Category Archives: Typography

Corrado Govoni, with and without teeth

Carrado Govoni’s “Diver” (La Palombaro) first appeared in the February 11, 1915 issue of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Parole consonanti vocali numeri in libertà. Then on March 27, 1915, the Futurist journal Lacerba published Govoni’s self-portrait, drawn with visual poetry.

Not long after this, Govoni’s book Rarefazioni e parole in libertà was published by the Marinetti’s Milan imprint Edizioni futuriste di “Poesia.” (SAX PQ4817.O8 Z4852 1915q), which included both Govoni’s Driver and his Self-portrait but this time, with slight variations in each. Why are they different? Did he decide not to have teeth for a reason? Which versions are the final, definitive work?

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) began the entrepreneurship [Parole] as “a disinterested love of art which was combined with his wish to address the need for an alternative space that could sustain the talents he wished to launch into the marketplace of art and literature: the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Gino Severini, Ardengo Soffici, Fortunato Depero, Enrico Prampolini, as well as the writers Aldo Palazzeschi, Corrado Govoni, Paolo Buzzi, Luciano Folgore, Francesco Cangiullo, and many others.

The “Futurist Editions of Poesia” were perhaps the most important embodiment of Marinetti’s desire to create an alternative cultural space, becoming an experimental laboratory in the true sense of the term, where the canons of a new writing, the “words-in-freedom,” were successively elaborated and consecrated for the first time …’We reserve the ‘Futurist Editions of Poesia’ for those works that are absolutely Futurist in their violence and intellectual extremism and that cannot be published by others because of their typographical difficulties.—Claudia Salaris, “Marketing Modernism: Marinetti as Publisher,”.Modernism/Modernity 1.3 (1994): 109-27.

Corrado Govoni’s book, Rarefazioni e parole in libertà (Rarefactions and Words in Freedom) is divided into two parts:

“The first presented a series of experiments in visual poetry, while the second featured applications of the poetical techniques suggested by F.M. Marinetti in the “Manifesto della letteratura futurista” (Manifesto of Futurist Literature, 1912). In both instances, however, the Futurist method provided Govoni a pretext for his eclectic analogical imagery. These works were often illustrated by the poet’s own sketches or drawings, which constituted in integral part of his verse.” —Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies (2006)


Two exhibitions are in New York City this spring featuring masters of typography. Already open is a show at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery titled, Jan Tschichold and the New Typography, which examines the role of graphic design in the broader context of Weimar culture (1919-1933). Here is the press release:

They write,

“Tracing the revolution in graphic design in the 1920s, this exhibition displays materials assembled by typographer and designer Jan Tschichold (1902–1974) in Weimar Germany. Published in Berlin in 1928, Tschichold’s book Die Neue Typographie was one of the key texts of modern design, partly due to its grasp of Constructivist ideas and new print technology, but equally, because it was a manual for practicing designers. In the years leading up to its publication, Tschichold struck up a correspondence with many European artist-designers, including Kurt Schwitters, El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Piet Zwart, and Ladislav Sutnar, among others. In the course of this, Tschichold exchanged and acquired many examples of their design work, some pieces now quite famous (such as El Lissitzky’s Pro dva kvadrata [The Story of Two Squares], 1920) while other items are modest and ephemeral, such as tourist brochures, handbills, headed notepaper, product catalogues, and magazine advertisements.

In conjunction with the exhibition is a symposium, The New Typography: Graphic Design in Weimar Germany 1919–1933 at Bard on Friday, March 22, 2019 from 1:00 to 5:30. Admission is free but you must register. They promise to address the broader history of design, technology, economics, and aesthetics that played a similarly decisive role in the formation of modernist graphic design.


From February 20 to April 27, 2019, the exhibition Alphabet Magic: Gudrun & Hermann Zapf and the World They Designed will be on view at the Grolier Club on East 60th Street.

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of both Hermann Zapf and Gudrun Zapf von Hesse, and the show, Alphabet Magic will chronicle the extraordinary artistic achievements of both with the most comprehensive display of their work to date.

The curators write, “Zapf’s typefaces Palatino, Optima, and Zapfino (to name a few) are a part of our everyday lives in the United States and Europe, as well as around the world. He was also at the forefront of type technology. Zapf’s Marconi alphabet design was the first typeface ever created specifically for digital typography. Gudrun Zapf Von Hesse secured her own design legacy through typefaces such as Diotima, Carmina, and Shakespeare Roman.”

The show draws mainly on two collections: The Melbert B. Cary Jr. Graphic Arts Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where Dr. Steven K. Galbraith is curator and the private collection of Jerry Kelly, a leading calligrapher, book designer, type designer and typographer, who has co-curated the show with Dr. Galbraith.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the Club will host the New York premier of the film: Alphabet Magic, by Alexandra Albrand, on Thursday, February 27, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Then, on Wednesday, March 20, there will be a panel discussion with author Robert Bringhurst (Canada), type historian Ferdinand Ulrich (Germany), calligrapher Julian Waters, and moderator David Pankow (USA). As far as I know, these events are open to the public.

Typographics 2019

The website for the fourth annual New York City Typographics festival is now online at The team organizing this year’s event includes Cara Di Edwardo, Alexander Tochilovsky, Ellen Lupton, Barbara Glauber, and many others.

The site notes: “The 11-day festival is a forum for presentations about graphic design, web design, publication design, book design, type design, packaging, branding, corporate identity, advertising, motion graphics, and more. Importantly, Typographics focuses on new frontiers in digital typography.”

From June 10 to 20, 2019, there will be workshops, tours, speakers, and of particular interest, a book fair. Entrance to the fair on Saturday June 15 is limited to those registered for the conference but on Sunday June 16 the event will be free and open to the public. This year’s location will be the East Village gallery space at 41 Cooper Square, just across the street from the Cooper Union Great Hall where the main conference will be taking place. .

The organizers promise “a wide diversity of material available relating to typography, lettering, design, etc, with everything from rare antiquarian type specimens to contemporary titles on modern graphic design.” A full listing of participating booksellers will be posted soon. For updates and announcements, join the Typographics mailing list or follow @TypographicsNYC on Twitter.


Sometimes contemporary material can be just as difficult to collect as that from hundreds of years ago. It has taken much effort and the help of an international group of colleagues to acquire a complete run of the typography journal DotDotDot (2000-2010).

First established in a basement room on the lower east side of Manhattan, this non-profit organization and publication evolved in 2010, ending the DotDotDot paper journal.

Today Stuart Bailey, Angie Keefer, and David Reinfurt, are based in Liverpool where The Serving Library has a publishing platform, a seminar room, a collection of framed objects, and an event space. The Serving Library currently resides at Exhibition Research Lab in the School of Art & Design, Liverpool John Moores University, which has been home to a regular program of free public talks since spring 2017.

Es ist bitter, die Heimat zu verlassen

Romano Hänni, Es ist bitter, die Heimat zu verlassen [It is Bitter to Leave Your Home] (Basel: Hänni, 2017). Number 21 of 87 copies of the standard edition. Text in German, English, and Japanese. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process

Swiss artist Romano Hänni has spoken passionately about the devastating effects of contamination from nuclear facilities. His new book Es is bitter die Heimat zu verlassen concerns the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that occurred on March 11, 2011, as well as the ongoing impact of radioactive contamination.

Hänni writes that claims made by nuclear scientists “that no health consequences are to be expected from contamination are unscientific, immoral, and criminal.” He further states that “there is no peaceful use for nuclear energy. It is repressive, criminal and deadly. Only nuclear plants that have not been built can offer absolutely safety.”

His newest book is printed in five colors on paper towels, a technique the artist perfected with an earlier work: Typo bilder buch: von Hand gesetzt und auf der Handabziehpress gedruckt. Graphic Arts RCPXG-7350409. Small selections of text are juxtaposed with letters, images, and symbols to communicate the event and its aftermath. 

The artist writes “Work on this book began in December 2013, was interrupted by some commissioned work, and lasted until June 2017. The page format was determined by the paper: paper towels, maxi roll . . . The printing forms were composed from individual parts and printed on the hand proofing press. The Japanese text was [cast] and composed in the type foundry Sasaki Katsuji in Tokyo and delivered to Basel. For most of the pages several printing forms and printing runs are needed. The body of the book was bound by hand with thread. Overall production time was approximately 1400 hours.”

Minnesota Center for the Book: “Educated at the Basel School of Design, [Romano] Hänni returns to the core values of traditional printing technique and modernist European design. The strict limitations of hand typesetting are his cornerstone, everything composed from the incremental units of type and spacing available in the type shop. Hänni’s work encompasses a wide range of fields in visual communication, from books, magazines, catalogs and newspapers to drawings, photography and journalism about design and everyday culture.”


The book is accompanied by a glossy 12-page color pamphlet with 108 photographs documenting the production process for this publication.


Next week: Typecon

Next week brings the opening of TypeCon 2017, the annual conference of the Society of Typographic Aficionados (SOTA), an international organization dedicated to the promotion, study, and support of typography and related arts.

Each year, the SOTA Typography Award is presented to an outstanding member of the type community. Recipients have included Hermann Zapf (2003), Ed Benguiat (2004), Matthew Carter (2005), Adrian Frutiger (2006), David Berlow (2007), Gerrit Noordzij (2008), Gerard Unger (2009), Doyald Young (2010), Erik Spiekermann (2011), Mike Parker (2012), Zuzana Ličko (2013), Fiona Ross (2014), Robert Slimbach (2015), and Fred Smeijers (2016). This year the award will be presented on Saturday, August 26.

Martina Flor will be this year’s keynote speaker. Based in Berlin, Flor runs a leading studio specializing in lettering and custom typography for clients around the globe, including: The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Harper Collins, and Cosmopolitan, among others.

Here are some of the many talks and events:
Friday, August 25th
8:50 a.m. Bruce Kennett: W. A. Dwiggins, Hermann Püterschein, and the Fictional Society of Calligraphers
9:35 a.m. Tucker McLachlan: Typography Ghost Stories
9:55 a.m. Jennifer McKnight: Victorian Grande Dames and German Engravers: How Type Design Taught a City to Dream
10:35 a.m. Peter Bella & Caleb Fairres: Making the Machine Human: Embracing Printing Technologies in Crafting a Present-day Moveable Typeface
10:55 a.m. Petra Dočekalová: New Lettering Forms
11:20 a.m. Catherine Leigh Schmidt: Yatra: A Journey in Painted Signs
11:40 a.m. Linh O’Briant: Playing by the Rules—Type & Origami Design Rules
2:00 p.m. Bobby Martin: The Meeting Point of Type, Design, and Brand
2:45 p.m. David Jonathan Ross: EXTRA! EXTRA!
3:05 p.m. Judy Safran-Aasen & Mike LaJoie: Deconstructing the Construction of the Microsoft Emoji Font
3:25 p.m. Scott Boms: Imperfection Machines: Low Res in a High Res World
4:05 p.m. Geri McCormick & James Grieshaber: Dr. Strangefont or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Make Chromatic Type
4:25 p.m. Meaghan Dee: The Slow Death of Handwriting
4:45 p.m. Rachel Elnar: Cultivating Creative Communities

Saturday, August 26th
8:35 a.m. Lucas Czarnecki: An Ethnography of Garbage (Fonts)
8:55 a.m. Hrant Papazian: protoType: The Book (?)
9:15 a.m. Mary Catherine Pflug: Results of the Second Font Purchasing Habits Survey
10:00 a.m. Christopher Rouleau: Brush Lettering Demo
10:25 a.m. Qiu Yin & Ming Wei: Thinking and Practicing Chinese Type Design on Screen
10:45 a.m. Mark Jamra & Neil Patel: Lessons Learned in Designing Type for Africa
11:10 a.m. Richard Kahwagi: Arabic Typography and Popular Culture
11:50 a.m. Masataka Hattori: Fundamentals of Japanese Metrics Editing
1:30 p.m. Geri McCormick & James Grieshaber: Chromatic Wood Type Printing Demo
2:00 p.m. Elizabeth Carey Smith: Type in Couture
2:45 p.m. Ana Monroe: The Typography of Bling
3:05 p.m. Jess Meoni: Liner Notes & Ligatures: A Reflection on Typography in the Age of Vinyl
3:45 p.m. Amelia Hugill-Fontanel: Typographic Realia: Cataloging and Connecting Wood and Metal Resources
4:05 p.m. Spencer Charles & Frances MacLeod: The Left Handed Path: A Twisting Journey Through Left-Handed Lettermaking

Sunday, August 27th
8:35 a.m. Yves Peters: Type With Character(s)—Reclaiming Control Over OpenType Fonts
9:20 a.m. Jason Pamental: Variable Fonts & The Future of Web Design
9:45 a.m. John Roshell: ZAP! POW! BAM! Comic Book Lettering, From Pens to Pixels
10:10 a.m. Radek Sidun: Typefaces for Television
10:30 a.m. David Shields: Muster Hundreds! Towards a People’s History of American Wood Type
11:10 a.m. Ina Saltz: The Rise of Typographic Tattoos
11:30 a.m. Douglas Wilson: A Multimedia Extravaganza Through the World of Printing Films
11:55 a.m. Jason Campbell: Mojo’s Workin’: Blues Typography & Album Art
12:15 p.m. James Walker: Type Hike: A Typographic Exploration of America’s National Parks

A Yellow Pencil Award

Last fall, six postage stamps were issued by the Royal Mail in Great Britain to mark the centenary of Agatha Christie’s first crime novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. They also marked the 40th anniversary of her death.



Last week, the stamps were awarded a distinguished Yellow Pencil from the D&AD in a London ceremony.


The winning agency, Studio Sutherl&, were challenged to design a stamp equal to Christie’s mystery career and so art director Jim Sutherland and illustrator Neil Webb created stamps with hidden secrets in the form of microtext, UV ink, and thermochromic ink. Using a magnifying glass or UV light or body heat, these clues are revealed to help answer each book’s mystery.

The Special Stamps depict key scenes and principal characters from six iconic novels:
Murder on the Orient Express; The Mysterious Affair at Styles; The Body in the Library; And Then There Were None; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; and A Murder is Announced.

Studio Sutherl& was the most awarded design agency this year, winning eight Pencils overall, including two Yellow, one for its work creating limited edition Agatha Christie stamps for Royal Mail and another for its work with the book Somos Brasil.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976), Curtain & The mysterious affair at Styles (New York: Dodd, Mead, c1975). Firestone PR6005.H66 xC8 1975

Printers’ Marks on Eighth Avenue

The next time you are running to Penn Station on your way back to Princeton, look up.

On August 8, 1915, The New-York Tribune announced plans “To erect printing crafts building: Plans provide for a 21 story structure costing $2,500,000 site at 34th Street and Eighth Avenue much space already has been leased from the plans by big concerns as the proposed printing crafts building will look.”


One of the first to rent space and move into the building was Louis H. Orr (1857-1916), director of the Bartlet Orr Press and son of the wood engraver John William Orr (1815-1887). Louis Orr grew up surrounded by members of the printing trade. As the new building was being conceived and designed, Orr suggested including printers’ marks on the façade in honor of the many presses that had come before. His own firm’s design was, of course, included.

Around the same time, the Bartlet Orr Press published a brochure giving a little history of printers’ marks, which was collected by Elmer Adler when he opened his own press Pynson Printers. Happily, Adler’s copy made its way into the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton University Library.



Horace Townsend (1859-1922), Printers marks: being a brief consideration of some marks used by printers in the XV century with special reference to a XX century mark (New York: Bartlett Orr Press, 1913). From the library of Elmer Adler (1884-1962). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize 2009-0109Q



Typographic satire

Charles-Georges Doucet Coqueley de Chaussepierre (1711-1791), Le roué vertueux, poëme en prose en quatre chants, propre à faire, en cas de besoin, un drame à jouer deux fois par semaine. A Lauzanne (The Virtuous Rake, a Prose Poem in Four Odes, Suitable for a Drama Performed Twice a Week, if Necessary) ([Paris: Claude-Antoine Jombert], 1770). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017-in process

Both a lawyer and royal critic, Coqueley de Chaussepierre had a reputation as a comic. In 1770, he wrote Le Roué virtuous as a parody of the play L’Honnête criminel, ou l’amour filial (The Honest Criminal: Or, Filial Piety) by Charles-Georges Fenouillot de Falbaire (1727-1800). The bourgeois drama told the true story of Jean Fabre, who served a prison term for his religiously persecuted father. The public loved it but Coqueley was appalled and responded with this typographic joke.

Le Roue vertueux is composed exclusively of pieces of sentences, single words in no logical sequence, and the remaining punctuation. On the other hand, the first chapter or ode can be read: “Oh crime! Oh consoling horror! Oh peaceful agitation of the soul!”

The author wrote, “by putting nothing into it, we cannot criticize the style.” Later generations forgot about Fenouillot de Falbaire’s play and celebrated Coqueley de Chaussepierre’s typographic originality and the surrealist vision of the book.

The book is also innovative in the five plates that divide the chapters, engraved and aquatinted by or in the style of Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (1734-1781). It is thought to be one of the first books to include aquatints.



In the Fabled Fragrant East

Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), Stanzas. Spine title: In the fabled, fragrant East; Nell’ odorato e lucido oriente. Translation by David R. Slavitt, edited by Michele Miracolo (Austin: Michele Miracolo Press; printed by Bradley Hutchinson, 2015). Dos-à-dos binding. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process


Pietro Bembo was a well-known Vienna poet and humanist who composed this 50 stanza poem as part of the Carnival festivities for the court of Urbino in 1507: “For the entertainment of the lords and ladies gathered at Castel Durante, and to the delight of Madonna Elisabetta Gonzaga, Duchessa d’Urbino, and Madonna Emilia Pia, her good friend and companion. Both ladies are entreated by Bembo and Don Ottaviano Fregoso, disguised as ambassadors from the court of the Goddess Venus, to renounce their sad devotion to chastity and embrace the pleasures of Love.”

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired the inaugural publication from Austin’s Michele Miracolo Press. Bembo’s text has been newly translated into English by David Slavitt and printed by Bradley Hutchinson from Blado types cast at his letterpress workshop in Texas.

“Approximately 100 copies of this bilingual edition were printed and bound in an unusual “tête bêche” [a.k.a., dos à dos] style, with each language having its own front cover but meeting in the middle, one text upside down in relation to the other.

The printing was executed on a Heidelberg flat-bed cylinder letterpress by Bradley Hutchinson. The paper is a scarce mouldmade sheet from the 1980’s, no longer manufactured, from the Magnani mill in Pescia, Italy.

The text is smythe sewn and bound into stiff wrappers, with a soft grey dust jacket and enclosed in a handsome slipcase made by Jace Graf at Cloverleaf Studio in Austin, Texas.”–prospectus.



See also:

Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), Le rime di m. Pietro Bembo, nvovamente ricorrette et ristampate In Vinegia [G. Scotto] (1552). “Stanze di m. Pietro Bembo nvovamente ricorrette & ristampate.” with separate t.p.: 10 l. at end. Rare Books (Ex) 3122.68.1552

and Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), Gliasolani de Messer Pietro Bembo (Venetia, Aldo Romano, 1505). Rare Books (Ex) 3122.68.313