.
I sympathize. My novels have plain text, internal thoughts, telepathic thoughts, computer displayed text, and even road-side signs; all deserving of different layout options. In my manuscript, I use italics, courier and other fonts, and blockquote indentation to handle these options. When I layout a novel for publication, I can bring lots of options to the process with InDesign.
Then, when I convert to e-book formats, it all goes away. If I'm lucky, I get to keep italics, but the fonts and fonts size are now user options. Formatting is streamlined down to nothing. Today, manuscripts can often be formatted much richer than the e-book file standards allow. I pity the author who spends days choosing the right gothic fonts for their warlock king to speak in. It all goes away.
E-book formatting is upside down. My advice to any author who isn't a self-publisher is to learn the streamlined and lean manuscript standard format and live by it. It will save endless heartache and frustration.