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. 61—Type Specimens 1486 to 1704

This is the first of a series of posts listing type specimens that have been digitized and placed online. Many of them are downloadable in whole or as individual pages.
Warning: accurate dating of type specimens is notoriously complicated. The dates listed here come from the various institutions and organizations that have digitized them. In most cases they have not consulted with a type specialist and thus there are mistakes. Whenever I have noticed such a mistake or when one has …
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Blue Pencil no. 51—ITC as a Pioneer of Diversity in Type Design

Since the summer of 2020 I have been compiling a comprehensive list of digitized type specimens available online. My list includes some unexpected items such as U&lc, the magazine that ITC (International Typeface Corporation) published from 1974 to 1999. The magazine was a stealth type specimen with every article set in an ITC typeface (identified with a tiny credit at the end and also listed on the contents page). But the great majority of issues also introduced (or sometimes …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 348—A Christmas Carol

The Press of the Woolly Whale is probably the best name ever conceived for a private press. It was the imprint of Melbert B. Cary, Jr. (1892–1941), who, at the time of its founding in 1928, was the president of the Continental Type Founders Association, a company that imported metal type from European foundries and distributed the typefaces of Frederic W. Goudy (1865–1947). The first book issued from the Press of the Woolly Whale was The Vision …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 560—The Creaking Stair

Jacket spine and front for The Creaking Stair by Elizabeth Coatsworth (New York: Coward-McCann, 1949). Design, illustration and lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.
W.A. Dwiggins’ career as a book designer is tightly tied to Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. But here and there he designed a few books for other trade publishers, either as a personal favor to friends or as a means of exploring other aspects of his professional career. The Creaking Stair by Elizabeth Coatsworth (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1949) is the …
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Blue Pencil no. 53—The Tale of the Tittle

“The Parts of a Letter” by Doyald Young. Note that there is no i and thus no mention of a dot or tittle.
We need to expunge the word tittle from the typographic lexicon. Although the word has a long history in the English language, especially in religion, literature and political discourse, its typographic meaning is principally a 21st century creation. It is a coinage based on false erudition, one that is increasingly being accepted by those eager to show off …
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Nachlass Jan Tschichold (Deutsche National Bibliothek Leipzig)

“Exhibition of new German Writing Art” (1920). Calligraphy by Johannes Tzschichhold [Jan Tschichold]. Image from Nachlass Jan Tschichold, Deutsche National Bibliothek Leipzig.
In October 2021 I stumbled on the digitized collection of Jan Tschichold’s work that was uploaded to the Deutsche National Bibliothek Leipzig website several months earlier. It is a remarkable collection. I was especially struck by finding a lot of Tschichold’s early calligraphic work, much of it in various forms of blackletter. That discovery led me to …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 1 [Foreword and Introduction]

Title page of One Hundred Books Famous in Typography (2021). The design is indebted to the title page for Janson: A Definitive Collection by Jack Stauffacher (see no. 72).
Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” while trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 11 [notes on the images]

Notes on the images
In the previous Blue Pencil posts on One Hundred Books Famous in Typography my comments on each entry in the book included descriptions of the accompanying illustrations. I provided information that should have been in captions, suggested alternative choices, noted differences with the pages on display in the exhibition, and pointed out alterations to the original image. It is this latter point that I wish to discuss here.
If my eye is correct—and I may be wrong on …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 10 [Further Reading, etc.]

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 9 [Fifty Typefaces Famous in Typography]

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 8 [Brave New World] nos. 86–100

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 7 [Modern Masters] nos. 68–85

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 6 [The Machine Age] nos. 54–67

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 5 [Looking Back] nos. 36–53

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 4 [The Age of Reason] nos. 20–35

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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Blue Pencil no. 48—One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, Part 2 [In the Beginning] nos. 1–9

Note: When I began this dissection it was intended as a single post—even as it grew much longer than expected. However, I was forced to break it up into smaller chunks when I ran into an unexplained “failure error” when trying to save the draft one day. Rather than try to break up the dissection into equally sized posts based on word counts, I decided instead to make separate posts based on the divisions used in the Grolier Club exhibition …
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