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In honour of a decade: a legacy begins


In November this bog celebrates a decade. I’m aware that in recent years the blog has not been active and I can offer little excuse than that of laziness.

However. However, over the coming months I will add to the collection as well as re-post some blogs I think are interesting. If you disagree do not hesitate to let me know, as also to suggest those you’d like to see repeated. For the sake of newcomers you understand.

So the first is….my visit to Pigotts.  An interesting choice given my abhorrence and moral disgust of the man, yet these are pictures you will find no where else. I was naive and I cannot offer apologies enough to his victims – his family and others who were lured into posing for him. Do not use Gill Sans or any other of his typefaces. Period.


The Three M’s [not the three tenors]


These three M’s are taken from an interesting book titled Symbols, Signs, Letters by Martin Andersch. The book is subtitled: About handwriting, experimenting with alphabets and the interpretation of texts. I can find scant mention of Andersch on the web, so if any reader can enlighten me do make contact.

It’s instructive to look at the illustrations, all from the 16th century, as being based on geometric forms. There are specific differences in the positioning of the mid-point and of the serifs, most particularly in the left/right balance.

Three M

Pacioli, Durer and Tory

This page re-directed me to The Geometry of Type by Stephen Coles (Thames & Hudson, 2016), which is an excellent guide to the different genres of type. Coles has 15 kinds ranging from Humanist serif to Script. Browsing, I came across FF Yoga Sans, which is described as ‘…a Gill Sans for the 21st century’. In other words it dispenses with Gill’s idiosyncrasies.

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FF Yoga Sans







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.

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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.

Marshall McLuhan and all that


At the close of the year – at the close of the decade (though some dispute this) – it’s instructive to read or re-read McLuhan’s great text, the gutenberg galaxy.

19_12_31_Mcluha cover

Marshall McLuhan

I’ve had this book a long while (secondhand it cost me £1.50), being the 1967 reprint of the 1962 original. I can’t claim to have read it cover to cover; rather I’ve dipped in over the decades. Like today in fact. My motivation for posting was this sentence from the Prologue: ‘We are today as far into the electric age as the Elizabethans had advanced into the typographical and mechanical age’. OK, that was composed some 60 years ago, and our second Elizabethan is still on the throne!

What McLuhan couldn’t know then, although he hints at it throughout, is how the electric age has morphed into the digital age; and, as he does foresee, we are now one ‘global village’. He continues in that Prologue: ‘And we are experiencing the same confusions and indecisions which they had felt when living simultaneously in two contrasted forms of society and experience.

19_12_31_Mcluhan title

Marshall McLuhan

Whereas the Elizabethans were poised between medieval corporate experience and modern individualism, we reverse their pattern by confronting an electric technology which would seem to render individualism obsolete and the corporate interdependence mandatory’.

Perhaps he was wrong about individualism, since social media makes heroes of anyone and everyone not just the Kardashian’s. But all, or most, of us are daily, hourly, in the grip of the corporate giants who collect our data, share our data and make their coin many, many times over and over and over.

Happy 2020 to all my readers.

Letchworth Garden City and Everyman


Among the many books I have collected over the last 50 years, few are so modest and unbecoming – not to say inexpensive – as those in the Everyman’s Library. I mean the original Everyman, not the new one run through Random House and Alfred A Knopf. I was inspired to write this post (the first for many months, in fact as I look back only the third this year) when I pulled The Life of and Works of Goethe from my shelves on Christmas Eve, quite at random. It could as well have been The Heroic Deeds of Gargantua & Pantagruel (two volumes, 1929, with the price £1 in pencil on the endpaper) or A Literary & Historical Atlas of Asia (undated) or one of the many others I have.


Title page of The Life and Works of Goethe

Turning to the back cover, I was reminded that these volumes were printed by the Temple Press, Letchworth. This English town was one of the first Garden Cities, established in the first years of the 20th century, and home of many printers and publishers.


The Temple Press, Letchworth, England

Joseph Dent set up the Temple Press there in August 1906, combining printing and book binding, only months after the first 50 volumes had been produced to great acclaim.

You can still pick up Everyman’s in most second-hand bookshops. If you haven’t a few already on your shelves perhaps make 2020 the year you start. You won’t regret it.



Everyman’s Library advertisement

Indebted to Letchworth: A town built on a book sourced through Google Books.

Also see:




Something fuzzy


An unusual use of words to say the least.

Recent letter carving in slate


It has been a while since I picked up a chisel and took the tungsten tip to a piece of stone. So I was delighted to be commissioned by a friend to carve two words into a rectangular block of Mintaro slate from near Adelaide, Australia, approximately 300mm by 75mm. [The text Cantabo Vivere can be liberally translated as Sing to live.]

The photos here illustrate the methods used in setting out the letters, initial cutting and the final piece.


This illustrates how the text is transferred to the stone, using carbon paper. Note the outline is a guide only.


The first cut of the A, with the C almost complete.


The R is being formed. Note how the shape is being tweaked in the process of cutting.


Holding the chisel. Dirty work.

cantabo vivere complete

Complete after being rubbed with at least 400 grit under running water.