Blue Pencil

Blue Pencil is a “slog”: a slow blog. It does not get updated daily or even on a regular schedule. Instead, it gets updated when there is something of value to be posted. Postings often take a long time to prepare and appear at intervals of a few weeks or even months. Sometimes there is a flurry of postings within the span of a few days. Blue Pencil may be unpredictable in its frequency, but not in its purpose. Blue Pencil is fiercely dedicated to the 3Rs: research, reading and writing.

Blue Pencil no. 32—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: C entries

C [1900–1909]
C001
Combinaisons Ornamentales | Alphonse Mucha, Maurice Verneuil and Georges Auriol | book | Librairie Centrale des Beaux Arts | c. 1900
[Simon Bell]
images: 3
text: 3
apparatus: 0
Why show six pages from Combinaisons Ornamentales on the front? This is not typical of the Archive’s approach and it does a disservice to the book. The back has more small images: the binding/cover and three more pages. There are no captions. This means that most readers are unlikely to realize that the small upper right image on the …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 31—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: B entries

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)
Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackara
CARDS
B [c. 1800 to 1899]
B001
Printers’ Fist | various | symbol | international | c. 1800
[Caroline Archer]
images: 3
text: 4
apparatus: 3
The front image of an array of 88 fists is nice, but not as graphically compelling as a single fist would have been (or even three stacked up)—assuming one wants to frame the card. (Neither is it as visually exciting …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 44—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: the box reconsidered

Today, the front flap of my copy of The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design suddenly fell off. I have had the box open for the past few weeks while preparing this series of Blue Pencil posts, but I never expected the flap to be so fragile that it couldn’t bear the strain of being folded down for so long. It was attached to the front with only a few dabs of glue. For now the lid is still intact.
This circumstance …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 42—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: Contents

Since Phaidon failed to include a table of contents in the booklet accompanying The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design (London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012), I have decided to perform that public service for those who have bought the box. I have listed the cards in ID order as they appear in the box when shipped. For each ID number I have indicated the title, designer and date of the item as rendered by Phaidon. I have …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 30—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: A entries

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)
Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackara
Blue Pencil has always avoided using rating systems, but for The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design it seems to be the only way to indicate the mixed quality of the box’s contents. Separate ratings, each on an ascending scale from 1 to 5, are provided for images, text and editorial apparatus (title block and …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 29—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: booklet

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)
Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackara
BOOKLET
Authors [inside front page]
There are no authors listed for A015 Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, F001 George Bernard Shaw Series, F052 Mercedes-Benz, and K005 Expo 85. Multiple authors are listed for E005 Chanel (Amelia Black and Riikka Kuittinen), E006 Bauhaus Programmes (Sony Devabhktunil, David Hyde, Paul Shaw and Graham Twemlow), E028  The New Yorker (Jody Boehnert and Ina Saltz), E037 Depero Futurista (Davina Thackara and Richard Weston), E062 Vogue (Véronique Vienne and Zoe Whitley), and G016 Herman …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 28—The Phaidon Archive of Design: An Assessment

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)
‘The publishers would like to thank Kerry William Purcell for his help in the preparation of this book.”*
Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackera
Specialist consultants: Steven Heller, Werner Jeker, Emily King, Hans Dieter Reichert, Teal Triggs, and Graham Twemlow
Phaidon team: Jane Ace, Laura Aylett, Enzo Barracco, Juliette Blightman, Emma Causer, Jacob Denno, Camilla Gersh, William Hall, Julia Hasting, Shari Last, …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 27—Authors of The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design

This is a guide to who wrote what in The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design (London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012). The texts in the box are uncredited and the list of author contributions in the accompanying booklet provides nothing more than entry ID numbers for each individual. There are also no author biographies. I have tried my best to provide credentials for each author, but for some I have failed to find reliable information …
Continue reading

The Rchive no. 12—No. 1 in New York

The mosaics in the New York City subway system display a surprisingly subtle variety of letterforms. This is especially evident in the stations along the Broadway/Seventh Avenue line (no. 1) between South Ferry and Times Square that have their names rendered in seriffed letters: Rector Street, Cortlandt Street, Franklin Street, Canal Street, Houston Street, Christopher Street / Sheridan Square, 18th Street, 23rd Street, 28th Street and 34th Street / Pennsylvania Station. An easy way to see these differences is through …
Continue reading

The Rchive no. 11—two from São Paulo

Metal R on apartment building in São Paulo. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2013).
This R is typical of the lettering style found on São Paulo buildings erected in the 1950s and 1960s. Its light weight and extended proportions distinguish it from the sans serif letters commonly found on American buildings during this period. Was it brought to São Paulo from Italy by Italian architects such as Giancarlo Palanti (1906–1977) and Achillina Bo Bardi (1914–1992)?
Continue reading

An addendum to Print: The Color Issue—George F. Nesbitt 1841

Here is a short visual addendum to the current Stereotype column in Print co-written by Stephen Coles and I that focused on chromatic typefaces. These are two pages from Nesbitt’s Fourth Specimen of Machinery Cut Wood Type “manufactured and for sale by George F. Nesbitt, Tontine Building, New-York” (1841).  The specimen book is very short and all of its samples are, like those shown here, two-color decorative typefaces. Some are in red and black while others …
Continue reading

A typographic mystery: an English typeface and a Maine gravestone

Last year while on vacation in Maine, I discovered peculiar letters on a well worn and lichen-encrusted gravestone in the Hope Grove Cemetery.  The tomb was for two children, Enoch P. who died in 1811 at the age of 18 and Sarah who died in 1804 at the age of ten. The foot of the tomb is missing and thus their last name is unknown, though local genealogists surmise it is Safford since a similar tomb nearby bears that name. …
Continue reading

The Rchive no. 9—The Return of the Classical Roman Letter

The New York Life Insurance Company Building (1899; now the New York City Criminal Court Building) was designed by Stephen Hatch but completed by McKim, Mead & White after his death in 1894. The building’s address is affixed to the side in copper letters that have classical Roman overtones not normally found at that time. They are surely the work of McKim, Mead & White rather than Hatch, reflecting the firm’s interest in Beaux Arts architecture with its adoption of …
Continue reading

The Rchive no. 10—Faux Art Deco

R from Tick Tock Diner, Manhattan. Photograph 16 February 2013.
The neon is real but the Art Deco letter R is not. This is a detail of the word “DINER” from the Tick Tock Diner in Manhattan, kitty corner from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. It is the New York City outpost of a famous diner in Clifton, New Jersey of the same name.
The original—which I have never seen—is an iconic American diner judging by the many photographs online …
Continue reading

The Rchive no. 5—The Art Deco Empire

The Empire State Building (1931). Detail of “LAKE ONTARIO” from map of New York State in Fifth Avenue lobby. Photographed 16 February 2013.
The Empire State Building is not only one of the greatest examples of architecture in New York City, but it contains some of the greatest lettering. On the back wall of the Fifth Avenue lobby is a stunning map of New York State (the Empire State) made of marble, steel and bronze. The lettering of cities, rivers, …
Continue reading

The Rchive no. 6—Stencil

R from unknown storefont on the south side of West 34th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan, New York. Photographed 16 February 2013.
I stupidly photographed this R in the entryway to a store without recording its name. It is Times Roman but the stencil effect, coupled with the light (only visible in the stem), takes it out of the mundane. Who knew Times Roman could be so alluring?