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Newspapers Thoughts on lettering

In honour of a decade: number 7

Nearly 10 years ago [December 2010], so not long after I commenced this blog, I wrote about the demise of the printed newspaper [see here]. I forecast that the print media did not have long to go, maybe 5 years [I was wrong], at the most 10. Here in Australia, the end of June 2020 saw a swathe of publications, most community-based, many with heritage spanning some 100 years, fall silent.

In my part of the world the print edition of the Tweed Daily News ended. Though the masthead proclaimed ‘daily’ to the bitter end, the paid-for print edition had been weekly [Saturday] for many years, with a free community weekly also hitting the front lawn on a Wednesday.

Tweed Daily News
Tweed Daily News

The end of print was longer coming than I first thought in 2010, but inevitable. I source my news mainly from the online edition of The Guardian where [still for free] I can read the latest from the UK, US and anywhere in the world, and access informed comment [if often not impartial].

Do I miss print? Hell yes – I was brought up on it, the smell and the sound of it, and for many years ran my own letterpress print workshop. But reflect more on the content of journalism today, than the production. Fewer news outlets, and the concentration of those in the hands of managements pushing a bias [which news ownership has ever been] can/does lead to misleading and inflammatory editorialising. Be mindful in the twists and turns of digital.

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Newspapers Thoughts on lettering

Isotype, Rotha and me: a reflection

There’s this slim book on the shelf in front of where I sit typing away on the MacBook Air. Distracted, I pull it out. It’s approximately A4 size and titled Future Books, vol III. There’s no date but from advertising at the rear and the selection of articles I’d make a guess at 1946. The title page/contents page states: Published by Collins / Produced by Adprint / Distributed by Leathley Publications. Editor: Marjorie Bruce Milne.

I scan the contents. One takes my interest – From Hieroglyphics to Isotypes. 20_06_09_IsotypeTurning to the article I notice at the bottom the name PAUL ROTHA as author. Wow! I know that name. [Even if I don’t the inventor of Isotype, Dr Otto Neurath.] Why?20_06_09_Rotha

My career as a journalist [more exactly reporter] starts in January 1978 at a local newspaper [more exactly a community free sheet] based in Marlow, Bucks, UK. I am 21. I have no recollection of how this event unfolds, expect being present when Paul and his wife were evicted and somehow getting them into my car [more exactly my editor’s, I think a Ford Escort, yellow], then driving through country lanes pursued [I think] by what was then called collectively as Fleet Street.

Paul Rotha left this place in 1984. ‘He was a major pioneer figure in the British documentary film movement.’ Though I never knew that in 1978.

20_06_09_Rotha more

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Elements of Lettering lettering lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework stone Thoughts on lettering

In honour of a decade: number 6

Continuing these flashbacks on 10 years of this blog, I present a post from 2013 about Roman letter carvers. 

Here’s an example of my recent letter carving.

A to N on salvaged slate
These capitals are 40mm high and carved into reclaimed and cleaved slate.
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Thoughts on lettering

Guide to Letter carving: three

Slate letters cut and in shadow
Slate alphabet caught in deep shadow

This is the third in a series of demonstrations about how to letter carve in a time of pandemic.

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History of Lettering Monotype Composition caster printing Thoughts on lettering typography

In honour of a decade: number 5

Two years ago I posted about a film describing the Monotype works.

Monotype composition caster
Monotype composition caster

This photo is of the caster I owned in the 1990s, working from a workshop in Bromley, Kent, UK. I have written about my exploits here.

To finish off this tribute to hot metal follow this link to another video showing the machine in action and sounding wonderful.

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calligraphy lettering Thoughts on lettering

O my Giotto

How often do you draw an O? How often in this age of keyboards do you pick up a pen, pencil or brush and draw an O? How often do you give thought to the creation of an O? Here are some of mine. Now, these are not necessarily an O – yes it is a circle but an O is more than that. An O has style and grace, and is not a pure mathematical or geometrical ‘form’. Nevertheless…without more ado here is my [rather primitive] selection

O large
Freehand O drawn with bamboo pen

Why this interest in O? It comes from having picked up Vasari’s Lives of the Artists [Penguin Classics, 1965 (reprinted 1976), trans. George Bull] who describes the artist Giotto picking up his brush when asked for a sample to give to the Pope. This is the relevant section – ‘The courtier told Giotto for a drawing which he could send to his holiness. At this Giotto, who was a very courteous man, took a sheet of paper and a brush dipped in red, closed his arm to his side, so as to make a sort of compass of it, and then with a twist of his hand drew such a perfect circle that it was a marvel to see. Then, with a smile, he said to the courtier: ‘There’s your drawing.’ As if he were being ridiculed, the courtier replied: “Is this the only drawing I’m to have?’ ‘It’s more than enough,’ answered Giotto.” [p.64.]

O with pen
O with the bamboo pen, made by John Skelton

Well, the Pope saw the O and was mightily impressed and Giotto got the commission. Vasari continues: ‘And when the story became generally known, it gave rise to the saying which is still used to describe stupid people: ‘You are more simple that Giotto’s O.’ This is a splendid witticism, not only because of the circumstances which gave rise to it but also because of the pun it contains, the Tuscan word tondo meaning both a perfect circle and also a slow-witted simpleton.’ [p.65.]

As an encore, here is an O from the Rev. Catich’s The Art of the Serif:

Letter O Trajan
Art of the Serif by Catich

Isn’t that so beautiful? How about we all take time out to draw some O’s?

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Thoughts on lettering

What’s the connection between Johannes Gutenberg [inventor], Felix Mendelsohn [composer] and Charles Wesley [Methodist]?

Simple answer = c400 years.

Full answer for the examination = the Gutenberg Cantata or Festgesang.

More detail even = Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

 

 

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Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera

In honour of a decade: number 4

Ian Hamilton Finlay. I first wrote about this wordsmith/polymath in December 2010. You can read it here. To add to this, I now show two pieces that have been in my collection for decades. First:

evening will come
Evening will come…Ian Hamilton Finlay

This is printed on card [75mmx220mm] and somewhere I also have a lapel badge. The second item is perhaps much rarer – a screen printed poster [450mmx590mm], with the inscription: Ian Hamilton Finlay / Designer: Jim Nicholson / Wild Hawthorn Press 1967.

Sails
Ian Hamilton Finlay / Jim Nicholson
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calligraphy History of Lettering lettering Thoughts on lettering typographers

The [not so] New Typography

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about NonHuman books, and particularly the version produced by a machine of Tschichold’s The New Typography (1928). After publishing this piece I realised that I did not have a copy of this book, much to my surprise; confusing it with Asymmetrical Typography, which I do. Rather than wait, I got onto ABE and within moments located a copy in Melbourne – the 1995 University of California reprint. new typography

The text reads of its period, but given the current crisis we are in, has prescience. Take for example:

Unity of Life! So the arbitrary isolation of a part is no longer possible for us – every part belongs to and harmonises with the whole.

It’s also worth bearing in mind his view [the late 1920s, one hundred years ago] against the cult of the individual, which is what we have seen these past how many decades, in so many creative areas – think architecture, think novels, think music.

The creator disappears completely behind his work. People of today regard the arrogant thrusting forward of the man before his work as aesthetically embarrassing. Just as every human being is part of a greater whole, and is conscious of his connection with it, so his work should also be an expression of this general feeling of wholeness.

new typo title

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lettering Thoughts on lettering

Carving a letter R in stone

Check out this – and do not be deceived by the ‘simplicity’. Instead listen to the music made by the dummy striking the chisel.

Letter R_Tom Perkins
Letter R carved in slate by Tom Perkins, August 1992

This fine example of an R is in my possession, has been since it was carved by Tom Perkins in August 1992, when I attended my first letter carving workshop at a place called West Dean in Sussex.