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Pictured in type

December 13, 2014

Making pictures from type goes back a long way – how long I can’t answer and I haven’t done the research but believe me it is a long time.

On the occasion of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Frances (as she was then) on 29 July 1981 I and a colleague put together this Pictures from Type_0002offering – the additional inscription The only safe fast breeder is a Royal (in Times New Roman, letterpress) added when the pregnancy was announced in 1982 (Prince William was born on 21 June 1982) and alludes to concerns over nuclear reactors – 1982 was also the year the UK went to war with Argentina over the Falklands.

Now McDonald’s have caught on.

Though Pictures from Type_0001they may show promise – and are clearly done on computer – compare and contrast (as my English teacher at secondary school used to say to us)  this 1953 effort by Dennis Collins of Queen Elizabeth II.

It comes from Typewriter Art, 1975, London Magazine Editions (another item to be added to your ever Pictures from Typelengthening Christmas wish list). This piece was done on a typewriter and Collins notes: ‘The Queen’s portrait … [was] done on an old portable on which spaces could not be finely adjusted – this accounts for the horizontal white strips across the face…’ (For an earlier post on typewriter art see here.)Pictures from Type_0003

Collins (born 1912) was a notable cartoonist who did ‘The Perishers’ comic strip for the Daily Mirror from 1958 to 1983. If you know more about Collins please let me know.

Note – the lettering on the Charles and Diana card was done with Letraset.

Mr Frederic W Goudy’s ‘curves are perhaps too round and soft’

December 11, 2014

It’s always a joy to pick up a book, any book, and find a colophon describing the typeface used in the publication. This most recently happened to me when I bought a copy of Geoff Dyer’s novel Out of Sheer Rage (Canongate Books, 2012). The typeface selected for the edition is Goudy Old Style, Goudy lettering_0001designed, it is noted, by ‘Frederic W Goudy, an American type designer, in 1915. It is a graceful, slightly eccentric typeface, and is prized by book designers for its elegance and readability’.

OK. Slightly eccentric took me to my bookshelves to see what others have written about Mr Goudy. What does Updike have to say? He writes of Kennerley, Goudy lettering another of the designer’s faces commissioned in 1911 by Mitchell Kennerly: ‘[it] is a freely designed letter which has been much praised in many quarters. Its capitals are excellent but the lower case roman, except perhaps in 10-point, seems to “roll” a little; and, as was said of another of Mr Goudy’s types, “when composed in a body, the curves of the letters – individually graceful – set up a circular, whirling sensation that detracts somewhat from legibility. That is to say, the curves are perhaps too round and soft, and lack a certain snap and acidity”.’ (Printing Types, vol II. 2nd ed, 2nd printing, 1937.)

My Oh My. They were savage critics back in the twentieth century.

What has Carter to add? ‘Goudy died in 1947,’ he concludes, ‘heaped with honours…His faces are not widely used for the setting of books: they do not fulfil the customary demands of reticence for such purposes. But for displayed work and advertising design they have always been deservedly popular’. (Twentieth century Type Designers, 1987.) Carter also notes how Goudy made a new fount, that is cutting the matrices by hand and giving them to Updike the same day – Updike having called for lunch (this was 1933) and complaining he couldn’t find the right size or style for a title page he was then designing. Now that’s what I call a good lunch.

Another writer, BH Newdigate, says of Goudy’s Kennerley face (this written in 1920): ‘…[it] is perhaps the most attractive letter which has been placed within the reach of British and AMerican printers in modern times.’  Times change.

More architectural lettering from Australia

December 7, 2014

Having noticed recent interest in a post first made in September 2011, I belatedly follow up with another taken during my productive vacation the other month. Regular readers will have noted my comments on Dorrigo (click here if you missed them), but on the way to that township we went through the larger outpost of Bellingen (30.4333° S, 152.9000° E).

It was in this place that I spotted the rather wonderful cast-iron lettering shown here, Bellingen boots shoes signagewhich adorned, by the looks of it, a late-nineteenth Bellingen Ironmongeryhaberdashery shop (the sort of emporium that sold everything to the local population unable to make the trip with any frequency to a city).

bellingen emporiumNow I have been scouring my books, in particular Bartram’s The English Lettering Tradition from 1700 to the present day (Lund Humphries, 1986) and Nicolete Gray’s Lettering on Buildings (The Architectural Press, 1960) and XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages (Faber and Faber, 1938) and make the observation that what we have here is what the former describes as ‘decorative’ and the latter as ‘Tuscan style’, though most definitely Victorian in origin. (For more on Gray see here.)

Gray writes: ‘Like the Egyptian, the nineteenth-century Tuscan was at least as much an architectural as a typographical invention’.  This example shows a range of typefaces from the 1860s and 1870s.Gra and Tuscan lettering_0001

Gra and Tuscan letteringIts origin, she continues, may be traced to fourth century Rome and ‘one of the greatest of letterers, Furius Dionysius Filocalus. The name is undoubtedly a pseudonym and expresses the man’s attitude to his work: conscious, devoted and expressionist’. This example (below) comes from the Catacomb of St Calixtus, Rome and is taken from Lettering on Buildings - a must read for any serious student of typography.

The other images above are taken from Lettering and XXIXth Ornamented (another volume to add to the Christmas wish list).

So, from Bellingen to Rome in one fair sweep.

Filocalus lettering from 4th century Rome

Filocalus lettering from 4th century Rome

Something French for the weekend, oui?

November 29, 2014

This from Penrose 39 (1937). A beautiful example of French typography of that pre-war period.

debernu

Even more letterpress in Australia

November 26, 2014

Following my recent visit to Dorrigo (see here) and the last Australian newspaper still printed letterpress I have another discovery, and this time it is even closer to where I live, on the border between NSW and Queensland, Australia.

A news item in my local paper mentioned the Olive and Volcano press. The team of Jo and Andy print and publish a wide collection of letterpress. If you are in this part of the world do check them out.

2chokus

You (still) have mail (just)

November 14, 2014

But for how long? In Australia we continue to have mail delivered (at least where I live) by posties riding a classic Honda CT110, though this institution is threatened by replacement by something greener – the Super Cub. Australia Post bike

Nevertheless, the logo will remain designed by Dutchman, Pieter Huveneers. Australia Post mail box

And how long a postal service? Probably longer than anyone imagines as we still need those items ordered over the internet to be physically delivered to the door.

Unless Google fills the sky with its drones…

Note – in the photo of the mailbox when enlarged you will see the postie accelerating away in the distance.

For earlier post on Australian stamps see here

In conversation with Eric Gill, part 2

November 12, 2014

[If you missed Part one, click here]

I smell the cigarette before I see him. gill with a cigarette

You’re late, I say.

He sits close, our thighs almost touching, and crosses his legs. He wears something like a kilt and grey woollen socks come just below the knee. He adjusts them, a band behind the turndown needing to be slackened. In the burnished shine of his brown leather shoes I see clouds reflected. The cigarette smoulders at the end of a long mottled Bakelite holder. He looks out to sea then closes his eyes.

Do you believe them? he asks.

Without hesitation or reflection I answer. It is what I have waited to say.

What you did was vile. It was unconscienceable. I don’t know how you were able to live with yourself knowing you had violated your own. If then it was not a crime, today you would be sent away and, good riddance, Mr Gill.

But was it unholy? His eyes are open now.

How can you hide behind false gods?

I am off track already, my long-prepared assault on his reputation has been easily parried. It’s like he was expecting it all along, had determined to take me on at the outset without the distraction of introductions or well-mannered small talk.

My dear child, he begins. Everything we do is holy. Everything I did was promoted by that desire also to be truthful.

You fucked your own daughters, I shout.

There is no need to be vulgar. Intercourse is a beautiful partnership.

Not with your own.

Why ever not? I am surprised how orthodox you are. These taboos you speak of have been placed there by institutions keen to clamp our spirits.

I am becoming angrier. I force myself to calm down, take a moment to draw a deep breath.

Even your own fucked up religion does not tolerate incest.

Not incest, he counters, his voice rising an octave. No! It was not incest.

Then what is it?

A partnership mutually agreeable, he answers.

It sounds rehearsed as does what follows.

There was never dissent. After I had drawn and sketched her we lay together.

Then you took her every which way you liked.

I pause to allow the words find their level, attach to memories I sense are flooding his mind.

You took her and you knew she would never protest, call out, scream, tell her mother.

Mary knew, he says and his eyelids close.

Open them, I shout.

I stare at him. He focuses on mine, his glasses now reflecting the shit grey sea. Way above us a seagull cries. There is almost a thin smile of triumph moving across his face. I want to hit him but he is a shade from another place so my words must do duty.

You…you…

I hesitate. I have long thought of this moment, triumphant in my moral justification, imagining him squirming at the end of a well placed, one might say clinical demonstration of reasoned judgement. I had considered my words, prepared a mental script. I was incisive in my preparations. I’d make him seek mercy as the magnitude of his sins were revealed. But now with him here by me I cannot. My mind is blank. Everything has been deleted. This man is Eric Gill and I can’t continue for at another time I cherished him, loved him like my father even if he was dead. I feel I should apologise for my outburst. He leans forward, takes my right hand in both of his, pulls me closer.

Dear child, he says gently. Be angry. You are right. I did wrong. I was a bad man, a bad father, a bad husband to my wife. Know this though: What I did harmed no one. It was God’s gift.

[to be continued]

(1 December 2014: On reflection I consider this piece of imaginative recreation to be complete, for the time being at least
.)

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