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.

From the Archives no. 25—Bradbury Thompson and the Monalphabet

Westvaco Inspirations for Printers 145 (1944)
Bradbury Thompson (1911–1995) was a longtime proponent of a single alphabet, what he called the monalphabet. The evolution of his thinking on this subject is outlined in “The Monalphabet: Towards a graphically logical and consistent alphabet” in his book The Art of Graphic Design (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988), pp. 37–41. I recently came across issue 145 of Westvaco Inspirations for Printers, the paper company promotional magazine that Thompson art directed …
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From the Archives no. 24—German printing trade magazines in the 1930s

Cover of Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphik (1934)
In the remains of the Charles Francis Memorial Library I recently found one copy of Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphik from 1934 and two copies of Druck und Werbekunst from 1937. They shed a little more light on the use of typefaces during the Third Reich. Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphik was “published by the association of german printers, and it is a great source for texts and examples of german typography,” …
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From the Archives no. 23—Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch (1950 / 1961)

Evangelisches Kirchegesangbuch für die Evangelische Kirche in Hessen und Nassau
Darmstadt: Verlag der Evangelischen Kirche in Hessen und Nassau, 1950 (15th ed., 1961)
I don’t know if a street bookseller’s stall on Unter den Linden in Berlin counts as an archive, but that is where I discovered this tiny gem of a book. It is an evangelical church hymnal, the first to be published in Germany after World War II. This particular version was authorized by the First Church Synod of …
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Genuine Imitations: A Type Designer’s View of Revivals

Matthew Carter spoke on historical revivals last night at CooperType. I had heard the talk twice before in the past year, but this time I took notes. Matthew is not only a good speaker, but he is full of pithy comments that often manage to be both amusing and deadly serious at the same time. Here are a few of them that I copied down. ”I take a predatory approach to history.”—by this, Matthew meant that he prowls history …
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From the Archives no. 22—Grids and Ornamental Typography

Newspaper Advertising: Advertising Course of Eleven Lectures Conducted by The New York Times Advertising Department (New York: The New York Times, 1932)
Lecture No. 7 “Typography”—“Fundamentals of Good Typography” by Elmer Adler, pp. 61–70
“…it shows the meticulous care with which a man like T.M. Cleland approaches the job of laying out a page. You will notice (25) that Mr. Cleland has carefully ruled the sheet in pica squares and has stamped in each ornament in the exact position he wants it …
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What’s Online no. 6 addendum—Inland Printer 1911

Another, more substantial, item of interest in The Inland Printer (vol. 48) is “A Chapter on Typographical ‘Bulls’” by C.A. Hartman (October 1911, pp. 54–57). Hartman’s article is a hilarious accounting of errors in newspapers. Here are three of his examples:

“The state should provide witnesses whose evidence would not be under suspicion as being colored by the size of their feet [fee].”
“Ripping [reaping] where they have not sewed [sowed].”
“A Gentile [gentle] laxative.”
For the most part, these errors are …
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From the Archives no. 21—The Influence of Daniel Berkeley Updike

Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use: A Study in Survivals by Daniel Berkeley Updike (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1922) is the most celebrated book in the field of printing history. Although the revised edition of 1937 (reprinted in 1962) is better, the original one (or at least volume 2) is available for free as a Google Book online. (Why volume 1 is not available is a mystery.) Despite immense strides made in printing history since World War …
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What’s Online no. 6—Inland Printer 1911

The Inland Printer vol. 48 (1911–1912) is available on Google Books. Skimming through it I stumbled across this tiny item in the November 1911 issue (p. 232). I suspect the anonymous correspondent’s curiosity was piqued by the frakturstreit that occurred that year in the German Parliament.
“To satisfy himself as to the preference among German printers and publishers between the Fraktur (German) and Antiqua (Roman) types, an interested correspondent made a count of the volumes displayed at the recent annual book …
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Blue Pencil no. 16—Jan Tschichold, Designer: The Penguin Years

Jan Tschichold, Designer. Title page design by Richard B. Doubleday.

I reviewed Jan Tschichold, Designer: The Penguin Years by Richard B. Doubleday forPrint in 2007. Recently I added the original version of that review to Shaw* (see Print LXI:III May/June 2007 and Shaw* / Writings /Archive). In the review I was as critical of the design of the book as of its contents. This was because the subject was design, specifically typography and book design. More importantly, the subject was Jan …
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Blue Pencil no. 15—Mixing Messages

Mixing Messages by Ellen Lupton (1996), cover. Design by Chip Kidd.
Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture
Ellen Lupton
New York: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution and Princeton Architectural Press, 1996
designed by Ellen Lupton
edited by Mark Lamster, Princeton Architectural Press and Kathleen Luhrs, National Design Museum
This Blue Pencil dissection is different from previous ones in that there is little to find fault with in Mixing Messages. It is included because the subject of the book is graphic design history, the …
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From the Bookcase no. 2—Spacing in Typography

Type Spacing
E.R. Currier
New York: J.M. Bowles, 1912
The Art of Spacing: A Treatise on the Proper Distribution of White Space in Typography
Samuel A. Bartels
Chicago: The Inland Printer, 1926
These two books come from the Charles Francis Collection. I have singled them out because I am fascinated by the spacing in lettering and type and have been trying to figure out when the modern conception of such spacing developed. Both of these books are surprisingly modern even though they predate the more famous …
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From the Archives no. 20—The Cost of Type

Italian Old Style: A New Type Face from Fred W. Goudy (1924), front cover. Designed by Bruce Rogers.
Another item from the High School of Graphic Communication Arts library is a copy of the famous type specimen that Bruce Rogers designed for Frederic W. Goudy’s Italian Old Style. Italian Old Style: A New Type Face by Fred W. Goudy and Produced by the Lanston Monotype Machine Company of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: The Lanston Monotype Company, 1924) is more than …
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From the Archives no. 19—AIGA Membership 1922–1923

The former High School of Graphic Communication Arts in New York City library continues to yield material that expands our understanding of graphic design history. Even small, seemingly innocuous items are valuable if one looks closely at the contents. One such example is the tiny Year Book of the American Institute of Graphic Arts 1922–1923 which provides a snapshot of the profession as it was in the process of formation. This booklet was published the same year that the first …
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From the Archives no. 17A—Even More on Helvetica in the United States

Raleigh D’Adamo, one of the winners of the 1964 Transit Authority map competition, showed me some old New York City subway maps recently. Although I had seen most of them in person before, there were two I had never looked at in detail: the 1967 map and its 1969 revision. These are the maps that immediately preceded the well-known Vignelli map of 1972. What caught my eye was the typography. Both maps used a mix of Standard, Helvetica and Trade …
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Blue Pencil no. 13 addendum no. 2—Standard Deviations

The Dialogue column (pp. 28–32) in the current issue of Print magazine (65.3 June 2011) is an interview between Steve Heller and Paola Antonelli regarding the Museum of Modern Art’s acquisition of digital fonts for its Architecture and Design Collection. The interview is fairly vague as Antonelli deflects the hard questions that Heller asks about collecting code and the licensing issues that cropped up in the course of acquiring digital typefaces.
Antonelli still has not identified the experts who advised her …
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Book Review—Departures: Five Milestone Font Families by Emigre


Departures: Five Milestone Font Families by Emigre
Rudy VanderLans
Berkeley, California: Emigre, 2011
Designed by Rudy VanderLans. Set in Base 900, designed by Zuzana Licko. Printed by Blurb.
141 pp. 5″x8″. Black and white; illustrated.
$14 or free with purchase of the five Museum of Modern Art “milestone” font families ($164). Visit Emigre.com.
This small book has been published, “on the occasion of the acquisition of five of our font families by The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2011,” …
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