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.

Der Typografische Kanon

Prater Gastsgätte Biergarten in Berlin During my visit to Berlin this past July I went to the Prater beer garden with a group of type geeks led by Indra Kupferschmid, Florian Hardwig and American expat Dan Reynolds. Among the others was Christoph Koeberlin who asked us to name our five essential type books. Although I do not read German I own and cherish many German and Swiss books and so chose five of them for my list: Buchkunst im …
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The Rchive no. 2

Imperial R written with broad-edged brush by Father E.M. Catich (unretouched), 1961Father E.M. Catich, a former Chicago signwriter who taught art at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, devoted much of his life to explicating the manner in which Roman Imperial Capitals (Capitalis Monumentalis) were created. In Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription in Rome (Davenport, Iowa: Catfish Press, 1961) he outlined each of the letters from the Trajan Inscription, based on the many rubbings he had made of …
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The Rchive no. 1

Inscription of Epaphroditus (Museo Nazionale di Roma), 1st c. This R is taken from the inscription to Epaphroditus, a freedman who served Emperor Nero, in the courtyard of the Museo Nazionale in Rome. It is the first in a planned series of showings of the letter R. The R is the most complex capital letter. In its classical, inscriptional form it consists of a vertical stroke (the stem), a short horizontal stroke (the link between the stem, the …
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From the Bookcase no. 4—Between Worlds: The Autobiography of Leo Lionni

Between Worlds, jacket design by Abby Weintraub
Between Worlds: The Autobiography of Leo Lionni
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997
Strictly speaking, this book is not from my bookcase. I was unaware of its existence until Steve Heller mentioned it in one of his blogs. Yet, I never saw a copy until I visited Annie Lionni, Leo’s granddaughter and a classmate of mine at Reed College, for a college reunion meeting a few months ago. When I told her this, she insisted …
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From the Bookcase no. 3—Benjamin Sherbow

Title page, Making Type Work
Making Type Work
Benjamin Sherbow
New York: The Century Co., 1916
When I posted From the Archives no. 16 about Fred Farrar and Gilbert Farrar and From the Bookcase no. 2 about E.R. Currier and Samuel A. Bartels Matthew Carter emailed me and asked why I had overlooked Benjamin Sherbow. I had not meant to do so. I just did not have a copy of any of his books to hand at the time. Now I do.
Benjamin Sherbow …
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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 for ideas …
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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 …
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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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