There are two different interpretations of the concept of the private press. There is an approach that takes the term in a very wide sense. The hallmark of the private press is that the profit making principle is non-existent. Financial gain is not part of the process. The printer produces a book purely for personal satisfaction or for the pleasure of a circle of friends — the ‘book for book’s sake’. Those involved created books by traditional printing and binding methods, with an emphasis on the book as a work of art and manual skill. Such an interpretation allows for a wide historical overview. The ‘Officina Goltziana’, for example, has been called the first private press in the Low Countries. This press was founded around 1562 in Bruges by the painter and numismatist Hubert Goltzius at the request of his patron, the bibliophile and collector Marcus Laurinus, Lord of Watervliet, who produced a history of antiquity based on coins and medals for which he needed the co-operation of a skilled artist. He persuaded Goltzius to move to Bruges, become a citizen and start a printing shop. The first book came off the press in 1563: C. Julius Caesar. It was intended to be part of a series of nine works. Three years later, the Fastos magistratuum et triumphorum Romanorum appeared. Both books are particularly beautiful due to austere typography and the images of coins. Some commissioned copies are known to have had special bindings.
Jim Williams is a senior lecturer at Staffordshire University, where he compiled an excellent series of student handouts about typography. In 2010 the handouts were featured on Creative Review’s blog which generated interest from publishers. The handouts have now been published in book form as Type Matters. Williams is well qualified to write this title; he has worked as a typographer and designer since 1982 and has taught design at Staffordshire University for eighteen years. Continue reading this article
If you’re like me and use the margins in books for commentary (‘Interesting idea.’ or ‘The author is insane!’), cross-references (‘see also Book X by M. Malaprop.’), and comparisons (e.g. ‘cf. p.58.’), then you might also share my frustration: In many, if not most books, the margins are just too small.
The story begins in 2006 with a trip down Route 66. Day in, day out, I looked at U.S. traffic signs that were either set in the old, somewhat clumsy “FHWA font series” or the new Clearview HWY typeface. Approaching the signs, I would often test myself: which typeface works best from a distance, and which of its features or details might be responsible for its performance. I had so many more questions than answers. Surely every professional type designer has at least an inkling of how a signage typeface should look: Probably it sports a rather clean sans serif design, open counters and a rather large x-height. But which x-height works best, and why? What is the optimal stroke width? A monocular or binocular g? Should the design be somewhat condensed to permit more information on a sign, or rather should it be relatively wide so that individual letters are more easily differentiated?
I remember a conversation from back in my student days where my typophile friends and I debated what the ultimate typeface of the twentieth century was, a typeface that summed up all of the era’s advancements and knowledge into a coherent whole, one that would be a reference for years to come. Helvetica was one of the candidates for its sheer ubiquity, proof of its overall acceptance. Another, more subtle proposal was Jan van Krimpen’s Romulus, one of the first typefaces to have related Sans and Serif versions. And another, my personal pick, was Univers by Adrian Frutiger.
The day before leaving for India I had a client photo-shoot — pretty simple, no lighting — to show that choosing your bike over your car is good for the world and is also safer. And then I got on a airplane, pretty much setting an entire gas station on fire to study typography at Type Camp in India.
The Vancouver airport is safe-looking and Canadian; I shopped with Martha Stewart (it’s true!) in the over-ripe consumerism of the HK airport; and then the Chennai airport: it was really filthy. Suddenly in India, stepping out of the impossible tube of an aircraft fuselage, everything seemed extremely difficult. Baggage was difficult. Taxis were almost impossible. The banks were closed, the ATMs broken.
Based near Burford, Oxfordshire, Fergus Wessel is a letter cutter producing fine memorials that can be seen throughout the UK, including St Paul’s Cathedral. Naomi Chapple interviews him in his workshop on his love of lettering and, in particular, the relevance of good typography in his work.
Recently, I posted an interview with type designer Verena Gerlach in which she laments the disappearance of shop signage & lettering (sources she’d used to design FF Karbid). Shops change hands, old signs are taken down or painted over and, in the process, numerous examples of wonderful lettering are forever lost. And that got me to thinking about their ‘digital’ preservation. As a keen user of Instagram, I see hundreds of great photos of signage and lettering, many of them geotagged.
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Honesty in form is one of the major tenets of modernism. In other words, a design should accomplish a narrowly defined function in the simplest manner possible. This belief is extolled in many design disciplines, including typography. In 1931, Eric Gill wrote: Continue reading this article