Research

Research consists of unintended or accidental discoveries that I have made during the course of my research into other topics. They are posted here in the belief that others may find the information equally fascinating. Some items are meant to challenge or question existing scholarship on a specific topic. And others are intended to alert scholars to material that may be relevant to their own pursuits or to new opportunities of research.

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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From the Archives no. 18—Satz- und Druck-Musterheft 1938

Satz- und Druck-Musterheft 1938
Vorlagenheft für Setzer, Drucker, Werbefachleute, Graphiker und Reproduktionstechniker
Berlin: Verlag der Graphischen Monatsschrift “Deutscher Drucker”, 1938
Satz- und Druck-Musterheft 1938, a printing trades periodical, is another instance where I wish I was able to read more than a few words and phrases in German. (The translations here were done with the kind help of Indra Kupferschmid who also helped with proofreading the German.) It is a compendium of articles about printing, typography and design …
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From the Archives no. 17—More on Helvetica in the United States

This evening at the Type Directors Club I came across a type specimen entitled helvetica (all lowercase) issued by Empire Typographers, Inc., a type house in New York City, in February 1963. It was designed by Martin Friedman, a name that is unfamiliar to me. More importantly, it stated on the inside of the front cover, “Helvetica is now being cut in display sizes. The following will be available at Empire Typographers in the …
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From the Archives no. 16—Choosing a Typeface

Among the items that interested me in the former library of the High School of Graphic Communications Art have been books, pamphlets and articles that promise to shed light on an often overlooked aspect of 20th c. graphic design: the origins and development of the type director and the type house. Two of the names that often pop up as early figures in this area are Frederick M. Farrar and Gilbert P. Farrar. I assume that they were brothers, but …
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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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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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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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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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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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From the Archives no. 11: Woman’s Work?

This is a post that owes a big debt of thanks to Caitlin Dover, my former colleague at Print magazine. She is doing research on 19th c. signs in New York City and came across this intriguing reference to women signpainters. It is in The Employments of Women: A Cyclopaedia of Woman’s Work by Virginia Penny (Boston: Walker, Wise & Co., 1863), pp. 471–472. The entry, one of a long list of potential professions for women that defiantly avoids …
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What’s Online no. 2: German Propaganda Archive


At TypeCon 2010 in Los Angeles last month I bought a copy of Der Schulungsbrief, a Nazi publication because it was dated January 1940 and I was curious about its typography. Unfamiliar with the periodical I Googled it and—to my surprise—came across an entire section of a website devoted to it. See http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/schul43.htm operated by Prof. Randall Bytwerk of Calvin College, a specialist on Nazi propaganda. Der Schulungsbrief was a …
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What’s Online no. 1: Display

For years website designers Greg D’Onofrio and Patricia Belen of Kind Company, best known for the design of the website Alvin Lustig 1915–1955: Modern Design Pioneer, have been assiduously collecting examples of modern design from old books and periodicals to corporate brochures and other ephemera. Instead of hoarding their wealth of material, they have decided to generously share it with the rest of the world through Display, their new website.
Greg and Patricia are doing this …
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From the Archives no. 10: Specimen Sheets vs. Alphabet Sheets

The Desk Catalogue of ‘Monotype’ Faces (London: The Monotype Corporation Limited, n.d.) is a ring binder of specimen sheets of Monotype and Monophoto faces dated from 1962 to 1966. The short introduction (unsigned but probably by Beatrice Warde) has this to say:
“It should be emphasized however that the primary purpose of these official specimen sheets is not that to which designers have attempted to put them, namely that of model-letter sheets for tracing in pencil layouts. For that purpose, the …
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