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. 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
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 …
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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, …
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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 …
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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 …
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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)?
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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 …
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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. …
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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 …
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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 …
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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, …
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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?

The Rchive no. 7—the Industrial R (Sans serif division)

Hercules Seating Company, 25–45 Park Place, Manhattan, New York. Photographed 15 February 2013.
The Hercules Seating Company appears to be closed. That does not bode well for its lovely mid-century sans serif sign. The letters are typical of the interwar sans that inspired Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ wildly popular Gotham typeface. What is different about the Hercules Seating Company letters from the many other examples of “Gotham” sans serifs found throughout the five boroughs is the rounded faceting that is more …
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The Rchive no. 8—the Industrial R (Serif division)

The Oltarsh Building, 418 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City. Detail. Photographed 3 February 2008.
The Oltarsh Building was built by David M. Oltarsh as the Major Theatre in 1927. It is a three-story brick building with capital letters spelling out “THE OLTARSH BUILDING” affixed to the facade between the third story and the roof.
This R has the same industrial proportions as the one in The Rchive no. 7. But now there is a contrast of thick/thin to the strokes coupled …
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Legacy of Letters 2013 profile—Tony Di Spigna

Tony Di Spigna has been creating gems of Spencerian script—his term for drawn lettering derived from roundhand and other forms of pointed-pen writing—for over forty years. He learned the skill from Tom Carnase while working for Herb Lubalin & Associates, though I believe he has surpassed his mentor. There are two things that have always impressed me the most about Tony’s Spencerian script: 1. the gracefulness and naturalness of his curves; and 2. his ability to make compositions that hold …
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The Rchive no. 4—more neon

Neon R from RESTAURANT (Tom’s Restaurant, 2880 Broadway, New York City), 1957.
This lovely neon R is the second one from Tom’s Restaurant in Morningside Heights, made famous by the sitcom Seinfeld. It can be found on p. 116 of New York Neon by Tom Rinaldi (mentioned in The Rchive no. 3) as well as on his neon blog. Rinaldi says that it was originally manufactured for the Columbia Restaurant, but does not indicate when …
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The Rchive no. 3—Neon

Neon R from LIQUORS (Riverside Liquor, 2746 Broadway, New York City), 1955
It has been far too long since I added an image to the Rchive. This neon R from the Manhattan Valley neighborhood of New York City dates from 1955 according to the authoritative New York Neon by Thomas Rinaldi (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012; p. 104). Liquor stores are one of the best places to see neon signs. But most are predictable: sans …
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