A few more scores in now. The patterns are beautiful but every time I pick one of these up I marvel at the exquisite typography. Can't remember if it was Tschichold who was responsible for these – or maybe it was Hans Schmoller – but when I see them I see that photo of Jan in my head. This one.
Back in 2012 American film director Errol Morris posted a quiz online in The New York Times. On the surface it appeared to be testing whether the participant was an optimist or a pessimist but really Morris was testing typefaces. He was toying with an idea: does the choice of typeface influence the credibility of a statement. Well of course it does. Anyone half interested in typography knows it does but Morris approached the task anew and concluded, rather precisely, that the most 'believable' typeface is the one from Birmingham, my home town.
I've always liked Baskerville. Not because it's from the city of my youth, but because of those lovely wide capitals, those round C's, O's and G's; the forthright stroke contrast; and those cheeky italics. Maybe, unknowingly, it's because of the authority that comes built into the design.
Fuelled by his findings, in the Pentagram Paper version, Morris dwells on Mr B. In Chapter 4 he takes a spin around the life and times of the man who, it turns out, was not too popular in his day. Baskerville had made his money in japanning and spent his spare time on his more calligraphic yearnings. Shacked up in his mansion with Mrs Eaves, JB indulges his love of the printed page while outside his reputation was being sullied. His republican views were not popular, nor was his atheism or his sleeping arrangements. As Morris reports, even after his death, "Baskerville stands accused of most everything: priggishness, arrogance, immorality, even illiteracy." – apparently the badly dressed man's correspondents were grammatical disasters.
Baskerville died in 1775 and his house was left to Sarah Eaves. After her death it passed into new hands and in 1791 it was destroyed by what seems to have been slightly ungracious party goers who got totally pissed in the wine cellar and set fire to the place. Several singed bodies were found in the remains.
The story continues, as does the cursed connected bad luck but I'll stop there because I need to take our hound for a walk.
It's a most interesting account with Ben Franklin, Voltaire and Beaumarchais all playing their parts perfectly. Although it occurred to me, right at the end, that the whole thing might be Morris taking his test to a whole new level. Perhaps the PentaPaper was just 76 pages of bullshit, beautifully typeset in Baskerville to see if anyone would respond to it all, say in a blog post for example, convinced of its validity.
Well, it's Friday so why not – the last FTF was way back in January 2014. As Ms. Fili knows much better than I, Italia is awash with typographic joy. If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen these and more, but I think they're worthy of another showing.
For over twenty years Louise Fili has been snapping away at Italy's signage. 440 of those photos have now been wrapped up in a rather handsome hard cover and published. Grafica della Strada celebrates the display typography of her favourite European destination.
Secondhand Bookshop loiterers will relate to this:
I was at a nearby National Trust property, mooching around the secondhand bookshop, when I spied a scruffy oddity. A strangely tall volume wrapped in an interesting elk-based photo dust jacket that was topped off with a nasty piece of outline type.
If it wasn't for the unusual format I'd have passed it by but it was poking up, head and shoulders above the other odds and ends. So I did the thing you do – we all do it, don't we? – I slipped its jacket off.
We're just about to start work on a project for the NLI. In preparation for this I dived head first, into their digitised archive – their online catalogue – of print material. They have loads of stuff archived and much more still to do. It was hard not to get distracted. So I did…get distracted I mean.
The peaceful land of Punctuation is filled with tension overnight
When the stops and commas of the nation call the semi-colons ‘parasites’
In 1905, German poet Christian Morgenstern wrote a poem, In the Land of Punctuation. It told of an escalating fracas between certain marks and the bloody battle that ensued. It's a grim (and witty) tale.
Now translated into English by Sirish Rao and brilliantly illustrated by Rathna Ramanathan, Morgenstein's poem has a whole new lease of life thanks to Tara Books.
Do designers like an aphorism more than most? I'm not sure. We certainly do love a pithy truth about the nature of our work don't we? Whether it provides valuable insight into the inner workings of design practice and principles or reassurance of the validity of our most treasured points-of-view, a few carefully chosen words from a pier or hero can resonate. Letterpress it and hang it on a wall.
Handsomely bound and stylishly typeset (using a generous selection of Hoefler and Frere-Jones' Knockout) "The Designer Says" is packed to the rafters with the wit and wisdom of luminaries from design disciplines. Thoughtfully paired, each spread presents ideas either in tune with one another or at opposite poles.
I was ever so slightly bowled over by this package that arrived last week. Superbly packaged in a bespoke printed envelope and wrapped in it's own unique tissue paper, my special letter forms part of Pauline Clancy's Wood Type project. You can find out more about it here. While you're over there, check out Pauline's other work. You might remember Pauline from this piece she did last year.
I stumbled across The Salvage Press the other day. Lovely work…
The Salvage Press is devoted to preserving, promoting and pursuing excellence in design, typography & letterpress printing. It is the name under which artist & designer Jamie Murphy produces his letterpress printed books and broadsides.