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Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera

Travelling Penguin

This is the time of year people travel. Over here in Australia distances are vast and travelling can take days not hours. Nevertheless, we all need to take clothing with us, though these days rarely a rifle. This illustration comes from a Penguin of 1939 (fourth impression) so I guess may be excused.

20_01_01_Penguin travelling
Penguin goes travelling in 1939

If you liked this post do have a look at my archive for more on Penguin and advertising. Such as this from 2012 Advertising and Penguin books.

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printing Thoughts on lettering

No hot metal on this Penguin

It’s 1957 and those at Penguin, namely Allen Lane, had a problem. The imprint was becoming so successful that print runs of some 50,000 were necessary to keep costs down and the paperbacks affordable. However, Allen Lane also wanted to publish original titles: and the market for these was often small, much smaller than the popular titles that kept the firm afloat (these were the post-war years, years of austerity). Think of the number of formes kept locked up in metal on the hunch a quick re-print might be required. Therefore, film-setting was investigated and Private Angelo became the first book (in England) to be printed entirely on film.

This is recorded in Penrose Annual vol.52 (1958). An article by L.S.F. Elsbury, manager, Fotosetter division, Intertype Ltd., Slough, Bucks, explains: ‘The book chosen was Eric Linklater’s Private Angelo. Sir Allen Lane decided at once to print, apart from the trade edition, a special edition of 2000 copies as a Christmas gift from him and his brother to friends in the trade. Designed by Hans Schmoller, a charming book has been produced. The text is printed on bible paper, the volume is bound in Linson vellum printed in two colours with the spine lettered in gold, and there are special end-papers by David Gentleman.’

Mr Elsbury concludes in [restrained and English-like] rapture: ‘This, then, is a step forward in a new adventure…It may give a new standard of quality to the graphic arts and, if it should be widely used, the combination of filmsetting and offset reproduction could become one of the means to help the industry keep pace with the progress of our times.’

Anyone have a copy of the original limited edition?

[Also referenced: Fifty Penguin Years, Penguin Books, 1985.]

 

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
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
Brand design Thoughts on lettering

Penguins and advertising

In the early days of Penguin books advertising helped offset costs. Perhaps this is an area overlooked by today’s publishers? There is also something of interest here for the social historian. These examples were all printed during the Second World War. Notice that two of the examples are stapled (The Ragged Trousered… and Totem and Taboo). And what did happen to Greys cigarettes between the first example and the last (which is Freud – 1944 and Conrad 1942). And what is the connection between Eno’s “Fruit Salt” and The Ragged Trousered…? let alone Lotus shoes and Conrad! Notice also the change in the Penguin device between Tressall and Conrad (both 1944 publications).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
lettering

Jan Tschichold

Famous for his book on asymmetric typography (1935 – notice the i tucked up into the r) and a huge influence on mid-20th century design, especially at Penguin.

Less well known for a publication issued in 1946 (in English) titled ‘An Illustrated History of Writing and Lettering’.

I’d forgotten I had this book, because of its slimness it had got ‘lost’ among larger companions and it has a battered cover, which of course adds to its charm.

In the introductory note Tschichold writes: ‘The immense flood of printed matter which characterises the present day has not only diminished our reverence for language. It is also beginning to destroy our living sense for the visible representation of language, for writing and lettering. There are few people who are still sensitive to the positive and negative values in lettering, probably because it is under the eyes whichever way we turn, and everybody has to make use of it, even if it be only on the typewriter’.

He has a point, though I think he would have delighted in the freedoms allowed today in the graphic arts and would have enjoyed using a Mac and excelled with InDesign.

Categories
lettering

Penguin, Birdsall and Walbaum: 1971

Less is certainly more with this jacket cover, one that exemplifies the restraint of the designer with beautiful simplicity. Created by Derek Birdsall (see here for an excellent biography) his type palette was very limited, with Walbaum (as here) and Gill (as elsewhere – see the referenced page) used sparingly and well.