This document reproduced here is remarkable for a number of reasons: It is the only known example I have of something printed letterpress by Hague and Gill at their High Wycombe printing studio; it was written just a few short years before Gill’s death; it’s also typical Gillesque. Set in Bunyan it is well worth a read, whatever your opinion of Gill the man.
Yesterday I posted a picture of a book jacket, asking for the date of publication. To my eye when I first stumbled across the illustration I had to double check the year, because it looked so contemporary. The fact is it comes from 1936, from the Penrose volume of that year, and was done by Eric Fraser (1902-1983), a British artist known for his work in a whole range of books and magazines.
See another of his illustrations from ten years later here.
William Morris, the temperamental late Victorian gentleman ‘printer’, once wrote of the Bodoni typeface that it possessed a : ‘sweltering hideousness’. It was, he continued, ‘the most illegible type that was ever cut…owing to the clumsy thickening and vulgar thinning of the line.’
But then Morris had no time for ‘modern’ typography, being wedded in the romance, as he saw it, of Medievalism.
Bernard Newdigate, next mentioned in the title, wrote articles for a long defunct magazine, partly collated in Book Production Notes, articles contributed to The London Mercury, 1920-1925, published in 1986 by The Tabard Private Press.
Mr Newdigate, or Bernard shall we call him with the familiarity of the late 2oth/early 21st centuries, is commonly described as a scholar-printer, a title now but extinguished in our headlong dash into the digital.
It is this book that I find another description of Bodoni’s faces, this time written by another eminence of early 20th century revivalism, Emery Walker, who writes, echoing Morris, ‘letters that are positively ugly, and … are dazzling to the eye owing to the clumsy thickening and thinning of the lines’.
How times change. Would anyone now think of using a Morris face?
To be continued…
I was going to write more on Nicolete Gray, as promised in an earlier post this week. [see here] That will have to wait a while. But in the meantime this does have a connection because the illustration comes from a book about the poet and artist David Jones written by Gray – The Painted Inscriptions of David Jones (Gordon Fraser, 1981). This piece is called Optima Goreu, meaning Truth is the best muse. [Appropriate given the WikiLeaks affair this week.)
These illustrations are taken from the prospectus to a book by the same name published by I.M.Imprimit (run by Ian Mortimer) in 1990/1991. The type was taken from material held at the St Bride Printing Library in London, and attributed to a London typefounder of the 1820s called L.J.Pouchee. I was unable to purchase the volume at the time – it was priced at £1,080, pre-publication! I wonder what it is worth now.
Among the stack of books I bought from the secondhand bookstore that’s closing was a 1953 Penrose album. Penrose are fabulous volumes published yearly as a guide to that year’s graphic arts. They went from the early part of the 20th century through to the 1980s (I think).
They are sumptuously illustrated and have articles by some of the most eminent typographers of the time. In this volume (which I did not have) is an article about Gill’s Pilgrim typeface by Robert Harling. This face was produced, the article says, 12 years after Gill’s death.
Manufactured by Liontype (the rivals to Monotype) it is a traditional roman.
Harling writes: “Here in Pilgrim we have all the recognisable and admirable Gill qualities. His touch is in very curve and line. Here is yet another of his felicitous essays in the unending quest for the perfect alphabet. The ceaseless and never monotonous preoccupation with the curve of the tail to the upper-case R, the distribution of solid and void in the lower case a and g and so on.”
The face was first named Bunyan, and used exclusively by Gill. After his death the design was bought from his widow, Mary, and the punches, patterns and matrices from his son-in-law Rene Hague. Linotype then adapted the face for machine setting, and also added an italic, sketches for which Gill had not completed.
Harling notes that the face was to be used in a limited edition run of Evelyn Waugh’s book, The Holy Places, published by the Queen Anne Press in the winter of 1953.