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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

Categories
Thoughts on lettering typographers Typographic ephemera typography

Nonhuman Books. Really?

Check out first this short [3m] video about a project that produces ‘nonhuman books’ – books that have not been touched by any form of human interference.

Hello again. What I see is not ‘poetry’, as is a claim, but random words ‘selected’ by a non-thinking, non-sentient, algorithm. These are no more books than Father Christmas lives at the North Pole.

In the interest of fairness those readers who wish to know more can visit http://www.atomicactivity.com/books/

and, when there, purchase a copy of A Nonhuman Reading of The New Typography by Jan Tschichold.

[Perhaps I will.]

UPDATE [21/3/2020] – And I did and the book arrived yesterday. Along with a balloon, which bore a text most apposite in today’s troubled times.

Atomic_detailAtomic_front

Original and non-human
The same page from the human and non human versions of the New Typography.

Atomic balloon

 

 

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eric gill Thoughts on lettering typographers

‘The great thing about printing is it should be invisible’ – Beatrice Warde

Beatrice Warde was, by all accounts, a formidable woman. Typographic expert, friend and lover of Stanley Morison, a woman in a man’s world, Beatrice gave it as she saw it.

beatrice warde woodcut EG
Beatrice Warde woodcut by Eric Gill, 1926 [second state]
beatrice wardeBorn in the USA in 1900 [her mum was a literary critic, dad a composer], she moved to Europe to pursue her typographic career after learning her trade from Henry Lewis Bullen.

Now there’s another story. Mr Bullen [1857-1938] was born here in Australia [Ballarat], before emigrating to the States in 1875, ending up creating one of the greatest typographic libraries for the American Type Founders Co. [This is now with Columbia University.]

Back to Beatrice. She posed for Eric Gill [was one of his 25 Nudes, though which of the rather stylised cuts is unclear], caused Stanley to end his marriage, he spent the rest of his life in celibacy [being Catholic] and she became champion of the ‘traditionalist’ form.

John Dreyfus wrote this of Beatrice in the Penrose Annual [1970]: ‘She was a strikingly handsome woman…If she had wished, she could easily have built up her

beatrice warde by eric gill
Beatrice Warde in characteristic portrait by Eric Gill

reputation on charm alone. But her mind was too questing and honest to avoid intellectual problems. She thought out everything for herself and never lacked the courage to do what she thought needful’. There writes a man. [By the by, the 1970 Penrose  has a cover design by David Kindersley.]

If you’d like to listen to Beatrice, speaking in Adelaide, Australia in 1959, go here to the amazing Typeradio [I found it through the equally amazing Eye magazine].

PS – anyone want to write a biography of Beatrice? It’s well overdue.

Categories
eric gill Thoughts on lettering typographers

In Conversation with Eric Gill

I present a piece of fiction written two years ago. On re-reading I have concerns about the ending, but I leave it without self-censorship: that is what I wrote then, so be it. This blog has made it quite clear my view on Gill and his legacy in light of sexual abuse of children, noting that most sexual abuse happens within the confines of the family unit. Gill was a serial abuser, of that there can be no doubt. [See here for a previous blog on my view of this man.]

In conversation with Eric Gill, Catholic Englishman

It is mid afternoon, that time when you push through the hours in anticipation of the end of the working day. But when you don’t work there is no relief against the empty hours.  I sit alone in one of those concrete shelters on the promenade local councils were once so fond of erecting: a civic contribution to the general wellbeing of the community, a public sanctuary protected from the weather. Protected too from observation, where clandestine rendevous can be arranged. Spies, maybe, to exchange secrets (how thrilling); lovers to furtively enjoy one another (how erotic); older couples to sit silently starring out to sea, their minds blank to the inadequacy of their relationship even if their hands are joined (how melancholy).  A shame then that each shelter has a sharp smell of urine and is decorated, if that’s the word, with spray can graffiti. Tags, that’s the word I was searching for. Am I losing it, my wits not as sharp, my synapses – a word I can remember having heard it on the radio this morning – not firing so easily? I am as old as Dante and, I think, my best could be behind me now.

Of the shelters along the sea front I prefer this one since it’s the furthest from town. Too far for families with young children, too distant for the old and infirm for whom this part of the coast attracts with the same hidden force a magnet does metal, and beyond the range of visitors whose time limits them to those gaudy pleasures clustered about the now abandoned and derelict pier: fish and chip shops, shell fish counters, ice cream parlours, candy floss; arcades pumping out music and bedazzling the eye with flashing lights; shops selling last year’s desirables at knockdown prices; and, amid all this trash, a pub dating to the seventeenth century and still displaying its architectural heritage for anyone caring to observe, yet preferring to hide its charms behind contemporary adornments: always-on-TVs broadcasting sport, juke boxes, ‘eat as much as you can’ buffet. These places entice and capture most of those who might choose instead to walk the mile or so to my hiding place, and for the few who do make it this far (locals exercising either themselves or their dogs, in rare cases doing both simultaneously) the sight of me brooding alone is sufficient to cause them to quicken their step, to call their pet to heel, to turn quickly in case our eyes might meet. It’s as if I carry a sign of unwelcome or there is in the air a pestilence that compels strangers to flee. Or perhaps it is just the sharp smell of urine that makes them scamper.

Yet today will be unlike every other day for today I will meet Eric. We met yesterday when our paths crossed, quite literally, at the train station though the more I think about it the less I believe it was chance. For what is chance but our laziness to recognise a pattern in all that happens in our lives. He had emerged from the footplate amid steam rising from the boiler. He was laughing and clearly in high spirits, cracking a final joke with the fireman with whom he had shared the journey. He had the demeanour of a boy and seemed to skip away from the locomotive with a lightness of foot that is without care or consequence. I watched as he adjusted his glasses, removed the cloth flat cap he was wearing, slapped it against his thigh to remove any lingering soot ash, replaced it and nodded to young couple passing just then, his eyes fixed, one might say penetrating the woman’s clothing as in his mind he began to sketch her naked. He was, after all, an artist. I think she understood for she looked behind to receive his smiling invitation. Eric, I thought, you are no different from what I imagine you to have been. As the woman’s male friend dragged her away (she complaining) his attention turned to me. ‘Are you really going to say something?’ I thought. His course was set. It was inevitable we met.

Eric Gill, he said.

I know.

You know me?

I was once a fan of yours.

Fan?

I mean I was once a letter carver like you.

You made a living at it?

Not really.

Then you cannot call yourself…

I don’t.

What are you?

What am I?

Are you deaf? What is your occupation?’

I do many things.

Any of them well?

I think so.

What? What in particular do you do well?

I listen.

That’s it?

Isn’t that enough?

You are asking me that?

Who are you to judge?

Considering this he lit a cigarette.

I will see you tomorrow, he said and walked away.

I watched until he vanished amid a circle of dancing children.

*

I smell the cigarette before I see him.

You’re late, I say.

He sits close, our thighs almost touching, and crosses his legs. He wears something like a kilt and grey woollen socks come just below the knee. He adjusts them, a band behind the turndown needing to be slackened. In the burnished shine of his brown leather shoes I see clouds reflected. The cigarette smoulders at the end of a long mottled Bakelite holder. He looks out to sea then closes his eyes.

Do you believe them? he asks.

Without hesitation or reflection I answer. It is what I have waited to say.

What you did was vile. It was unconscienceable. I don’t know how you were able to live with yourself knowing you had violated your own. If then it was not a crime, today you would be sent away and, good riddance, Mr Gill.

But was it unholy? His eyes are open now.

How can you hide behind false gods?

I am off track already, my long-prepared assault on his reputation has been easily parried. It’s like he was expecting it all along, had determined to take me on at the outset without the distraction of introductions or well-mannered small talk.

My dear child, he begins. Everything we do is holy. Everything I did was promoted by that desire also to be truthful.

You fucked your own daughters, I shout.

There is no need to be vulgar. Intercourse is a beautiful partnership.

Not with your own.

Why ever not? I am surprised how orthodox you are. These taboos you speak of have been placed there by institutions keen to clamp our spirits.

I am becoming angrier. I force myself to calm down, take a moment to draw a deep breath.

Even your own fucked up religion does not tolerate incest.

Not incest, he counters, his voice rising an octave. No! It was not incest.

Then what is it?

A partnership mutually agreeable, he answers.

It sounds rehearsed as does what follows.

There was never dissent. After I had drawn and sketched her we lay together.

Then you took her every which way you liked.

I pause to allow the words find their level, attach to memories I sense are flooding his mind.

You took her and you knew she would never protest, call out, scream, tell her mother.

Mary knew, he says and his eyelids close.

Open them, I shout.

I stare at him. He focuses on mine, his glasses now reflecting the shit grey sea. Way above us a seagull cries. There is almost a thin smile of triumph moving across his face. I want to hit him but he is a shade from another place so my words must do duty.

You…you…

I hesitate. I have long thought of this moment, triumphant in my moral justification, imagining him squirming at the end of a well placed, one might say clinical demonstration of reasoned judgement. I had considered my words, prepared a mental script. I was incisive in my preparations. I’d make him seek mercy as the magnitude of his sins were revealed. But now with him here by me I cannot. My mind is blank. Everything has been deleted. This man is Eric Gill and I can’t continue for at another time I cherished him, loved him like my father even if he was dead. I feel I should apologise for my outburst. He leans forward, takes my right hand in both of his, pulls me closer.

Dear child, he says gently. Be angry. You are right. I did wrong. I was a bad man, a bad father, a bad husband to my wife. Know this though: What I did harmed no one. It was God’s gift.

 

The End – so to speak…

Categories
Elements of Lettering lettering Thoughts on lettering typographers typography

Adrian Frutiger remembered

Adrian Frutiger passed this life on 10 September 2015. Read here for an obituary.

I previously wrote about Frutiger here.

In his Signs and Symbols he writes of the value of ‘interior and intermediary space’. Adrian Frutiger and interior spaceDesigners take especial note. ‘The beauty of a sign,’ he writes, ‘is often the result of a struggle between the resistance of the material and its conquest by the instrument…By contrast, the Oriental way of thought and expression…puts the creative act more into the mastery of a gesture with which the brush lays the sign on paper’. [Studio Editions, London, 1989, p.101.)

I did not know of Frutiger’s personal life so as a mental health social worker I find he lost two daughters to suicide prompting him and his partner to establish a foundation

http://www.fondationfrutiger.ch

Categories
alphabet lettering typographers

Barnbrook

Two images leapt out at me today while browsing typography now, the next wave (North Light Books, 1994 pbk edition). BarnbrookThe first one of machine-generated stone carving (naturally, being a stone carver); the second a font called Prototype, this because the illustration stated it was an amalgam of other typefaces including Perpetua and Bembo.

At the time I did not note the connection and it was only a few moments ago when reading Brnbrook’s entry in Typography, when who how (Konemann, 1998) that I came to realise he was behind both.

Barnbrook_0001Thanks Jonathan and merry christmas /happy new year (if you celebrate that is).

For more go to http://www.virusfonts.com

Categories
History of Lettering typographers

Mr Frederic W Goudy’s ‘curves are perhaps too round and soft’

It’s always a joy to pick up a book, any book, and find a colophon describing the typeface used in the publication. This most recently happened to me when I bought a copy of Geoff Dyer’s novel Out of Sheer Rage (Canongate Books, 2012). The typeface selected for the edition is Goudy Old Style, Goudy lettering_0001designed, it is noted, by ‘Frederic W Goudy, an American type designer, in 1915. It is a graceful, slightly eccentric typeface, and is prized by book designers for its elegance and readability’.

OK. Slightly eccentric took me to my bookshelves to see what others have written about Mr Goudy. What does Updike have to say? He writes of Kennerley, Goudy lettering another of the designer’s faces commissioned in 1911 by Mitchell Kennerly: ‘[it] is a freely designed letter which has been much praised in many quarters. Its capitals are excellent but the lower case roman, except perhaps in 10-point, seems to “roll” a little; and, as was said of another of Mr Goudy’s types, “when composed in a body, the curves of the letters – individually graceful – set up a circular, whirling sensation that detracts somewhat from legibility. That is to say, the curves are perhaps too round and soft, and lack a certain snap and acidity”.’ (Printing Types, vol II. 2nd ed, 2nd printing, 1937.)

My Oh My. They were savage critics back in the twentieth century.

What has Carter to add? ‘Goudy died in 1947,’ he concludes, ‘heaped with honours…His faces are not widely used for the setting of books: they do not fulfil the customary demands of reticence for such purposes. But for displayed work and advertising design they have always been deservedly popular’. (Twentieth century Type Designers, 1987.) Carter also notes how Goudy made a new fount, that is cutting the matrices by hand and giving them to Updike the same day – Updike having called for lunch (this was 1933) and complaining he couldn’t find the right size or style for a title page he was then designing. Now that’s what I call a good lunch.

Another writer, BH Newdigate, says of Goudy’s Kennerley face (this written in 1920): ‘…[it] is perhaps the most attractive letter which has been placed within the reach of British and AMerican printers in modern times.’  Times change.