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

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.


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

Atomic balloon



Typographic ephemera

New Year’s Quiz 2013 – number one

Simple this. Just deduce what letters are missing from the image. (Taken from an advertisement placed by Grosvenor, Chater & Company Ltd in Book Design and Production, vol 5, number 3, 1962.)

new year quiz 2013

Answer below

new year quiz 2013

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



calligraphy lettering

Something mysterious, something Gid

Sometimes an illustration hits you with such force that you just want to share it with others. Such is this, which I came across in Book Design and Production, vol 2, number 2, of 1959. The accompanying text relates that it comes from Livre D’Heures of 1959 and was designed by Raymond Gid using the Vendome type family. Of this type it is described as having a ‘resemblance to wood-cut or stone-chiselled lettering’. A same is shown below, though it does not seem to bear much resemblance to the text above – answers please.


Pulling together some threads at a minor milestone

This being the 250th blog, I’ve taken the opportunity to look back over the past year or so to tease out one or two themes, chief of which continues to be the spectre of Eric Gill. (Remind me to write a piece on Eric Gill Exposed, Sinner not Saint or, An Unapologetic Critique of Gill.) So, if Gill figures large and is also a subject to which visitors to this site often refer, it is appropriate also to mention Stanley Morison. The two knew each other, rubbed shoulders so to speak, but came from quite different points of view. Morison, the ‘radical’, flirtatious Communist/Marxist (this was the 1920s-1930s) and Catholic convert did much to push Gill forward through promotion of his typefaces when he, Morison, was at Monotype. Yet they were both outsiders, while at the same time, and this is common among the solitary, both wanted to belong (more so in Morison’s case as he curried favour with Beaverbrook, accepted honorary doctorates and the like). Morison was not a great typographer but he was a good historian of typography and did much to promote good printing through a large chunk of the middle-20th century. (For more see James Moran’s excellent Stanley Morison: His typographic achievement. 1971. London: Lund Humphries.)

I dug out his First Principles of Typography, what is called a ‘slim volume’ (24 pages), so slim it was clinging to Barker’s  fat biography of the man, and read again the postscript, written in 1967, the year of his death. It’s worth a look.

Here’s some: “The typographical activity, like architecture, is a servant art. These are arts, which, by their nature, are predestined to serve civilisation…Even so, the analogy between the work of the architect and the typographer must not be pressed too far. It is still necessary for typographers to think for themselves. The idea prevalent in some fin de siecle  quarters that style is superior to thought, is a heresy, or should be, and not only to the typographer. For him as a designer of books…he must possess…a clearness of understanding of specific purpose and a governing sanity of reasoning power…Tradition is not well understood at the present day in some quarters. If it were a reflexion of the stagnation or prejudice of past ages of printers, little attention need be given to it by historians and none by practitioners of the arts and crafts. But tradition is more than the embalming of forms customary in the states of society that have long since cast aside. The sum of experience accumulated in more than one man’s lifetime, and verified by succeeding generations, is not to be safely discarded. Tradition, therefore, is another word for unanimity about fundamentals which has been brought into being by the trials, errors and corrections of many centuries. Experientia docet.”

Cut that in stone: Experientia docet. Experience is the best teacher.