TYPOGRAPHY IN THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY COLLECTION
Over the years, numerous scholars and local university faculty interested in graphic design have scheduled individual or class visits to our library with the aim of seeing some of our spectacular holdings of fine print and typography. Just yesterday, Professor Michael Lawrence crossed over from the mainland campus of Miami International University of Art and Design for an introduction to some of the type and typeface related materials in the library collection. In preparation for his visit, Associate Librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi laid out a wide range of rare books, broadsides, type specimen catalogs, and other printed matter on our main reading room table for Professor Lawrence to peruse. Before helping Dr. Harsanyi re-shelve the items, I thought that I would present a sampling of some of these items for my own web audience.
The library holds a number of broadsides published by various type founders and printing companies, intended as advertisements for showing off and selling to their customers specific letter forms and styles, fonts, decorative borders, etc. One such extremely rare and valuable broadside is This is a printing office, published using Monotype Perpetua type capitals designed for the Monotype Corporation Ltd. in London by the famous English engraver and typographer, Eric Gill (1882-1940). True to the ideals of this exponent of the Arts & Crafts tradition and the back to the “simple life” movement, this “no-frills” broadside delivers its message plainly and elegantly with an emphasis on clarity and simplicity.
In contrast, another specimen type broadside printed by the same company for its Monotype Plantin Series appears far more “cluttered” and “busy,” with its old-fashioned decorative borders. Another broadside produced by the Eastern Corporation in Bangor, Maine used a splash of color to emphasize the beauty of its Cheltenham type face.
In addition to printer broadsides, the library holds a significant number of rare books about the printing industry, as exemplified by this 1912 publication of Printing: Old & New and the 1930 imprint, La Typographie.
We also have a cogent collection of type specimen books designed to highlight the differences between type fonts and monotype ornaments available to printers.
Although virtually all of the items highlighted above were designed for professionals in the printing industry itself, the library also holds some stunning examples of artistic books famous for their typographical innovation. Below are just a few examples from the library collection: Blaise Cendrars’ La fin du monde with color compositions by Fernand Léger, and Fortunato Depero’s infamous “bolted book.”