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printing

Cost of paper in 15th century

Today paper is taken for granted. It is cheap, readily available (despite predictions three decades ago about the ‘paperless office’) and durable – mostly. Not so in the 15th century.

I take these comments from Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy by Francis Ames-Lewis (Yale UP,  1981) who notes that paper had been in production since 1276 at Fabriano (of course paper had been produced in China long before then – during the Han dynasty, c BCE200-200AD), and which by the mid-forteenth century had become one of Europe’s leading centres. images

The invention of printing by moveable type in Europe triggered the expansion of paper making but prices were high since the raw material continued (until the 18th centre) to be cotton. Ames-Lewis observes that ‘in the 15th century good quality paper cost about one-sixth the price of parchment…[and] the cost of paper was a surprisingly high proportion of the total cost of book production. For the edition of 1,025 copies of Ficino’s translation of the complete works of Plato, printed in Florence in 1483, the paper cost between 120-160 florins, whereas all the printing costs came to only 90 florins.’

Her reference is to paper as used by draughtsmen and I would be interested to learn of references to paper and printing in that period.

Categories
calligraphy lettering printing typography

Mardersteig and Felicano: a Christmas gift

The beauty of this illustration (taken from the privately-printed Two Titans by Hans Schmoller) requires few words. The original is hand-coloured and comes from Mardersteig’s Alphabetum Romanum published in 1960, some 500 years after the death of the Italian writing master.

Mardersteig and Feliciano

[Two Titans was published by The Typophiles, NY, 1990 and printed by Martino Mardersteig in Verona.)

Categories
Brand design lettering printing typography

Penguin-Pelican Specials: separated by 75 years

Penguin is having a senior moment. It is casting back for inspiration and relaunching the ‘Specials’ – books that are produced quickly and on ‘hot’ topics. They use the same colours as in the past, and nod to the design standards set down three-quarters of a century ago. Pity they don’t quite bring it off. Compare and contrast a volume from 1938 (from my collection, by a celebrated printer and engraver) with that of 2013. The title page of the former is a masterpiece with the swimming penguins slowly morphing into a flying fish.

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Categories
lettering printing Thoughts on lettering typography

Tschichold and Shakespeare: attention to detail

In a recent post I wrote of Jan Tschichold and his work at Penguin. Shakespeare Tschchold While reading up on that piece I came across comments by one of T’s assistant’s at Penguin. Erik Ellegaard Frederiksen writes: This period [1948-1949] was the typographic foundation of the rest of my life. Our desks were at right-angles, so he could see what I was doing. More important for me, I could watch the way he worked…He was totally uncompromising in maintaining design standards…His craftsmanship was great. I remember that Reynolds Stone had engraved the Shakespeare portrait, in a medallion for the Penguin Shakespeare covers. But Tschichold wanted to make the surrounding border himself. He used scraperboard in actual size, and drew the lettering with a pin held in a pen-holder. He did not need to correct anything: the letterspacing, serifs, everything was correct at the first attempt!’

Until this weekend I did not have a copy of a Penguin Shakespeare. Fortunately I was able to pick up a copy at a Brisbane bookstore, printed in 1957 but (like myself of the same birth year) is ageing magnificently. The paper is unblemished and not yellowing like so many ‘cheap’ paperbacks. In fact, it is much as the day it was released. See for yourself the hand-drawn reversed title on the cover and marvel that this was done with ‘a pin held in a pen-holder’. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Shakespeare detail Tschchold

Source: Jan Tschichold: typographer. Ruari McLean. Lund Humphries (paperback edition, 1990), p 98-99.

Categories
lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework printing Thoughts on lettering

Something essentially typographic for the weekend

This cover is from Graphics World magazine, dated Nov/Dec 1988. The designer was Phil Baines, about whom click here for more. 1988 was an interesting period with computer typography still in its infancy. The issue notes in its editorial: ‘…fuelled by advances in computer technology which promise (even if they do not always deliver) to bring the process of typesetting completely within the designer’s control, typography is firmly back in fashion’. Twenty-five years later, is that still the case do you think?

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printing Thoughts on lettering

Definition of printing…(and a note on Joanna)…

 

…’the art of making dents in paper or other impressible paper.’

So wrote Eric Gill in ‘A Glossary of Terms Relating to Printing’, 1934 – set in Joanna and part of A Specimen of Three Book Types.

For some more terms enlarge this page.

Regarding Joanna. Designed 1930 and cut by HW Caslon. Used by Hague and Gill at their press until the Aldine Press, Letchworth, UK, obtained the right to use it, because Gill needed the money. It was used in the Aldine Bible between 1934-1936. In 1939 the face was made available to Monotype, series 478. The face was named after Gill’s youngest daughter who had married Rene Hague, partner in Hague and Gill printers, based in a barn at Pigotts, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. [From The Monotype Recorder, 41, 3, 1958; Book Design and Production, 1,3, 1958.)

Illustration showing Gill’s drawing for Joanna italic (1930 and 1931).

 

Categories
printing Thoughts on lettering

Homer, TE Lawrence and Bruce Rogers

TE Lawrence is (or perhaps) was an icon of Englishness – the world has moved on. The David Lean film in which Lawrence was played by Peter O’Toole (no finer role) claimed him as a legend, and I grew up thinking so. (I’m surprised that the film came out in 1962 when I was 5, so I must have seen it much later – it still haunts me.) I collected Lawrence books as a teenager, and still have this Odyssey, though others have since gone in various house moves.

I never read the Seven Pillars… (who can claim with honest heart they have?) and always hankered after a copy of Crusader Castles. Being once an archaeologist I had romantic dreams of retracing Lawrence’s steps through Arabia – not that I was ever much interested in Middle Eastern art or archaeology.

Reading Rogers’s Paragraphs on Printing (Dover reprint, 1979) the other week I chanced across some information about the first Lawrence Odyssey. This was initiated by Rogers, used Centaur, of course, and took nearly four years to complete.

Rogers writes that the ink was specially made: ‘I had an ink made from an old formula I found in Savage’s Decorative Printing, which called for balsam of copaiba instead of varnish. It was somewhat slow in drying, but has still a pleasant spicy aroma on which many people have commented on opening the book.’ This edition came out in 1932.

My edition is the first UK trade of 1935, though printed in the US.

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printing

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate – a typographic anomaly in Australia

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate should not really exist – especially now when papers are closing like it’s going out of fashion or becoming web-based only. But if the Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate did not exist reason would have to be found to invent it. The newspaper lays claim to being the ‘ONLY paper printed in the Bellingen Shire’ and has provided ‘news for the famous Dorrigo for 102 years’. Dorrigo, for those unfamiliar with Australia, is a small town in northern NSW – about an hour west of Coffs Harbour on the coast. I’ve not been there and these images are from copies of the paper sent to me by the publisher. Why? Because I discovered (through chance) that the Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate (and yes there is a National Park not far from Dorrigo called Guy Fawkes, the notorious 17th century ‘terrorist’ who is alleged to have tried to blow up Parliament in London, after whom the English fireworks festival of November 5 is named) is the only newspaper on this Continent still printed letterpress week by week, with the headlines hand set.

The machinery is wretched and old (a 1950s  Intertype and a 1940s Heidelburg cylinder), the presswork patchy to say the least but, hey, it’s letterpress living. And for that three cheers to the blokes at Dorrigo who, for all I know, are at this minute setting up the formes for next week’s edition. Good on you.

 

Categories
Brand design printing

When Linotype ruled the world

They were like Apple and Microsoft, two giants of the printing industry slugging it out. I refer, of course, to Monotype and Linotype. How the mighty are fallen. These illustrations are from 1957 when Linotype really did rule the world – offices and manufacturing in all parts, some expected, some least expected. Take note both Apple and Microsoft – you may rule now but in half a century, who knows.

Categories
printing

In a book as old as me…

Actually, this blog begins with the Puffin Picture Book, Printing by Harold Curwen, and published in 1948.

From this I went to the Penrose of 1957 (which gives me the title) and an essay there by Noel Carrington, editor of the Puffin series. He writes that the series was conceived on the foundation of ‘hand-drawn lithography….because initial costs [could] be kept sufficiently low for the books to be sold at sixpence’. Pause in awe…