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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.)

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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

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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

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
Typographic ephemera

Anthony Caro – in memory (1924-2013)

Anthony Caro has passed and as one who admired his work from afar I honour his soul.  Caro 2013

The book jacket illustrated  here comes from a volume published in 2000 about the two sculptors Caro and Chillida (ISBN 0-9678124-0-2, edited and introduced by Andrew Dempsey). The photograph is also taken from this volume.Caro 2013_0001

Opening this book for the first time in many years I find this passage annotated by an earlier self: (Caro is speaking) ‘In England there’s no tradition of forging as there is in Spain. I never felt connected to a tradition of working in steel. I chose to work in steel because it felt contrary to my inclinations. It offered resistance but it was so direct: “put” and “cut”. That direct way of working is a kind of parallel to Manet’s way of painting. Straight to the art, don’t get sidetracked by the craft’ (2000, p.42).

And here he is talking about his first encounter with David Smith in New York: ‘…he used to tell me to spend without stint on my art. He told me he drew on paper which cost two dollars a sheet, which was a lot in those days. I used to draw on the cheapest paper, paper for lining walls or drawers. He said, value your own art above everything, save on your household needs, never save on your art’ (2000, p.36).

What has this to do with typography? Everything and something….I leave you to find the connections. Thank you for reading.

Categories
Brand design

When cricket was simpler (without the electronics)

Over here in Australia cricket is in a parlous state. Two Tests played and two lost. As someone who holds dual nationality it would be natural to think  I would have divided opinions. Not so. My loyalties lie with the English in Test cricket. However, I am disappointed with the introduction of so many methods to dispute an umpires instant decision. Back in 1934 it was much simpler, and I offer this advertisement, from Paper and Print, as acknowledgement. (Incidentally, Australia won the Nottingham Test – 8 to 12 June – by 238 runs, with Bradman contributing just 54 to the Aussies totals. Australia went on to win the series.)

The Great Test

Categories
calligraphy Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera

Something very graphic for the weekend

I confess  the name Marian Bantjes is one with which I am unfamiliar. But then I am sure, too, that she has not heard of John Pitt. We bumped into each other (or rather me her) when I plucked her book I Wonder from one of our bookshelves where it had lain dormant for some years. My partner (another Marian) had brought the book back from a visit to New York, and it’s signed by the author. It’s a lovely volume, richly illustrated and superbly designed by Marian (the NY one). I’d love to hear from other readers who share my enthusiasm. This illustration is but one of many I could have chosen.

marian bantjes

Categories
Thoughts on lettering

The future of the printed book – article from Slate

What Will Become of the Paper Book?

How their design will evolve in the age of the Kindle.

I will endeavour to have a comment about this in the very near future

Categories
lettering typography

Minimalism in Title Page Design

An example from a 1955 Penguin. First the Title Page in Bembo – would any designer have the courage to do so much with so little today? Followed by a beautiful contents page and then the Cover – using type to tell/sell the story.

Robert Graves Myths_0001

Robert Graves Myths_0002

Robert Graves Myths

 

 

Categories
lettering

Paul Piech: ‘expressing pity with a knife’

paul piech

The artist as political/poetical campaigner. (When I typed political it came out wrong and predictive software suggested poetical, which I think suitable in this case.) Piech was born in the US and died in Wales, UK (1920-1996). The illustrations here are taken from Penrose of 1976 and show the man’s creativity in linocut, with free lettering. His press, his private press, was called the Taurus Press. The poster on Nixon is a masterpiece – the man holds a microphone as if a sceptre, the ’emperor’ laid bare from his wire-tapping (Watergate). Piech worked quickly, hence the spelling mistake (last line), yet there is energy here, and we will do well to remember that.

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paul piech 2