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.
In a recent post I wrote of Jan Tschichold and his work at Penguin. 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.)
Source: Jan Tschichold: typographer. Ruari McLean. Lund Humphries (paperback edition, 1990), p 98-99.
Birthday’s should not go unnoticed, even if it is a blog. After all, behind the blog is a person. The actual third anniversary of All About Lettering was on November 2 and, no, there was no celebration. (2nd anniversary blog here.)
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.
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.
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.
Simply a designer. I came across his work at an exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. Not a name familiar to me but I was struck by the posters he and his team designed, and shown here. For more information on the work see here
At a recent festival here in Australia I came across this outdoor display. It was one of those things where people are encouraged to write what is in their hearts and then place the inscription on a wall (or similar) for others to acknowledge. So, in this case, yellow triangles were provided, hung on a mesh screen. The juxtaposition of these two sayings by separate individuals (I guess) made me teary.
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.)
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.