Category Archives: Typography

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

Air Ink

Graviky Labs co-founders Anirudh Sharma and Nikhil Kaushik have come up with an ink made from air pollution, which they call Air Ink. Each 30-milliliter Graviky pen contains 30 to 50 minutes’ worth of air pollution generated by a single car.

“If that [soot] was in the air, it could give you cancer,” says Sharma, co-founder and director of Graviky, who graduated from the Fluid Interfaces Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in the United States.

“Taking particles captured by a cylindrical device on a car’s exhaust pipe, Graviky has developed Air Ink, oil-based paints, spray paints, and pens that contain pigments derived from carbon soot. In August, Graviky teamed up with Tiger Beer to provide local Hong Kong artists with 150 liters of Air Ink—from 2,500 hours’ worth of pollution—to create street murals. Their products aren’t currently sold commercially. They hope cities will use Graviky’s devices to revamp public transportation.” –Graviky Labs

Sharma, Kaushik, and two others have been refining their technology for more than a year and recently soft-launched their Air-Ink product as a Kickstarter project with a nearly $10,000 goal. They also hope to make black-ink production more sustainable and environmentally friendly. “We are replacing the consumption of fossil fuels to make carbon black [inks],” they say.

Pledges to kickstarter have far outreached the original goal but it is still possible to order your own bottle of air [pollution] ink.

The Writing on the Wall

“How would you like to collaborate with me on a new project?” asks Brody Neuenschwander, Princeton University Class of 1981. “The castle of Hingene, near Antwerp in Belgium, is creating a time capsule in calligraphy.”

He continues, “For a short time, all the wall hangings of the chateau will be taken down for restoration. The director of the castle, Koen De Vlieger, is taking this opportunity to ask the entire world (I’m not kidding) to send in messages that I will commit to eternity by writing them on the walls. So may I ask all of you to go to and send a message to the future? They will ask you to pay a tiny amount for the privilege. But just think, in 25 years the wall hangings will come down for their next cleaning, and you and your descendants can visit Belgium to read the fine words you composed for this wonderful time capsule.”

Neuenschwander attended Princeton University, where he was appointed University Scholar, graduating in 1981 with a paper on the techniques of medieval manuscript illumination. Over the winter of 2016/17, he will write our texts on the walls of the castle of Hingene, not to be unveiled until 2027 and then again in 2042, 2067 and 2117 (or in 25, 50 and 100 years’ time). On each occasion, during the second weekend of March, the public will be free to come and read the dreams, wishes and desires of 2017.

If you remember to bring the original invitation with you, the director promises to receive you like a Prince or a Princess.

“Les minutes de sable mémorial”

jarry4Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), Les minutes de sable mémorial ([Paris]: Editio[n] du Mercure de Fra[n]ce, C. Renaudie, 1894). One of 216 copies printed. Seven woodcuts carved and printed by Jarry, two printed from earlier woodblocks. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2016- in process.


Alfred Jarry published his first book of prints and poems, Les minutes de sable mémorial in September 1894 at the age of twenty-one. He paid the cost himself working with the printers at Mercure de France where many Symbolists were publishing.

The design of the volume, repeated the following year in his second book César antichrist, includes astonishingly modern typography, which predates that of Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance) by Stéphane Mallarmé in 1897. Jarry’s book should be considered an early artists’ book although it never appears in such studies

According to Keith Beaumont, “…the prestigious and highly influential Echo de Paris had held a monthly literary competition which offered to aspiring young writers the prospect of four valuable and much coveted prizes of 100 francs each … and a guarantee of publication in the paper’s weekly illustrated literary supplement. Between February and August 1893, Jarry was to win outright or to share five such prizes, with poems or prose texts, which would be republished the following year in his first book, Les Minutes de sable mémorial.” (Keith Beaumont, Alfred Jarry. St. Martin’s Press, 1984)


Jarry liked multiple meanings for a single text, exemplified in his title: Les minutes de sable mémorial. Beaumont notes, “Sable refers both to the sand of the sablier or hourglass, which marks the passage of time, and which recurs in the title of the last poem in the volume, and to the term for the colour black in heraldry; and memorial has the meaning of both ‘in memory of’ and ‘of the memory’. The title as a whole therefore refers simultaneously to the passage of time whose ‘minutes’ are here recorded; to the movement of memory; and to the committal to paper of a series of moments of creative activity (‘sable’ referring to the ink-blackened pages) which memory has inspired or, alternatively and simultaneously, which are reproduced here as a ‘memorial’.”




In November 1894, Jarry cut his long hair and enlisted in the 101st Infantry Regiment in Laval.


See also Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), Cesar antechrjst ([Paris]: Mercure de France, 1895). One of 7 large-paper copies on vergé Ingres de carnation. Rare Books (Ex) 3260.33.323 1895 [below]jarry


Welcome VIS 214 Graphic Design

graphic-design-class5Ken Ohara (born 1942), ONE (Tokyo: Tsukiji Shokan, 1970). 456 photographs, no text. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0807Q
graphic-design-classOn Friday, we welcomed a new class of graphic design students into Rare Books and Special Collections. The group began with some classic artists’ books from the 1960s and 1970s that use a visual sequence as narrative rather than text. Each student will make one of their own. Then we mixed in a few modern and contemporary accordion books.

In the middle right: Enrique Chagoya, Illegal Alien’s Meditations on el Ser y la Nada (Lyons, Colo.: Shark’s Ink, 2012). An eleven-color lithograph with chine collé and gold metallic powder, printed by hand from 10 aluminum plates. The lithographic plates were made from Mylars created by the artist that combine Xerox transfers with hand drawing, using pencils, toner and ink washes. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2013-0031Q

Middle left: Warja Honegger-Lavater, Imageries (Paris: A. Maeght, 1965-1982). 6 volumes. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2012-0814N

Bottom: Bruce Nauman (born 1941), Burning Small Fires ([s.l. : s.n., 1967?]). GAX copy: Signed by the artist on p. [2] of cover. Burning Small Fires documents the burning of pages torn from a copy of Ed Ruscha’s Various Small Fires. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0548Q


graphic-design-class4Kenneth Josephson (born 1932), The Bread Book ( [Chicago?]: K. Josephson, 1973). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2006-0142N


graphic-design-class3Sometimes the visual sequence not only omits text, but also pictures. Here’s a sequence of negative spaces to present the artist’s house. Ólafur Elíasson (born 1967), Your House (New York: Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art, 2006). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2007-0032E.


graphic-design-class2The class moved into type design and philosophy, type specimens, and history. They will soon set their own metal type and produce a printed sheet. We wish them luck.

[Sign painter’s pattern book] ([Paris: 1880-1890]). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2010-0028E


graphic-design-class7Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), Thesen über Typographie ([Zürich]: [E. Schwitters], [196-?]). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) in process


graphic-design-class13William Caslon and Son. A specimen of printing types, by W. Caslon and Son, letter founders, in London (London: Printed by Dryden Leach, 1764). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2007-0699N


graphic-design-class12Merrymount Press. [Specimens of type] ([Boston: Merrymount Press, 194-?]). Princeton copy presented to P. J. Conkwright by the Friends of Princeton University Library. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2004-0799Q

Egyptian Cigarette Box

egyptian-type-elements4This tin canister for Dimitrino’s Egyptian Cigarettes might have been collected by the Graphic Arts Collection for the decorative printed label.




“Around the mid-19th century, the cigarette, the latest fashion in tobacco consumption, gained popularity in Egypt, as it did globally and throughout the Ottoman Empire. Some fifty years later, the cigarette had become the predominant smoking preference in Egypt, and luxury Egyptian cigarettes were being exported around the world. Indeed, Egyptian and Turkish brands played a significant role in introducing cigarettes to different parts of the globe and thus in shaping world cigarette production.”– Relli Shechter, “Selling Luxury: The Rise of the Egyptian Cigarette and the Transformation of the Egyptian Tobacco Market, 1850-1914,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 35, no. 1 (February 2003): 51-75.

Shechter goes on to say, “The five leading Greek cigarette manufacturers were Gianaclis, who arrived in Egypt in 1864; Vafiadis, who established his business in 1870; Melachrino, who arrived in Egypt in 1873; Kiriazi, whose business was already running in 1874; and Dimitrino, who opened his business in 1886.”

However, when we finally figured out how to open the can, we found it was in the Graphic Arts Collection as the housing for type elements with Assyrian figures. See below:


Cutting the Letter G

Thank you to Carey Dunne over at Hyperallergic, who provided this link to a film by Giorgio Affanni and Gabriele Chiapparini titled The Last Punchcutter. In this seven minute clip master printer Giuseppe Branchino is seen cutting a punch for the letter “G” in his Turin studio.

According to Dunne, the film “was created as part of Griffo, the Great Gala of Letters, a multidisciplinary project focusing on the life of Francesco Griffo, a 15th-century Venetian punchcutter and type designer.” A website has been mounted for the project at:

“Born circa 1450 near Bologna, the son of the goldsmith and engraver Cesare Griffo, he went on to work for the house of Aldus Manutius of Venice, the most important publisher of the day. In 1501, for an edition of Virgil (the ‘Aldine Virgil’), he created what’s regarded as the first italic typeface.” cast typeMetal type cast from a mold carved by a punchcutter.

Come down to our new reading room and ask for: Virgil, Vergilius (Venetiis: Ex aedibus Aldi Romani, mense Aprili 1501). Edited by Aldus.–cf. dedication, and note at end. Rare Books VRG 2945.1501