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.

What’s Online no. 5—Inland Printer 1901

Here is another interesting tiny article from the 1901 Inland Printer which, like the 1899 one, is also available through Google Books. This time the article is related to printing. It is an early indication of interest in trying to use the new technology of photography to make typesetting easier, faster and more flexible. It is another reminder that we do not have an adequate history of phototypesetting, a technology that enjoyed a brief heyday but is increasingly forgotten.
Typesetting by …
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What’s Online no. 4—Inland Printer 1899

Several months ago I stumbled across the complete 1899 issues of the Inland Printer on Google Books. I downloaded the bound set and in skimming the pages this item caught my attention.
It is not creditable to the American people that they have to be “lawed” into respecting the flag of their country and the uniforms of the service. New York has found it necessary to pass a law making it a misdemeanor to publicly mutilate or deface the American flag. …
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A Case Study no. 1—Chocolate & Zucchini—Addendum

The typeface used for “Chocolate” in the title of Chocolate & Zucchini is ITC Eclat (1984) by Doyald Young (1926–2011) who unfortunately passed away recently. You can see some of his sketches for the font at: http://www.doyaldyoung.com/DC04.html
There are a number of tributes to Doyald online. Here are a few:
http://www.idsgn.org/posts/remembering-doyald-young/
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/arts/design/07young.html
http://fontfeed.com/archives/doyald-young-passes-away-at-age-84/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doyald_Young

Tutorial no. 2 addendum no. 2 Comments—Sure and Faust

Johnny (Alex Morgan), Demo and ecs,
I don’t usually post comments on Blue Pencil without filtering or editing them first, but I think these testaments about Faust and Sure are deserving of being put up as is. Thanks to all of you for clearing up my misidentification of the star as an A and for explaining that SURE and FAUST are two different graffiti writers. I am sorry to hear that Sure was killed in Afghanistan.
Thank you for reading Blue Pencil …
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From the Archives no. 15—Helvetica and Standard

Something else that I came across at the High School for Graphic Communication Arts were two issues of a former local trade magazine called Graphics: New York. Both were from 1965 and they help to pin down the moment when Helvetica arrived in New York and began to muscle out Standard (aka Akzidenz Grotesk).
The first issue is volume 2, number 1 from January 1965. On its back cover is an advertisement from Amsterdam Continental Types, the firm that imported European …
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From the Archives no. 14—Linoskala


The High School of Graphic Communication Arts in New York City, originally founded in 1925 as the New York School of Printing, is changing with the times and one casualty is its extensive library of books, periodicals and ephemera about the printing industries (papermaking, binding, type design and manufacture, typography, editing and proofreading, graphic design, photography, illustration and more). Fortunately, thanks to Abby Goldstein, the material is being saved from the dumpster and will be …
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Blue Pencil no. 12—Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig

Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig
Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010

Book design by Tamar Cohen
This is not the usual Blue Pencil post. The book examined here has very few errors, whether typographical or factual. Most of the commentary is about its lack of context. Although most of Lustig’s career took place during the Great Depression and World War II these momentous events are ignored. I was unaware of this lacuna …
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From the Archives no. 13—Frederic Goudy

Recently I was looking through back issues of The New Yorker online in order find “Glorifier of the Alphabet”, a profile of Frederic W. Goudy written by Milton MacKaye and published in the January 14, 1933 issue. I thought it might contain some information on the famous but vexatious quotation about stealing sheep attributed to Goudy. There is much dispute online over the exact wording of the quotation and what, specifically, Goudy was complaining about: spacing lowercase type, spacing …
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Blue Pencil no. 11 addendum

R. Roger Remington and Robert S.R. Fripp, the authors of Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin, expend a lot of effort to prove that Will Burtin was responsible for the popularity of Helvetica in the United States. In Blue Pencil no. 11 I challenged the evidence they presented in support of this claim. Here I want to put forth a counter-claim: that Massimo Vignelli is the individual who deserves credit (or blame)—if anyone does—for the spread …
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Blue Pencil no. 11—Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin

Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin
R. Roger Remington and Robert S.P. Fripp
Aldershot, Hampshire: Lund Humphries, 2007
Designed by Chrissie Charlton & Company
Paragraphs in the book are not indented but set apart by line spaces. This makes reading the text very choppy. fi ligatures are not used, although they are available in Monotype Bulmer, the typeface used to set the text. For a book about a designer who was extremely fussy about typography such lapses are …
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From the Bookcase no. 1—French Renaissance Printing Types

This is the first in a new series of posts. These are not Blue Pencil autopsies of books nor are they conventional book reviews. Instead, these are reports on what I have learned from reading books. These notes will either encourage followers of Blue Pencil to buy and read a book or save them the trouble and expense of doing so.

French Renaissance Printing Types: A Conspectus
Hendrik D.L. VervlietNew Castle, Delaware: The Bibliographical Society, The Printing Historical Society and Oak …
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Blue Pencil no. 6 comments

I completely agree with Paul’s comments. The book is visually excellent (in spite of reproducing many type specimens in gold (!) ink. But the captions are generally useless, obvious comments without any real knowledge of the specimens. I understand that Jan Tholenaar died before the book was published; that might be the cause of the lack of intelligent, pertinent captions.—Stephen Saxe
This is the only comment received since June 2010. It is about Blue Pencil no. 6 (16 August 2010) which …
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From the Archives no. 12—The Formation of American Type Founders



The Formation of ATF
The new year is a good time to air out mistakes and acknowledge errors. In several past Blue Pencil posts I have taken others to task for stating that American Type Founders was formed in 1892 from the merger of 23 foundries. I based my argument on several things: the genealogies of foundries in Alastair Johnston, Maurice Annenberg and other sources did not add up; the fact …
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Patrick Cramsie response to Blue Pencil no. 10

Since Blue Pencil does not post comments without moderation (and I am a very slow overseer of the blog) I was not aware of Patrick Cramsie’s attempt to respond to my dissection of The Story of Graphic Design until he contacted me directly. At the time I promised to post his lengthy response but not until I had a chance to read through them. Unfortunately, the press of teaching and work prevented me from doing anything related to Blue Pencil …
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What’s Online no. 3 addendum—The Catich Collection

The quotation in the previous post about trying to date the shift from the use of the reed as a brush to its use as a broad-edged tool caught my attention when sifting through the Catich Collection website because James Mosley and I had been wondering when (and why) the Romans changed from making monotone letters to letters with contrasting stroke thickness. We often describe the former as Republican and the latter as Imperial because they generally correlate with those …
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What’s Online no. 3—The Catich Collection

The recent comment by James Mosley re: Father Catich and W.R. Lethaby led to a discussion between us about what Father Catich’s sources were. That prompted me to see if any of Father Catich’s research materials for his books on the Trajan Inscription survive. I knew that St. Ambrose University, the school in Davenport, Iowa, where he that he taught had a collection of his inscriptions, calligraphy and other artistic works since I had been in touch with the archivist …
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