| BOOK EXCERPT
Ecclesiasticus. London, Ashendene Press, 1932. New York Public Library
11.5 x 7.5 in.
new influences on the design of books in the early part of the twentieth
century were the English private presses and the painter-illustrators.
The revolution in painting which began in the late nineteenth century
changed the illustration and layout of books. At the same time, the revival
of fifteenth-century styles and standards begun by Morris animated the
English private presses and, through them, fine printing in Germany and
The work of the English private presses was slow to have an effect on
commercial printing in England. In Germany, on the other hand, it evoked
a response in both commercial and private presses. Morris's heavy ornament
and the sinuous line of Art Nouveau appeared in German books through the
early years of the century. The pure typography of the Doves and Ashendene
books was also taken up, and the Englishmen who had designed them were
brought over to design German books. The Insel-Verlag began to print a
series of German classics in 1905 designed by Emery Walker of the Doves
Press. Their tide pages were by England's leading calligrapher, Edward
Johnston, and the English designer Eric Gill.
The Bremer Press, a private press founded at Munich in 1911, produced
books in a strong, simple typography. Like its British counterparts, the
press had special types cut and relied on calligraphic details for decoration.
The Cranach Press founded at Weimar in 191 3 by the Graf von Kessler,
printed fine books which drew on the talents of both England and France.
Kessler commissioned the French sculptor Maillol to illustrate Virgil's
Eclogues with woodcuts which Maillol began in 1912. The war delayed
production of the book, but it was brought out in 1925-26. The types in
which the book was set were designed by Johnston and Edward Prince, the
initials by Eric Gill. Maillol, in the true Morris spirit, made the paper
on which the book was printed.
1929 the press printed a handsome edition of Shakespeare's Hamlet
in types designed by Johnston after those of Fust and Schoeffer, set in
a block and bordered by commentary in the way common in the fifteenth
century. Edward Gordon Craig, the English illustrator, made the woodcut
German type foundries participated strongly in the revival of interest
in fine book production. They cut new types and set up their own small
presses to produce exemplary books.
Evangelium der Markus, FIG 2
Guérin, The Centaur,
made popular by English example, became once again the basis of type design,
as it had been in the early years of printing. E.R. Weiss designed some
of the most important new types, beginning with a F raktur cut by Bauer
in 191 3. He also designed entire books, some in a rather light fifteenth-century
style, others dense and black, with close-packed gothic types. Rudolph Koch
made important contributions to the new German books in the tWenties and
thirties. He favored a heavy Germanic typography, and used his own heavy
woodcut initials and illustrations with it.
In their own characteristic ways many German illustrators worked in the
archaic woodcut style that continues to be one of Germany's most successful
contributions. Fritz Kredel, Richard Seewald, Willi Hawerth, and the sculptor
Ernst Barlach are among them. At the same time artists such as George Grosz
were making light pen-and-ink sketches for books. The Austrian expressionist
painter Kokoschka had an important influence on German illustrated books,
beginning with the children's book Die träumenden Knaben that
he wrote and illustrated in Vienna in 1908, a startling mixture of Art Nouveau
and folk art. From 1917 on Kokoschka made lithographs for a number of German
the English revival was the central influence for the first quarter century
and more. The men who designed books were for the most part also typographers.
Frederick Goudy, who, inspired by Morris, founded the Village Press in
Chicago in 1903, designed over a hundred typefaces, often producing a
new one especially for a book he was designing. Bruce Rogers, in charge
of limited editions and general typography at the Riverside Press in Boston
in the early part of his career, and later advisor to the presses of Cambridge,
Oxford, and Harvard, designed the Montaigne and Centaur types, based on
Jensen's roman. Both Rogers and Daniel Updike at his Merrymount Press
worked in an allusive style, using types and ornaments to suggest the
era or content of the books they designed. Updike, at first under the
spell of Morris's heavy books, gradually turned to the restrained taste
of the English eighteenth century. Rogers ranged freely and tastefully
among all periods, choosing and adapting what he liked for a given work.
He was able to produce first-rate fifteenth-century Italian pages, complete
with woodcuts; frivolous eighteenth-century French ones with feminine
borders; or dignified British pages reminiscent of Bulmer and Bensley.
When the Oxford Press undertook to print a splendid Bible in 1935, Rogers
was chosen to design it in his Centaur type. Calm, dignified, monumental,
the Oxford Lectern Bible is considered Rogers' greatest work.
best designers and publishers in England, America, and Germany were preoccupied
with typography and the overall quality of the book, France concentrated
on illustration. The illustrated book had a particularly high status in
France; it was considered a worthy vehicle
Das Evangelium des Markus.
Offenbach-am-Main, 1923. Typography and design by Rudolf Koch. From Schauer,
Deutsche Buchkunst 1890 bis 1960. 11.25 x 7.5 in.
the finest artists. There was a public willing to pay high prices for the
livre de luxe illustrated with direct prints by an esteemed artist.
Ambroise Vollard, the art dealer who spent his accumulated fortune producing
fine illustrated books, slowly led their taste to the appreciation of his
extraordinary editions, illustrated by such painters as Bonnard, Derain,
Chagall, Degas, Dufy, Rouault, and Picasso. Vollard was a perfectionist;
he spared nothing in the full realization of the artist's intentions. In
his determination to be the greatest publisher of illustrated books the
world had ever known, he exacted the most scrupulous care in the typography
and production of his books and was loath to consider them complete or perfect
enough for publication. As a result, a great many of his livres de peintre
were in an unfinished state at his death in 1939. Some have been published
since under other auspices.
Vollard's first great publicationsVerlaine's Parallèlement
and the Daphnis et Chloé of Longus, both illustrated by Bonnardremain
unsurpassable, but it required some time for even the cultivated taste of
the bibliophiles to catch up with them. The edition of 250 copies of the
Daphnis et Chloe was not bought up for twenty years. Nevertheless, Vollard
continued to commission and prepare books illustrated by avant-garde painters
with an art dealer's instinct for what must come to be recognized as great.
Some of Vollard's most magnificent books were those illustrated by Rouault,
whose early training in stained-glass techniques is strongly reflected in
his powerful prints. Rouault worked on the illustrations for Les réincarnations
du Père Ubu for fifteen years before the volume came out in 1933,
photographing his original gouache sketches on the printing plates and then
enriching them with drypoint, aquatint, and etching. His own text accompanied
the intense color etchings for Le Cirque de l'étoile filante,
peopled with clowns and acrobats. Rouault's broad manner of working called
for a large page; his books for Vollard were monumental. The last one, the
Miserere, which was to have had a text by Suares, was finally brought
out as a volume of prints accompanied by captions. The artistic magnitude
of the prints is almost matched by the size of the gigantic volume.
In 1931 Vollard commissioned Picasso to illustrate Balzac's tragicomedy
Le chef d'oeuvre inconnu, in which a painter seeks for years to create
the ideal expression of female beauty and ends up with an inscrutable abstraction.
Picasso combined cubist woodcuts with romanticclassic linear etchings without
the slightest incongruity. But abstract art, for some reason, never became
an important direction in book illustration. Picasso himself favored a classic,
romantic, or expressionistic approach. The illustrations com~ssioned by
Vollard for the Histoire naturelle of Buffon (which Picasso did not
finish until after the publisher's death) are in a rough expressionistic
technique that achieves the essence of animality.
Gogol's Les Ames mortes and La Fontaine's Fables with Chagall's
mysterious Hebraic illustrations were a part of the treasure-store of books
begun by Vollard but not published during
MAURICE DE GUÉRN, The Centaur. Montague, Mass., Montague
Press, 1915. Typography and design by Bruce Rogers. Yale Beinecke Rare
Book Library. 12 x 8 in.
LONGUS, Daphnis et Chloé. Paris, Les Frères Gonin,
1937. Woodcuts by Maillol. Museum of Modern Art, New York
lifetime. The etchings for Hesiod's Theogony begun by Braque for
Vollard were not published until 1955. Intransigent, demanding to a fault,
Vollard established a standard for éditions de luxe that came
close to his desires.
At the beginning of the century the Imprimerie Nationale began to
print many of the fine books of private and commercial publishers. Vollard's
Parallelement was set in the beautiful Garamond italics of the Imprimerie
and was to have borne its imprint, but the nature of the erotic text caused
the reconsideration and withdrawal of the official imprint. The Imprimerie
has continued to produce some of France's finest books. In 1951 it printed
Goethe's Promethie in the translation of Andre Gide, set in the old romain
du roi of 1700 and illustrated with the unmistakably twentieth-century
color lithographs of Henry Moore.
Vollard had a rival in excellence in the firm of Albert Skira of Lausanne,
which produced livres de peintre in the best French tradition. Skira
commissioned Picasso's first important book, the Métamorphoses
of Ovid, published in 1931. Picasso made fluent line etchings for this edition,
chaste in its typography and serenely classic in effect. Leon Pichon, a
leading French publisher, printed the book for the Swiss firm.
In 1932 Skira published the Poésies of Mallarmé, set
in Garamond italics and decorated with Matisse's engravings, which fill
out the pages with their linear volumes. Matisse was an artist who took
the illustrated book as seriously as the framed print or painting and gave
much thought to the problems of balancing areas of type and of illustration.
In one instance, the Pasiphaë of Montherlant, he set himself
the task of balancing the type pages against totally black linoleum prints,
incised with thin white line.
Three of the classical works which Maillol illustrated with woodcuts were
published by the Gonin brothers of Paris and Lausanne: L'Art d'aimer
of Ovid in 1935; two years later, Longus' Daphnis et Chloé;
and in 1950, Virgil's Géorgiques. The Daphnis et Chloé,
unlike most livres de luxe, was in a relatively small format. Maillol
cut the blocks in a pure, classic line, less consciously archaic than the
cutting of the Eclogues printed by the Cranach Press. The woodcuts
and type blend with a lucid harmony seldom seen outside the fifteenth century.
Some of the French books we have considered were consciously new in their
approach; others harked back to the past. Not a few books seem to go in
both directions at once. The strong, primitive woodcuts made by Derain for
Guillaume Apollinaire's L'Enchanteur pourrissant in 1909 and by Raoul
Dufy for his Le Bestiaire in 1911 have a blackness and a crude vigor
reminiscent of some of the earliest German printed books. They are matched
very knowingly with rather black and none-too-even types. Both Dérain
and Dufy showed later that they were masters of a fine linear technique
at the opposite pole. Dufy, in Montfort's La belle Enfant (1930),
surrounds the type-page with sophisticated etchings in the lightest line.
His watercolors for Dorgelès Vacances forcées, printed
in 1956, have been reproduced
Daphnis et Chloé, FIG 4
Le Besstiaire, FIG 6
MALLARMÉ, Poésies. Lausanne, Albert Skira, 1932.
Etchings by Matisse. Museum of Modern Art, New York
Les mots en liberté futuristes,
wood engravings that preserve almost incredibly the effect of transparent
across the page.
Dufy and Derain both belonged around 1910 to the group of painters led by
Matisse who called themselves "Fauves"Wild Beasts. They
were much influenced by African sculpture and sought a forceful expression
of their own. The Cubists and the Fauves in France were contemporary with
the Futurists in Italy. The Futurists had organized themselves under the
poet Marinetti, who proved to be a master of the manifesto. His first, issued
in 1909, constituted a frontal attack on bourgeois culture. The Futurists
scorned intellect and logic as part of the despised past; they exalted movement
and speed as belonging to the world of the future. They expressed these
attitudes in their publications by a conscious violation of all the accepted
laws of typography. Types of all kinds and sizes were used together; they
proceeded (within the limits of communicating at all) in any direction but
the expected ones. Marinetti went even further: he invented Tipografia
in libertà and Parole in libertà, which "freed"
words and letters from logical use in sentences and used them as independent
In a manifesto of 1911 the Futurists declared, "The language of the
old art is dead. Traditions are dead. We have a new and exciting idiom,
a set of personal symbols compounded of any
thing and everything. We will express the dynamic energy of modern life
We will jerk
your sensibilities into the most acute responses." The movement that
issued this clarion call soon died out, but its spirit seems to be essentially
the one that continues to animate the art of our time.
The Dadaist movement that originated in Zurich in 1916 used the same shock
tactics as Futurism, but toward a different end. Where Futurism wanted to
overthrow the traditional order for a world dominated by the machine, Dada
was a protest against the world of machines and the folly of war. Dadaist
typography was just as assiduous as the Futurists' in its flouting of conventions.
When the first book of Tristan Tzara, the literary leader of Dada, was published
in 1916La première aventure céleste de Mr Antipyrineit
was set as a sort of blank verse with no capital letters or punctuation
and illustrated with nonobjective woodcuts by the painter Marcel Janco.
An unpunctuated lowercase text was new to books. Nonobjective illustrations
had already appeared in Germany in 1913 in a book of poems, Kliinge, written
and illustrated by the Russian painter Kandinsky. The artistic revolt had
not been confined to Western Europe. In Russia it led to various forms of
non figurative art. Kandinsky's early abstractions were relatively lyric;
the severe abstract art of the Russian Constructivists also came to Germany
with the Russian Exhibition in Berlin in 1922. The Constructivist EI Lissitsky
had a strong influence on the recently formed Bauhaus.
FIG 6 GUILLAUME APOLLONAIRE, Le Bestiaire. Paris, 1911. Woodcuts
by Dufy. Yale University Library, Graphic Arts Collection
FIG 7 MARINETTI, Les
mots en liberté futuristes. Milan, 1919. Typography
and design by Marinetti. Harvard Houghton Library. Foldout page
Bauhaus was created im 9 1 9 when the Weimar Arts and Crafts School and
the Academy of Art were merged under the direction of Walter Gropius in
recognition of the unity of all design. The school was from the first a
clearinghouse for all the "isms," from which it distilled its
own synthesis. The Bauhaus tenet of the indivisibility of the arts can be
traced back to the English Arts and Crafts movement. From FutUrism came
an acceptance of the machine as basic to modem production. Dadaist and FutUrist
destruction of accepted modes played a part, countered by the functional
Constructivist approach. The Dutch movement known as De Stijl, whose aim
was to change life through art and architectUre, was an important influence
in the first years of the school. When the Hungarian designer Moholy-Nagy
was appointed to the Bauhaus in 1922, Russian Constructivism definitely
took the upper hand.
The basic idea which the Bauhaus applied to all design was: "Form follows
function." In typography the prototypes were the poster and the publicity
announcement. Moholy-Nagy stated in the first book which he designed for
the Bauhaus, "The new typography must impart information clearly and
in the most forcible form." Order, simplification and clarity were
the typographic ideals. In practical terms, sans-serif and square serif
types were favored, arranged asymetrically on the page. The types ran not
only horizontally but also at right angles and sometimes diagonally. In
1925 capital letters were dropped.
The decorative elements of Bauhaus typography were simple geometric formssquares,
circles, trianglesbasic signs such as arrows, enlarged letters or
numerals, and primary colors. A particular Bauhaus characteristic was the
use of heavy black bars for interest or emphasis. White space was also consciously
manipulated for these purposes. The poster prototype suggested photography
as a natUral counterpart of the new typography, and Bauhaus books began
to incorporate the experimental photographs made at the school into their
The new typography spread throughout the Germanic cultUres of Europethose
of Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Scandinaviaand into Italy,
disseminated partly through the writings of Jan Tschichold. England and
America received it later, around the time of the second World War. Advertising
design was the most affected by it; in publishing, technical books took
on the organization and the typography of the new style.
both the fifteenth-centUry influence and the new typography flourish side
side. The designer and typographer Hermann Zapf, who has worked for the
leading type- 2 founders and publishers, is fundamentally oriented in
the early style. Besides calligraphic types J like Palatino, he has designed
the sans-serif Optima with something of calligraphic sensitivity.
In his books Zapf shows an extraordinary sense for the balancing of type
and space. He often uses a calligraphic letter, a handwritten word, or
a chaste ornament (perhaps blind-embossed) to set off his otherwise perfectly
simple, harmonious title pages.
and Arp, Die Kunstismen,
Typgraphische Variationen, FIG
FIG 8 EL LISSITSKY AND HANS ARP, Die Kunstismen. Erlenbach-Zurich,
1925. Typography and design by El Lissitsky. Vale University School of
FIG 9 HERMANN ZAPF, Typographische Variationen. 'Frankfurt
am Main, 1963. Yale University Library, Graphic Arts Collection.
Antigone, oder Roman auf Kreta,
de Beauclair, since 1951 director of the Trajanus-Presse at the Stempel
Typefoundry, like Zapf, Georg Trump, and other leading German book designers,
is also a typographer. At the Trajanus-Presse he produces small editions
of finely printed books which are rather light and open in effect.
The tradition of the dark woodcut combined knowingly with close-set type-an
effect which has its origins in incunabula - is continued today by illustrators
such as Werner Klemke, Eugen Sporer, Otto Rohse, and Gerhard Marcks. In
Switzerland Imre Reiner has evolved a highly personal modern style in both
his lettering and his wood-engraved illustrations.
the private presses had begun to wane after about 1925. Only one, the
Golden Cockerel Press, continued to produce fine books, many of which
were the work of Eric Gill in his roles of typographer, designer, and
illustrator. They owe much to their superb paper and presswork. Gill had
a sleek and decorative medieval approach to design. His woodcuts are often
contained in short side borders or worked into the beginnings of sections,
as in The Canterbury Tales of 1931. In The Four Gospels,
printed the same year, he made beginning words the decorative element,
twining the woodcut letters with human forms in a way that was new but
strongly reminiscent of manuscript illumination. There is a great unity
to these pages, set in Gill's own Cockerel type.
The Nonesuch Press, founded in 1923 by Francis Meynell, has filled some
of the functions of the private press under commercial auspices. Its aim
has been to produce books with "significance of subject, beauty of
format, and moderation of price." The typesetting, printing, and
binding of these books was mostly done by machine, but they were produced
with great care, and their design and illustration has been of high quality.
A wide variety of media and styles have been used in their illustration,
from Stephen Gooden's line engravings of seventeenthcentury inspiration
to the stencil-colored illustrations of poster artist McKnight Kauffer.
Nonesuch books did something the private presses had not done: they put
fine books within the scope of the general public.
British illustration of this century is not in a class with the best French
work, but some of it, such as the satirical drawings of Edward Bawden,
is very much suited to books. British style is at its best in the work
of Rex Whistler, who, before his death in World \Var II, worked in an
imaginative revival of Baroque style, using many architectural details.
The so-called "paperback revolution" of our time originated
in 1932 with Albatross Books, a series of contemporary English books printed
in Hamburg, Paris, and Milan in inexpensive but pleasant format. The idea
was not precisely new. Paper-covered sixpenny reprints were common in
VictOrian England. The little booklets of sacred plays and romances sold
in the streets of late fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Florence were
in a real sense paperbacks, pictorial cover and all.
CLAIRE SAINT-SOLlNE, Antigone, oder Roman auf Kreta. Frankfurt,
1958. Woodcuts by Otto Rohse. From Schauer, Deutscbe Bucbkunst 1890 his
Penguin Books started in England in 1935 they filled a need for inexpensive,
handy editions generated by the economic depression and soon intensified
by the war. The Penguin series, which has expanded to include many fields
in publishing, has consciously tried for good typography and even good illustration
within the limits of its methods of production. In 1947 Jan Tschichold set
up standards of typography and layout which are flexibly applied to all
the books. Penguin has put it with typical British conciseness: "What
is cheap need not be nasty." The innumerable paperback series that
have sprung up on both sides of the Atlantic have not always borne this
after World \Var I the general run of books began to improve. Certain
of the large presses such as William E. Rudge of Mount Vernon, N. Y, and
the Lakeside Press in Chicago became concerned with the design and production
of good books. William E. Rudge employed designers of the caliber of Bruce
Rogers and Frederic Warde; the Lakeside Press was guided by the sound
standards of William Kittredge.
A number of smaller printers were from the start dedicated to fine book
production. Among them were the Grabhorn brothers in San Francisco, and
Elmer Adler's Pynson Printers and Joseph Blumenthal's Spiral Press in
New York. The Spiral Press, which began work in 1926, continues to turn
out both good, conservative commercial work and fine limited editions
such as the Ecclesiastes published in 1965, with Ben Shahn's illustrations
and letters, and Blumenthal's own Emerson type.
In 1929 the Limited Editions Club, founded by George Macy, began to publish
books of more than ordinary interest for its fifteen hundred subscribers
at the rate of one a month. They were designed by the leading typographers
and artists of both continents and produced in a manner which if not de
luxe was the next thing to it. A peculiarly democratic featUre was
that the book titles were selected by the readers by ballot.
The Limited Editions Club acquainted Americans with the work of outstanding
European designers and printers. Among them was Giovanni Mardersteig whose
Officina Bodoni at Verona has the official right to use Bodoni's matrices;
with the Bodoni types and others he prints fine editions in a pure and
controlled typography. Jan van Krimpen of the long-established Enschedc
Press in Haarlem designed one of the Limited Editions books in his handsome
Romance type. French and Russian illustrators, Czech typographers, Swedish
printers, all contributed to the series which ran for thirty years.
Other limited edition series and illustrated edition series turned out
books which made a conscious effort to please. From soberer motives, more
akin to those of the early scholar-printers, the university presses also
became important contributors of well-designed books. The books of the
Yale Press, in particular, continue to be remarkable, many of them in
the clean, sensitive
of Alvin Eisenman. Museum publications are another source of well-designed
books. Peter Oldenburg and Joseph Blumenthal maintain a conservative good
taste in their work for New York museums, and Carl Zahn has done some imaginative
publications for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Individual book designers, working for a publisher or free lance, have done
much to further the quality of American books. \v. A. Dwiggins, besides
designing such important book types as Electra and Caledonia, early set
a style for Knopf books that made them unmistakable. Knopf has continued
to maintain high standards with such designers as George Salter and Warren
Chappell. Marshall Lee has designed books which are often unusually sensitive
for a number of publishers.
Illustration is of relatively small importance in contemporary American
publishing, except in books for children. Some painters have illustrated
and designed children's books that are fresh and inventive: Leo Lionni's
Little Blue and Little Yellow (1950) and Inch by Inch (1960)
are good examples of the American juvenile version of the livre de peintre.
Joseph Low has made amusing illustrations that fit well with type. Alexander
Calder's continuous-line illustrations of some years back for Aesop's Fables
(probably not intended for children), and Thurber's drawings for Fables
for Our Time and many other books (surely not intended for children)
are in their own way unsurpassable.
Among the private presses that have cropped up here and there is the Gehenna
Press, founded in 1942 by the artist Leonard Baskin to print books with
his own wood engravings and linoleum cuts or those of other artists. Baskin
has a personal touch even in his typography. The Uruguayan artist Antonio
Frasconi also likes to design and print his own books, such as Birds
from my Homeland (1958), though he works sometimes for commercial publishers.
This necessarily incomplete listing of persons, presses, and publishers
at least indicates from what sources the ideas, the skills, and the standards
come for the best books in our time. The American Institute of Graphic Arts,
an organization of all those connected with book publishing, has since 1923
held an annual exhibition of the "Fifty Books of the Year," meant
to act as a yardstick and stimulus. These exhibitions have been taken up
by a number of European countries.
forces of our time have broken many barriers of national style, and sometimes
it is difficult to tell at a glance the origin of a book. But local differences
in production or taste still exist, and where they are manifest they bring
the pleasure of variety. Czechoslovak books, for example, often have a
unique peasant quality in their decorations and a corresponding strength
in their typography. British books, at their best, have a typically British
sound and forthright quality, which may stem largely from their use of
FIG 11 Ecclesiastes.
New York, Spiral Press, 1965. Woodcuts by Ben Shahn
monotype faces. French books, even when they are not illustrated by great
painters and printed by hand, have a characteristic sensitivity; there is
often a soft charm even to a cheap little French edition. A good German
book has its characteristic typography and a sense of the press that reminds
one that Germany was, after all, the place where printing originated. American
books all too often bespeak technical facility and mass production, along
with the attempt to look like "a lot for the money." We are the
country in which the Linotype machine took over fastest, and now the photo
typesetter is seeking to replace it. Offset lithography is practiced in
American book publishing far more than in any other country.
For the lover of fine books, nothing can replace the bite of type or plate
into good paper, the play of well-cut, well-set text against illustration
or decoration of deep artistic value. But an inexpensive edition can carry
its own aesthetic validity through imaginative or appropriate design. These
are not matters of concern only for aesthetes; if, in an era of uncertain
values, we want to keep alive respect for ideas and knowledge, it is important
to give books a form that encourages respect. The style and production of
books, for all the centuries they have been made, still have much to offer
the designer and publisher in challenge, the reader in pleasure.