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Re: Typesetting rules in physics

 Can we hear from someone who has been around the typesetting world
 long enough to know whether bold italic was rare in any of the various
 older technologies such as photo/film, mechanical typesetting machines etc.

i'm certainly not that person, but if you browse any font catalog,
you'll see that classic fonts were typically available as 3 companions
(regular, italic & bold) : Garamond 3, Granjon as examples. 

The reason being that bold was not used in text, only for titles, where
italic was not used. Like in the case of greek, i'm pretty sure that
printers simply used what they had: they were not going to buy a whole
font for the sake of the coherence in few scientific
publications. Bold italic was invented more recently (but long before
the advent of e-publishing, anyway, and was already available at the
hot composition era, as Century (1894) shows -- but rather in press
works than book).

Thierry Bouche, Grenoble.