In the May 6 edition of Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s Meanwhile (you do subscribe to Meanwhile don’t you?) he featured Jan Tschichold’s The Form of the Book. Amongst the details Daniel drew out of that was what Jan said about “Deviant formats” – formats that don’t work. JT mentions formats that are too big, too wide and too heavy. He doesn’t, fortunately, mention too tall.
[Screen goes all wobbly and we jump back in time].
In the dim and distant and dim past – so long ago, in fact, that no one quite knows when it was – someone or other decided it would be a great idea to put a church on a thirty acre island in the Thames known for its thorny bushes.
By the 10th century (those in the know now know) there’d been a Christian church on Thorny for quite some time although there’s no trace of it today. When Edward the Confessor ascended to the throne in 1042, Thorney’s status as a sacred place was well established and he saw to it that the construction of a new, more fancy church was begun. This grander building – probably the largest Norman church of its time – was consecrated on Holy Innocents Day 1065. And not a moment too soon! Just a few days later Edward made his last confession and departed for that even grander church in the sky.
The Abbey continued to rise in national importance as Kings were crowned and later buried within its walls. Although Edward is credited for establishing Westminster, it was Henry III who imagined what we can see today – partly because by Henry’s day, those pesky French were knocking up some really fancy cathedrals and we all know that kings are covetous creatures. So in 1245, Edward’s church was respectfully (Henry was one of Edward’s biggest fans) pulled down and construction of Westminster Abbey began in ernest. Not surprisingly, the building work took much longer than the time Henry III had on the planet and a whole bagful of kings and queens came and went, each making all sorts of additions and modifications to the plans, before the job was done.
[Screen goes all wobbly and we jump forward in time].
In 1965, the 900 year anniversary of that original consecration was celebrated in a year of events and commemorated in a very tall book that I suspect even Tschichold would have approved of. It's mighty tall but just a few pages in and it makes so much sense. Very tall photos of very tall things give way to very tall text columns and then more very tall photos of more very tall things. When tallness doesn't cut it, the designers (Roger and Robert Nicholson, London) turned to a 90° turn for a wonderfully long and shallow vista instead.
The book should have a fancy and rather audacious dust jacket but my low cost copy had already lost it's coat of many colour. No matter – the modest hard cover with that beautifully positioned and thrifty sans type will do nicely for me.
There's a few copies on eBay I notice and they don't all cost that much. Watch out though, there's a low cost paperback version but the overall design is lovely so even one of those would be good.