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eric gill History of Lettering

‘Letters are things, not pictures of things’

So is quoted Eric Gill by Jan Van Krimpen, as noted in Warren Chappell’s A Short History of the Printed Word, which, for those who do not know, is a primer to Updike’s Printing Types. Okay – enough name dropping.

SHPW ChappellPut Gill’s statement (and at this juncture I do not have a source from Gill’s extensive bibliography) in context and dwell awhile on it. Chappell writes: ‘In late 1957 [blogger’s aside: coincidentally the year of my birth: read what y0u will into that – Sibelius passed that year bye the bye], the year before his death, Van Krimpen and I exchanged views on punch-cutting. He wrote that his own engraver, Helmuth Raedisch, with whom he had worked for 30 years, “has grown, alas, more and more polished”. I regretted that our postal colloquy could not have continued, for it seemed to me he must have recognised that his own tight style of working allowed little opportunity for a punch-cutter to make his particular contribution. Van Krimpen quoted Gill: “Letters are things, not pictures of things,” and it is exactly that distinction that has been sorely tried today, time and time again.’

Interested in punch-cutting? Go here for a previous blog on Edward Prince.

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Typographic ephemera

Libanus Press and Symposium of Plato, 1986

I was fortunate enough in 1989 to be commissioned to write an article on the Private Press movement in the UK for the Financial Times of London, where I worked as a sub-editor. I say ‘commissioned’ though I think I probably hassled the Arts Editor into the piece since I was then operating my own press (The Beeches Press) and was keen to make contacts among the ‘great’ presses run full-time in the UK.

Among them the Libanus Press of  Michael Mitchell at his workshop in Marlborough, Wiltshire. He kindly sent me a bundle of printed leaflets and prospectuses, all immaculate and beautiful, among them this announcing the publication of Plato’s Symposium with engravings by Peter Forster.

The edition was limited to 340 bound copies, using Jan Van Krimpen’s Antigone and 12 pt Lutetia.