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, alphabets, stonework

Bookplates: ‘An opportunity for Pen(sic)men’

With the rapid increase in ebooks, whither the bookplate? Twenty years ago, maybe less, it was still possible to stick in a favourite book a ‘plate’, or a remembrance, of purchase. This might be nothing more than one’s name written with a 2B pencil, or an actual ‘sticker’. This helped when books were borrowed or lent – a sort of simple tracking system Going back  in time owners of great (and sometimes not so great) libraries had a plate printed – much in the manner of that shown below. The bookplate was an enduring legacy of ownership. And what of the penman? Will Carter was one (as was Reynolds Stone). Will was, however, critical of the fine penmanship that was able to inscribe with a quill pen on vellum. ‘…we are in fact neglecting a wonderful opportunity of enlivening our printed matter with a letter form which is  the natural development of the incised roman capital…’ he wrote in an article published in the 1954 edition of The Penrose Annual. He concludes: ‘The penman of today has lagged behind the times, steeped in too much medieval clutter…Calligraphy must not be allowed to decline…let us get busy and sharpen it alright so that it can serve us well, for it is a good tool’. Going back to the bookplate, it makes me ask: ‘Why not have bookplates in ebooks?’

Illustration from Lettering of Today, 1937 and Rampant Lions Press.

Categories
printing

The Albion Press, with particular reference to New Zealand

Hello New Zealand. This article is prompted by a piece written by Reynolds Stone, an eminent wood engraver, in the Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 1966, 2, 58-73, too which I either subscribed or obtained a back copy. (Actually the latter, as I did once have an Albion and was curious as to antecedents.) 

Stone starts his piece with reference to Cockerell and the Kelmscott Press (which I have alluded to in this blog), and states that in the 1890s Albions “were still two a penny…They were taken for granted; but it is now possible to see them as a product peculiar to the nineteenth century. Like a sailing ship of the same period they were the last flowering of a traditional method brought to something near perfection: efficient and beautiful objects, and both dependent on skilled and cheap labour.” How often does that arise – ‘cheap labour’? Think of Apple and iPads and China.

The reference to my comrades in NZ is the fact that when this article was written, according to Stone, an Albion was still in daily use at the National Printing Co. of Auckland, in fact a 1825 model used for proofing. If those readers of this live in or near Auckland could do a bit of sniffing and find this press much gratitude will ensue (and no doubt another piece in the blog).