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Typography and the paper bag

15/11/2010

My wife returned home from a trip to New York at the weekend. She brought me a present (well, actually I asked her if she could get me them) – a dozen pencils, 2H to 9H, plus Stabilio Aquarellable, ideal for drawing/sketching on slate.

If the pencils were not a gift enough the packaging they came in was a wonderful bonus. A brown paper bag from the art supplier. It’s a great big thumping sans which I can’t quite place – it’s not one of the usuals, Helvetica (because of the C), Univers (the K), Gill (the B,C,K). Any ideas? It’s in a grotesque/gothic style

Anyhow, the present (bag) made me realise that these throw-away items (true ephemera) were once everywhere but have since been replaced, for the most part, with plastic. Being throw-away most don’t think of them as collectible, though I am sure there are many out there who have drawers full of them.

For my part, I began a small collection of printed ephemera in 1987, and here are few paper bag pieces I retain. I wish I had more!

This one I particularly like as it was from a clothing store in the town in the UK I then lived – Sutton, south of London, where this shop shared my name. Got to love the H and the cheeky S – and the brilliant full length use of the J. What type is it? Don’t know again (revealing my ignorance big time today!)

Then of course there was the ‘greatest bookshop in the world’ – Foyles, which I used to visit often as a teenager and young man. It had a reasonable second-hand selection, while the general stacks occasionally offered up gems that had been left unsold for generations: this was the pre-computer stocktaking period.

Various combinations of both sans and serif in use here – including good old Cooper Black, very typical of the 1960s.

Next a little bag from a tobacconist, probably printed by a small jobbing printer. (I used to smoke in those days, a pipe, and this shop held a great variety of loose tobaccos: this bag, though, was probably for purchase of a pipe as it is long and slender.) Use of Gill Sans, which all jobbing printers would have had in stock, possibly hand-set too.

And to round things off a gem from a sandwich bar in central London. I probably bought a sandwich there in the late-1980s but the bag was likely to be unchanged from the 1950s or earlier.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    20/11/2010 5:01 am

    Blick lettering looks like Interstate or some similar American Highway Signage-styled font to me. Just for what that’s worth.

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