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alphabet lettering typography

Something Xtra for the weekend: from U&lc magazine

U&lc was a typographic magazine published by the International Typeface Corporation between 1973 and 1999. During the early 1990s I was fortunate to be on the subscription list, with the illustrations shown here coming from the magazine’s 20th anniversary issue (northern Spring, 1993), appropriately showcasing the letter X (and double X). The page size is 27.70cm by 37.70cm.

X one X two X three

The original founding team in 1973 (Herb Lubalin, Aaron Burns and Ed Rondthaler) stated in the magazine’s inaugural editorial: ‘U&lc will provide a panoramic window, a showcase for the world of graphic arts – a clearinghouse for the international exchange of ideas and information’. Such tasks are now achieved through the web. But how much nicer to have a permanent record of type design printed on paper, gracefully ageing at the edges, likely to disintegrate one day (the paper was newsprint stock), yet full of vigour.

[See here for a blog and archive of the magazine.]

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

Fit to be styled a typographer

So wrote Simon-Pierre Fournier (1764) in his Manuel Typographique, a phrase deeply admired by Vincent Steer who I have briefly mentioned previously in the pages of this blog (see here). Steer Steer pic was by training a compositor and as Moran writes in ‘Fit to be styled a Typographer’: A history of the Society of Typographic Designers, 1928 – 1978 sought to be ‘acknowledged as a typographer’.

Let Steer put it his own way (from Printing Design and Layout: The manual for printers, typographers and all designers and users of printing and advertising): ‘A layout which is intended for submission to the customer must, in the first place, be carefully executed. While there is no need for meticulously finished lettering, it should convey a very near impression of the final result in type.’ And he gives this as an example.

Vincent Steer

Vincent Steer_0001

This is an art long lost.

Steer was a founding member and past president of The Society of Typographic Designers, now the ISTD.

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

Something bookish for the weekend

Bradbury Thompson (1911 – 1995) did much for graphic, book and postage stamp design during the 20th century. I came across him recently when I purchased from a second-hand bookshop his 1988 The Art of Graphic Design, from which the accompanying illustrations are taken. Homage to the Book 2He was intimately involved with the Westvaco Corporation, a US-based paper manufacturer, and this led to many fruitful collaborations, including Homage to the Book. Homage to the Book

In the introduction to The Art he concludes:

‘This volume can provide only a time-lapse camera glimpse of an involvement with the graphic arts. Yet it is hoped that the retrospective may inspire thoughts about possible rewards with typography as a tool, a toy, and a teacher in the graphic design of this computer age’.

Homage to the Book_0001

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

Robert Harling: a note

This post begins with the discovery of a copy of Image: 5  from a secondhand bookseller in Sydney, Australia last month. Robert HarlingThe issue was devoted to English wood engraving and contains many fine examples of the craft. But I Robert Harling_0001am less interested in that than in the man who edited the journal (and before that Alphabet & Image) – Robert Harling (1910 – 2008). Obituaries at the time of his passing make note of his relationship with Ian Fleming, both men sharing a passion for life and literature: Fleming secured, if that’s the right word, a job for Harling in the second world war, later using him as a character in one of his novels (The Spy Who Loved Me). Harling also turned his hand to fiction publishing several novels based on what was then Fleet Street, the centre of the newspaper industry in the UK. Later he worked with the renowned Sunday Times editor Harold Evans.

But it’s Harling as a typographer that I wish to write. He knew Eric Gill, visiting him at Pigotts (see here for a blog on that place) and commissioning articles for the precursor to Alphabet & Image, Typography. Robert Harling_0003Hence, he was a perfect fit to write that wonderful book The Letter Forms And Type Designs Of Eric Gill, published in 1976, an expanded version of pieces published first in Alphabet & Image. 

Not that Harling was an uncritical devotee. In an article printed in The Penrose Annual XXXIX (1937) he writes of Gill’s Kayo: ‘Kayo is a dismal type. In the hands of a skilful typographer it could probably be made to do a good-hearted, gargantuan job very well. In the hands of jobbing printers scattered throughout England it will be just plain MURDER. The type was originally named Double Elefans, which had a very pleasant touch of the lampoon about it. The new name, Kayo, is too horribly truthful. It will be popular from John o’Groat’s to Land’s End, but it will be a return to the popularity of the types of Thorne and Thorowgood in that grim mid-nineteenth century. Typographical historians of 2000 AD (which isn’t, after all, so very far away) will find this odd outburst in Mr Gill’s career, and will spend much time in attempting to track down this sad psychological state of his during 1936.’

Harling also designed three typefaces: Playbill, Chisel and Tea Chest Robert Harling_0004while his passion for architecture and design led him to edit  House & Garden from 1957 to 1993. A remarkable man. rsa-harling

 

 

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.

Penguin Specials compared_0001Penguin Specials compared

Penguin Specials compared_0003Penguin Specials compared_0010

Penguin Specials compared_0004Penguin Specials compared_0005Penguin Specials compared_0007Penguin Specials compared_0006Penguin Specials compared_0002Penguin Specials compared_0008

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 lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera typography

Happy Third

Birthday’s should not go unnoticed, even if it is a blog. After all, behind the blog is a person.gold 3 The actual third anniversary of All About Lettering was on November 2 and, no, there was no celebration. (2nd anniversary blog here.)3 stones

This blog will make 355. I had intended when I began (full of enthusiasm and unaware of the amount of time  it takes to write a post, do the research etc) that I would have published 365 in the first year alone, that’s one a day. That hurdle – if it be one – still remains to be crossed, though it draws ever nearer.

The past year has been one of activity outside of typography (I have been completing a postgraduate course) and the frequency of posts dropped away. Indeed in the first months of the year there were none recorded, and yet I noticed that people were still dropping round to take a look.

Thank you, and to those who have been following since the beginning, a very warm thank you for sticking by. I still have a few things to say and illustrate about the marvellous world of print, typography, lettering and design. So don’t go away just yet. When it comes to numerals there isn’t a lot of good stuff around, but on a walk around my neighbourhood I spotted the stones shown here as a reminder that nature does best (though in truth these stones, forming a wall, were placed by human activity). The other  illustration is a quick calligraphic doodle of mine.

Categories
lettering typography

The art of the title page: Dante and Tschichold, 1949

The title page is the window into the book. There can be few better examples than this one designed by Jan Tschichold when he was at Penguin (1947-1949). Set in Monotype Bembo capitals throughout it has an elegance and simplicity that speaks for greatness in typographic purity (I particularly enjoy the half-diamond parenthesis marks.) And below is an example of Tschichold’s rigorous eye for detail as shown in layout instructions to the printer. (Taken from Jan Tschichold: typographer [1975]. McLean, R. London: Lund Humphries.)

Penguin Dante

Penguin Dante_0001

Categories
typography

Bit more Johnstonia

Can’t have too much. These black and white illustrations from a book on London I picked up from a secondhand shop over Christmas.

More Johnston_0001

More Johnston
Underground poster