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William Morris, Bernard Newdigate and Bodoni

January 3, 2011
Kelmscott Press - The Nature of Gothic by John...

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William Morris, the temperamental late Victorian gentleman ‘printer’, once wrote of the Bodoni typeface that it possessed a :  ‘sweltering hideousness’. It was, he continued,  ‘the most illegible type that was ever cut…owing to the clumsy thickening and vulgar thinning of the line.’

But then Morris had no time for ‘modern’ typography, being wedded in the romance, as he saw it, of Medievalism.

Bernard Newdigate, next mentioned in the title, wrote articles for a long defunct magazine, partly collated in Book Production Notes, articles contributed to The London Mercury, 1920-1925, published in 1986 by The Tabard Private Press.

Mr Newdigate, or Bernard shall we call him with the familiarity of the late 2oth/early 21st centuries, is commonly described as a scholar-printer, a title now but extinguished in our headlong dash into the digital.

It is this book that I find another description of Bodoni’s faces, this time written by another eminence of early 20th century revivalism, Emery Walker, who writes, echoing Morris, ‘letters that are positively ugly, and … are dazzling to the eye owing to the clumsy thickening and thinning of the lines’.

How times change. Would anyone now think of using a Morris face?

To be continued…

 

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