Dissections

Blue Pencil was born out of the disappointment of seeing the editorial quality of books on graphic design and typographic history decline precipitously over the past decade. Its raison d’être is to dissect books on graphic design history and typography to ferret out errors—typographical, orthographical and factual—in such books and post them publicly. Dissections are not done to denigrate authors, but to rebuke proofreaders and editors who have failed their jobs and publishers who have abdicated their responsibility to the reader. Blue Pencil marks up a text with an eye to improving it.

Blue Pencil Comments no. 1

When I set up this slow blog I decided not to publish comments for several reasons: 1. I wanted any comments to be substantive rather than simply expressions of praise or vituperation; and 2. I feared that I wouldn’t have the time to curate them properly. The sort of comments that I would like to include on the blog are those that add knowledge: correcting my posts regarding facts, spelling, etc.; adding additional information fleshing out my comments; or arguing …
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Blue Pencil no. 8—Idea 321 (2007)

Between 2006 and 2008 there was an astonishing outpouring of Tschicholdiana, books and magazines devoted to various aspects of the life and work of Jan Tschichold (1902–1974), the influential 20th c. typographer and typographic theorist. This is the first Blue Pencil post devoted to looking at these works. It is focused on a special issue of Idea, a Japanese graphic design magazine, dedicated to Tschichold.
Idea: International Graphic Art and Typography 321 2007.3
“Works of Jan Tschichold 1902–74”
222 pp.
This special issue of …
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Blue Pencil no. 7C—Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The (Mostly) True Story

There has been a lot of controversy over who deserves credit for the design of the 1979 subway map. In Helvetica and the New York City Subway System I tried to avoid getting tangled up in the fight between Michael Hertz and John Tauranac, both of whom were very generous in providing me with material and information about developments in the sign system. The sign system, not the map, was my primary interest at the time.
As someone who has worked …
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Blue Pencil no. 7B—Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The (Mostly) True Story

I recently revisited the Transit Archives and discovered the contact sheet for the full page photograph on p. 26 of Helvetica and the New York City Subway. My sources for the photograph did not provide a date and I guessed that it had been taken in 1965. However, the sheet is dated April 18, 1968. The caption (Fig. 74 on p. 27) needs to be corrected. The contact sheet can be found in NYCTA Photographic Unit Photo Print Collection 1968, …
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Blue Pencil no. 7A—Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The (Mostly) True Story

My posting of mistakes in Helvetica and the New York City Subway System immediately led to a few other mistakes being sent my way. Jackson Cavanaugh has pointed out the following errors:
p. 27 “They commissioned a new logo from Sundberg-Ferar, an industrial design firm responsible for designing a new subway car, and they created special strip maps (set in Futura) for use on the no. 7 Flushing Line (fig. 270).” The reference for the TA logo should be fig. 269.
p. …
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Blue Pencil no. 8—Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity



Above. Das A und O des Bauhauses edited by Ute Brüning (Berlin: Bauhaus Archiv and Edition Leipzig, 1995), p. 63 (plate 46). Joost Schmidt. Plakat. 1922/1923. Lithografie. Druck: Reineck & Klein, Weimar. (60.5x48cm). Bauhaus Archiv.

Below. Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity edited by Barry Bergdoll and Leah Dickerman (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009), p. 153 (plate 194). Joost Schmidt. Poster for the 1923 Bauhaus exhibition. 1922–1923. Lithograph on paper. …
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Blue Pencil no.7—Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The (Mostly) True Story



Blue Pencil has gained a reputation for hyper-vigilance in looking for errors of all kinds in design books. This does not mean that I expect such books to be completely error-free. That is an unreasonable expectation. Errors are inevitable. They are part of human nature and the products that humans make. However, it is the sheer number of mistakes, from the trivial to the substantive, in so many books today …
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Blue Pencil no. 6 addendum no. 2

James Mosley, former librarian at St. Bride Printing Library in London (one of the great repositories of type specimens), has this to say about the Claude Lamesle specimen in Type: A Visual History:
“…the big “thin” Gros Canon italic in the Lamesle specimen is Robert Granjon’s (not Jannon’s), and was used together with the “thin” Gros Canon roman (which is Garamond’s) in the Imitatio Christi of 1640, the first title from the Imprimerie Royale in Paris. There is a lot of …
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Blue Pencil no. 6 addendum

John D. Berry points out that the text of Type: A Visual History does not use f ligatures. This is emblematic of the book. Sloppy writing begets sloppy typography.

Blue Pencil no. 6—Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles

Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles 1628–1900 vol. 1
edited by Cees W. de Jong, Alston W. Purvis and Jan Tholenaar
texts by Jan Tholenaar and Cees W. de Jong
Hong Kong, Köln, London et al—Taschen, 2009
[the cover lists de Jong, Purvis and Tholenaar as editors but the title page only lists de Jong so it is hard to know who is responsible for the captions. The essays are credited to de Jong and Tholenaar.]
the design is by Sense/Net (Andy Dial …
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Blue Pencil no. 5

Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles 1628–1900 vol. 1
edited by Cees W. de Jong, Alston W. Purvis and Jan Tholenaar
texts by Jan Tholenaar and Cees W. de Jong
(Hong Kong, Köln, London et al—Taschen, 2009)
http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/design/all/05088/facts.type_a_visu
The book comes with a keycard that allows the buyer/reader to access and download 1069 high resolution (jpeg format) images for free and without restrictions on their use.
The 134 page-website displays 8 images per page. Each is tagged with the title of the item, and …
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Update: Blue Pencil no. 1 re: Civilité

Gilles Corre of GLC Fonts, in responding to a comment in Blue Pencil no. 1,  has pointed out that his website only shows pictures of his fonts and that information about their background can be found on MyFonts. His 1742 Civilité is derived from a model in Pierre Simon Fournier le jeune’s Modèles des caractères de l’imprimerie et des autres choses nécessaires au dit art nouvellement gravés par Simon-Pierre Fournier le jeune (1742).

Blue Pencil no. 4

Typography and Graphic Design: From Antiquity to the Present
Roxane Jubert
Forewords by Serge Lemoine and Ellen Lupton
Paris: Flammarion, 2006
Translators: David Radzinowicz and Deke Dusinberre
Copy Editor: Lindsay Porter
Proofreader: Penelope Isaac
Typography and Graphic Design: From Antiquity to the Present, a broad history of graphic design by Roxane Jubert, appeared before the Eskilson and Drucker/McVarish books that have already been dissected on Blue Pencil. It is different from those books in several basic ways. Its captions are brief, limited (usually) to the name of …
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Blue Pencil no. 3.4—Bodoni





There is much confusion about what the types of Giambattista Bodoni really looked like. This is because Bodoni’s types changed over the course of his 45 year career. His early faces were influenced by the types of Pierre-Simon Fournier le jeune while his mature ones were influenced by the fonts of Firmin Didot. Bodoni also constantly refined his types to …
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Blue Pencil no. 3.3—Humanist Bookhand


This is a detail from Harley 4965 f.127v in the British Library. The manuscript is an Eusebius (De evangelica praeparatione by Eusebius of Caesarea, translated by Georgius Trapezuntius) written out in 1482 in Florence. The script is commonly called humanist bookhand, though the Humanists themselves called it littera antica (in contradistinction to rotunda or littera moderna). This is the script that Drucker/McVarish confusingly call Humanist rotunda. The letters are “rounder” than those of either Spanish …
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Blue Pencil no. 3.2—Rotunda


Rotunda was a southern European script and it was as popular in Spain as in Italy. Spanish rotunda tends to be narrower, more rigid and more precise than the Italian model. The example here is an undated sheet of parchment—it looks as if it could have been written anytime from the late 15th c. to the end of the 16th c.—which I bought ten years ago in Copenhagen. The writing is on both sides and …
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