| BOOK EXCERPT
An example of the use of large initial letters to help the
reader find his way around the text. Dictionaire Francoislatin,
Paris, 1539. Letterpress, with maniere criblie relief blocks,
printed by Robert Estienne. Page size 292 X 200 mm. Reading University
Contents page of a research report published in 1951. 245 X 175
Design: survivals and new approaches
printing shows a strange blend of the old and the new: though great innovations
were made in printing technology and many new kinds of work issued from
the machines, very little fresh thought was given
to matters of design. The predominant concern was with style, and in many
branches of printing stylistic mantles were assumed according to prevailing
interests and tastes without much concern for their suitability for the
particular job in hand. Most such styles were either historically based
or, particularly after the Great Exhibition, derived from foreign sources:
This kind of approach to designing is particularly evident in fine books
and prestige printing generally where style often served as a trimming
to disguise unthinking use of traditional formulas. Hardly any branch
of printing entirely escaped such influences in the second half of the
nineteenth century. Only when the printer or designer was faced with new
kinds of work to produce, where there were no real models to follow and
where practical considerations were often paramount, did he begin to break
away from his own conventions and design in order to solve particular
situation is seen very clearly in nineteenth-century architecture and
engineering. On the one hand there are the mock Gothic towers and classical
façades of town halls, museums, and hospitals, which were built
in known styles in order to impress; on the other, the unprecedented and
often exciting forms of bridges and railway terminuses, which resulted
from the solution of rather specific problems using, for the most part,
basic engineering structures. There is little in nineteenth-century printing
to compare with such masterpieces of engineering, but they certainly had
their modest counter parts, and the illustration overleaf may serve as
an example .
One of the
reasons for the sterility of design in many areas of printing in the later
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the strength of the book
tradition. Some practices established in manuscript and early printed
books have persisted with great consistency to this day, largely because
human beings and their methods of reading have not changed significantly.
Line length, for instance, may vary from one book to another according
to its size and purpose, but generally speaking the number of words on
a line has remained remarkably constant; and research this century has
tended to confirm what printers have determined pragmatically over the
centuries. There can be little to challenge in such customs; indeed, contemporary
typographers might well learn something from them.
practices in book design seem to have less general validity. Large initial
letters, which originally served to decorate a manuscript or printed page
as well as to identify a chapter opening or help the reader to find his
way around the text , are now more often used as stylistic
conventions and usually serve neither purpose. Contents pages of books
continue to be set to the full width of the text with the items ranging
to the left and the page numbers to the extreme right  - a
practice which might satisfy some rational visual or technical structure
but, especially when the entries are short, can lead to difficulties in
reading. These are just two of the
Notice of legal fares of Hackney coaches and cabriolets of London, 1837.
Letterpress, printed and published by John Weston, London. 467 X 597 mm.
John Johnson Collection.
of book typography which still flourish and, so far as I am aware, they
continued unchallenged until the late nineteenth century.
in English printing has been quite so powerful as that of the roman letter
and, in particular, the letterforms used for text composition in books.
Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian type designs, which were themselves
modelled on contemporary scripts, have survived with only minor modifications
and have been adapted to suit the needs of hot-metal composing machines,
photosetting, and direct impression composition. Reading rests on the
understanding of conventions, and so strong has the hold of the traditional
forms of the Latin alphabet been that no new designs ofletters for text
composition have departed radically from the shapes and proportions of
the earliest roman types. Research has shown that we prefer reading, and
also read most easily, those types we are most familiar with; and there
can be no stronger force in maintaining traditional forms.
arrangement of the printed book was also established in Renaissance Italy,
and by the end of the eighteenth century even special problems in book
production had come to be solved in predictable and generally accepted
ways. Basic solutions were usually adapted to suit new needs and methods
of production as they arose, or were changed in style to conform with
current tastes. As it happens, however, crafts often flourish under such
circumstances - and printing was no exception. Compliance with conventions
encourages the full exploration of possibilities within the prescribed
system and leads to a continual refinement of them ; critical awareness
can be sharpened through repeated experience in similar fields; and, what
the very limitations imposed by tradition can prevent the inept from making
gross blunders. Instances of this from the past are numerous and can be
found in many areas of human endeavour, but the example of Georgian domestic
architecture may be mentioned because of the qualities it shares with the
typography of the same period. The books printed by Bensley,Bell, and Bulmer
[288, 289] during the decades immediately before and after the year 1800
show much the same sense of inevitability and propriety as Georgian architecture
and helped to create what Stanley Morison has described as the finest period
of English typography.
Title-page and chapter opening of M. Symes, An account of an embassy
to the kingdom of Ava, 1800. Letterpress, printed by William Bulmer.
Page size 326 X
Oliver Byrne, The first six books of the elements of Euclid in which
coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters for the greater
ease of learners, 1847. Letterpress, printed in four colours by Charles
Whittingham for the publisher William Pickering. Page size 235 X 188mm.
the late eighteenth century, book designers have mostly followed this traditional
pattern, adapting it to new purposes and endowing it with different associations
through the use of appropriate papers, types, anddecorations. Charles Whittingham
and William Morris in the nineteenth century, and Francis Meynell and Stanley
Morison in this century, though they produced books which often look very
different from one another, were all basically working within the established
conventions of book design. All made major contributions to printing, but
they do not appear to have questioned the centuries-old conventions of book
designor, if they did question them, they must have decided that they
were worth preserving. When Charles Whittingham printed an extraordinary
edition of Euclid's geometry for the mathematician Oliver Byrne in 1847,
which was a most forwardlooking book in its visual approach to teaching
geometry through colours, and a remarkable technical achievement in letterpress
printing as well,
he handled the text in a thoroughly traditional manner and included large
wood-engraved letters in the manière criblée style
popular in the sixteenth century [290,291].
Exhibition notice, late eighteenth century. Letterpress, anon.
315 X 198 mm. John Johnson Collection.
It must be
admitted that there were often very good reasons for preserving some of
the conventions of book typography. After all, even such an apparent anachronism
as the numbering of the preliminary pages of a book in roman numerals
and those of the rest in arabic numerals is soundly based on practical
grounds. It allows the preliminary pages, which can often be written only
after the main body of the book has been set, to be paginated and printed
later. Nevertheless, traditional practices have inhibited the development
of book design in some respects and have been so powerful that their influence
on typography has extended well beyond the field of book production.
were once conceived in a form which stemmed from book typography. In the
late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, before the introduction
of bold display types, many posters or window bills were designed according
to book conventions with the main text matter set in paragraphs with their
first lines indented . A large initial letter was frequently
used for the opening line, together with capitals for the first word or
so, and the equivalent of a running headline was often placed at the top
of the sheet and separated from the main text by a rule. It may be that
the copy was written by the client in a formal man,ner, and that the style
of writing was even modelled on the form oflanguage found in other kinds
of printing, but typographic design and matters of linguistics cannot
really be considered separately.
of writing copy changed and large bold types were introduced, posters
began to break away from the book tradition [293, 294]. It is impossible
to say which of these innovations came first, but during the second and
third decades of the nineteenth century a new kind of typographic poster
began to be produced which made use of bold display letters to emphasise
individual words or lines. In turn this too developed into a tradition
which continues to this day in a rather watered-down form in the auction
bills of estate agents. The ingredients of this tradition were formed
from the practice of the craft itself, and are not primarily the result
of the application of aesthetic principles. The need to convey information
as powerfully as possible was clearly uppermost in the printer's mind,
and his instinctive reaction was to use the maximum size letterforms that
would fit into the available space. He would almost certainly have designed
his poster in the chase, and probably on the bed of the press, and as
a result many typographical posters of the nineteenth century show very
clearly the limits of the rectangular shape into which the letters were
fitted like children's bricks . The use of condensed letters
to give maximum effect to long words in narrow formats, and of expanded
letters for short words in wide formats, arises quite naturally
Auction bill, 1850. Letterpress, printed by J. Diplock, Trowbridge.
500 X 380 mm. Wiltshire County Record Office.
Notice of entertainment, 1874. Letterpress, printed in green and
black by H. Collings & Co., Bishop's Stortford. 502 X 380 mm. Essex
County Record Office.
Billhead of Henry Barnett, copperplate printer, 1835. Copper-engraved.
126 X 157 mm. John Johnson Collection.
of R. Cartwright, law stationer, 1834. Lithographed. 114 X 187 mm.
John Johnson Collection.
practice. The use of a variety of different types on the same poster may
also have been determined initially by practical considerations - in this
case by the limited sizes of the founts of large display letters held
by the printer. Repetition of the same letter even only two or three times
on the same poster may well have presented a real embarrassment to the
small jobbing printer who undertook this sort of work, and an obvious
solution to the problem was to turn to a different type ofa similar size.
No doubt the visual possibilities of variety were soon exploited for their
own sake, but the fashion for using a medley of types on posters in the
nineteenth century may well have had its roots in technical problems.
of printing reveals many similar cases in which features originally derived
from technical limitations or the characteristics of a particular process
survived for purely aesthetic reasons or because of their associations.
In the course of time their original significance often ceased to be understood
and, as a result, they usually became debased. The survival of such forms
can be seen as a symptom of uncreative designing, yet it is not without
its value. Continuity of style in certain fields of printing does at least
mean that categories of work can be identified by their general flavour
even before their contents can be read. An auction sale poster can usually
be distinguished at a glance from a poster for a concert in the Royal
Festival Hall, and so can a legal document from a piece of sales literature.
This is an important function of design in printing, and the value of
conventions as an aid to recognition should not be underestimated. In
spoken language the linguist distinguishes a variety of registers which
are commonly used in different circumstances when presenting a scientific
paper, reprimanding children, talking to one's lover, and so forth - and
these too must depend on a residue of convention in order to have the
of the survival of conventions in printing outside the book field are
plentiful in the nineteenth century, and some have lasted well into the
twentieth century. One of the strongest of these is the survival of the
engraved style in work such as letterheads, invoices, invitations, and
music titles. It was already firmly established in the latter part of
the eighteenth century, and is typified by the curving and swelling lines
which arise from the way in which the lozenge-shaped burin is worked across
the copper, making wider marks as it cuts deeper into the metal .
The shapes of the letters were mainly based on those of the great writing
masters of the eighteenth century,
and their ornate flourishes were easily adapted to engraving. The burin
lent itself to the translation of this style as it moves most naturally
in wide sweeping curves in much the same way as figure skaters on ice.
This method of working lasted well into the present century for the production
Billhead of the London Wine Company, 1826. Wood-engraving, with type. 243
X 200 mm. John Johnson Collection.
Invoice of George Hadfield & Co. Ltd, 1930. Lithographed heading,
the text overprinted letterpress. 262 X 206 mm.
of prestige jobbing printing and still continues on a very limited scale,
but by the middle of the nineteenth century copper-engraving could no longer
compete commercially with letterpress and lithographic printing. Consequently,
these other processes entered the field which had hitherto been virtually
the province of copper-engraving and, naturally enough, craftsmen adapted
the traditional style of working to their own purposes. Lithographers found
little difficulty in copying the style of copper-engraved lettering and
ornament . Letterpress printers had greater technical problems
, but the typefounders issued types and decorative units which
enabled them to emulate the style created in the late eighteenth century,
and similar designs are still used by jobbing printers for invitations and
of printing an engraved vignette ofa tradesman's shop, workshop, or factory
on his notepaper and invoices also continued as a general convention right
through the nineteenth century, and was only really abandoned after the
Second World War [297,298]. The familiar custom in such work of
using an integrated design consisting of both picture and words was originally
evolved in copper-engraving, but was later taken over in lithography and,
with rather more difficulty, in wood-engraving.
tradition also left its mark on security printing and postage stamps.
The engraved patterns and copper-engraved styles oflettering used in the
early nineteenth century for bank-notes, promissory notes, and passports
had a very wide influence, and they still survive in emasculated and rather
unconvincing forms in similar work produced today. A particularly
Exchequer bill, with instructions for cutting 'indentwise' through
the flourishes, 1695. Copper-engraving. 247 X 206 mm.
John Johnson Collection.
of three exchequer bills, cut indentwise, 1697. Copper-engraved. 277
X 170 mm. John Johnson Collection.
'cheques'. From Caslon & Livermore, Specimen of printing types,
1825. St Bride Printing Library
for Outline low fat spread from a Ryvita wrapper showing the use of
the 'cheque' motif in the border, 1969. Photogravure, printed in red
and blue. 50 X 123 mm.
Paper tape used by a mail-order firm for sealing its parcels, 1969.
Penny Black postage stamp, issued on 6 May 1840. Engraved on
steel by Frederick Heath and printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co. British
example of this is the elaborate scroll work found on copperengraved exchequer
notes of the seventeenth century . Such documents were designed
to be cut down the middle of the patterns and separated, and both the
line of the cut and the complex and varied patterns had then to be matched
exactly. The forms of such patterns derived from pen work and were reinforced
by the copper-engraver's burin. They were widely used on copper-engraved
notes and cheques for a century or more , and from the end
of the eighteenth century the typefounders produced similar designs for
letterpress printing which were known as 'cheques' . In the
course of time these cheque patterns ceased to have any practical value
as a means of preventing forgery and came to be used merely for their
association with security printing [302, 303].
Heath engraved the designs for the Penny Black postage stamp, which was
issued in 1840, he adopted as a matter of course the familiar swellii1g
lines and dot-and-Iozenge techniques of copper-engraving to model the
young Queen Victoria's head . Later designers of postage stamps
were even more influenced by copper-engraving and placed the sovereign's
head within an oval, which was a practice that had flourished in portrait
engraving for centuries. The placing ofa profile portrait within some
kind of oval framework continued in British stamps until recently, and
so too did the method of hatching used to model the head. A tradition
of this kind could hardly survive in a very vital form for over a century
and, as with bank-notes, there has been a gradual but progressive decline
in the standard of such work.
persistent graphic idiom which has survived for over 400 years is the
chiaroscuro printa method of printing one or more tones of the same
colour (usually buff or straw) either with or without a black working.
It was originally developed in woodcutting in the early sixteenth century
as a means of reproducing tonal drawings, but it was revived and adapted
by John BaptistJackson and Elisha Kirkall in the eighteenth century and
used for other purposes as well. From then on the chiaroscuro print had
an enormous influence and became one of the accepted idioms in which printed
images of all kinds could be conceived. In this country its popularity
was assured when William Gilpin began to produce books based on his picturesque
tours which contained aquatint plates tinted by hand with monochrome washes
of water-colour, usually buff or straw in colour. Gilpin eXplained his
recourse to these tints as a means of counteracting the glaring whiteness
of the paperthough he must also have been influenced by the current use
of the Claude glass, which was a piece of amber-tinted glass which the
eighteenth-century connoisseur used to hold in front of an English view
to give it the golden glow of the Italian campagna as seen in Claude Lorraine's
paintings. Right from the early days oflithography a tint stone was used
in Germany to support the black printing, partly because of its association
with German chiaroscuro woodcuts, and partly because the tone could be
used to give the paper much the same colour as the lithographic stone
on which the drawing was made. In addition, when highlights were scraped
away from the tint stone, it could be used as a means of imitating drawings
on tinted paper touched up with white. The chiaroscuro method was very
popular with German lithographers and for a short period after 1817 it
began to be used in this. coun try too; then, as a result oftechnical
improvements made in the mid-1830s, it became almost the accepted idiom
for making lithographs all over Europe. The style was also taken up in
wood-engraving in the nineteenth century, first of all in the Illustrations
to Puckle's Club (1820), then by Savage, Baxter, and others, and later
in some of the large wood-engraved plates of the Illustrated London
News and the Graphic. The style was again adapted to new purposes
when process engraving was perfected, and the printing of double-toned
Auction bill, Martin & Pole, Reading, 1969. Letterpress, printed in
blue on yellow paper by the Creative Press, Reading. 890 X 572 mm.
Auction bill, Hampton & Sons, London, 1969. Letterpress, printed
in blue and black by Rawlinsons Ltd, Northwood. 894 X 572 mm.
Auction bill, A. C. Frost & Co., Burnham, 1969. Letterpress,
printed in red and black by Rawlinsons Ltd, Northwood. 763 X 509 mm.
blocks in black and buffwas extremely popular for a long time, and before
the Second World War even warranted a special classification in process
engravers' price lists.
of compound-plate printing, which is described in the chapter on colour
printing, also had a lasting influence. It was originally invented in
an attempt to prevent the forgery of bank-notes and other security printing,
but it very soon began to be copied. An important early use of the process
was for the coronation of George IV in 1821 ; and for that occasion, while
the tickets to view the ceremony in Westminster Abbey and Westminster
Hall were printed by the genuine compound-plate method [397, 398],
the less important pass tickets were merely printed in two colours in
imitation of the style of compound-plate prints [348-50]. By this
time the style had already become associated with a particular kind of
printing. Some firms, such as Stephens, the ink makers, began by using
the process for their labels as a means of assuring the public of the
authenticity of their products, but ended by copying only the appearance
of such prints.
A few more
examples may help to emphasise the persistence of conventions in printing.
A familiar feature of estate agents' auction bills is the reversed-out
logotype [305-7], which stems from a technique frequently used
in the second quarter of the nineteenth century . The traditional
bill, Elliot Smith, Cambridge, 1829. Letterpress, printed by Weston
Hatfield, Cambridge. 445 X 370 mm. TrumPington Parish Church.
Sale catalogues: left, 1808, page size 333 X 2 I ° mm; right,
1934, page size
330 X 205 mm.
of property sales, which were usually produced foolscap folio in size, can
also be traced back to at least the late eighteenth century. They were usually
folded in four for convenience, and the practice of printing the title on
the second of the facets and at right angles to the main copy still continues
. Legal documents too have preserved certain visual features
for centuries - and with almost the same tenacity as they have preserved
their language. The familiar black-letter logotypes with which indentures
began in the days when they were written by hand  were taken over in
copper-engraving, lithography, and letterpress printing [311-13],
and traces of the style still survive in legal documents.
311 | 312 | 313
logotypes. Examples of style surviving changes in methods of production:
Manuscript, 1786. Essex County Record Office.
Copper-engraved, 1841. Museum oj English Rural Life, Reading
Lithographed, 1851. Essex County Record OJfice.
Letterpress, cast logotype from V. & J. Figgins, Epitome of specimens,
St Bride Printing Library.
examples have been given to show the extent to which printing styles and
conventions have been influenced by technical considerations, and how
some of the conventions survived for a long time even after the original
methods of production had changed. These were the main forces that worked
from within the printing and allied trades to shape the appearance of
printing; but other influences, both social and artistic, were brought
to bear from outside.
Art and architecture
have played a significant part in the appearance of printing and from
time to time have been responsible for major waves of change, the ripples
of which eventually spread far and wide to become absorbed in the mainstream
of printing. An account of such changes would be a record ofthe history
of the art of the period and must be looked for elsewhere, but it is worth
mentioning that the appearance of printing, at least in the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries, seems to have been the result of a continual
tug-of-war between the influences of function, technique, and convention
on the one hand and the forces of current fashion on the other. Of course,
these influences need not be in conflict with one another, and sometimes
there does seem to have been a basic harmony between them. As examples
of this we may take the charming embossed designs of Dobbs and others
of the 1820s  which lent themselves naturally to the translation
of the stucco ornaments made fashionable in the previous century by Robert
Adam , or the striking poster designs of E. McKnight Kauffer
Trade card of Dobbs & Co., c. 1821. Copper-engraving with embossed
border. 116 X 165 mm. John Johnson Collection.
Robert Adam, detail of stucco ceiling in the dining room in Hatchlands
Park, Worsley, 17S8-9.
and 1930s  which owed a great deal to contemporary abstract
painting in their use of powerful shapes and colours . For the
most part, however, the real value of the artist in relation to printing
has been as a catalyst, sowing seeds of discontent with the established
order, rather than mapping out sure paths for the future.
E. McKnight KaufTer, London Underground poster, 1923. Colour lithography,
printed by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son Ltd, London. London Transport
Wassily Kandinsky, 'Battle', 1910. Painting in the Tate Gallery. 945 X
1300 mm. Tate Gallery
Order of service to commemorate the tercentenary of the death of Thomas
Tallis, 1885. Letterpress, printed by H. Richardson, London. 242 X
Revival (the only important revival of the nineteenth century that printing
could legitimately share with architecture) produced its pioneers who
designed for printing, and Henry Shaw, Owen Jones, and Noel Humphreys
produced impressive work in this style because of their genuine enthusiasm
for the art of the Middle Ages. But a private indulgence of this kind
provided no long-term alternative to the less idiosyncratic and selfconscious
typography of the Georgian era, and eventually led to half a century of
derivative work . Similarly, William Morris's return to the
past, though it had its imitators for a decade or so, and though it was
more fundamental in its objectives, provided no real answer for the future.
Art Nouveau, Futurism, Cubism, de Stijl, and Dada have all left their
mark on printing, and so too have the numerous post-war art movements.
Like the Gothic Revival, however, their role has been to provide a visual
repertoire of style, and for the most part they have only affected advertising,
magazines, and similar categories of printing. Even the work of the Bauhaus
in Germany, which of all movements had the most to offer printing and
other areas of design, tended to be seen in England at the time only for
its superficial qualities of modernity, such as clean-looking lines, and
its essential message was at first overlooked.
to design in printing grew out of the social and economic necessity in
an industrialised society of communicating clearly, widely, and persuasively.
They began to make themselves felt in the first half of the nineteenth
century in fairly routine work, such as road and railway guides, timetables,
directories, plans, accounts, catalogues, and price lists, and later on
in advertising and packaging as well. Numerous examples of work of various
kinds can be found among the illustrations in the second part of this
book. The originality and effectiveness of the ordering of the information
in such printing is often taken for granted because it works so well.
Bradshaw's first railway timetables, for instance, which were produced
small enough to fit easily into the pocket or purse, are masterly examples
of sensible designing . Complex information about times, distances,
stations, and fares
is organised in a form which is easily intelligible, and this general
pattern has been followed for over a century. Some surprisingly graphic
methods of presenting information were also developed in the nineteenth
century. As examples we may take the popular broadsheets showing in pictorial
Bradshaw's railway companion, 1842. Letterpress. Page size 115 X 75
mm. John Johnson Collection.
A.Wilson, The design of books (New York & London, 1967)
of carriages in coronation and funeral processions , the colour-printed
column chart displaying statistical information relating to attendance,
publications sold, and refreshments consumed during the course of the
Great Exhibition , or the diagrams mentioned above which were
printed in four colours as an aid to the understanding of geometry [290,291].
and graphic work had to be planned from scratch; fresh approaches were
inevitable as there were no real models to follow. The book printer, on
the other hand, knew from his experience of past jobs just how
a book should be organised, and the accepted conventions of book production
were described by the authors of printers' manuals for a century or more.
The only major decisions which remained to be taken by the printer concerned
type size and spacing between the lines; and these decisions were made,
if we are to judge by the manuals, on the basis of the number of pages
a book should make. I can find no reference in such manuals to designing
or planning a book in advance, beyond casting off the copy to calculate
the number of pages. The designing was presumably done on the shop floor
by the compositor or the overseer, with perhaps just the client's instruction
to follow a particular precedentand, of course, a great deal of
designing is still done this way. Such methods would have been oflittle
avail, however, where there were no precedents to follow and where the
material was not straightforward; and at some stage, and I suspect in
the nineteenth century, it became common practice for designs to be tried
out in advance on paper.
of drawings which appear to be layouts for the famous Nuremberg Chronicle
of 1493 have recently been published,43
and some rough sketches for Plantin's title-pages have also survived.
The first English printer who
is recorded as having prepared layouts seems to have been T. C. Hansard,
though he makes no mention of the practice in his extensive manual, Typographia,
which was published in 1825. Though little seems to be known about the
origins of the practice of working out typographic designs on paper, it
proved to have great significance because it released typography from
the tyranny of some of its craft-based conventions. Like so many radical
changes, however, it has had some unfavourable repercussions, and in this
century has led to the emergence of a new kind of designer, often working
independently of the printing trade, who only too frequently knows less
than he needs to about the industrial processes he is designing for.
Statistical chart of the Great Exhibition, published by the Weekly
Dispatch, 1852. Letterpress, printed in blue, red, yellow, and black
by Vizetelly & Co., from designs by Corporals J. Mack and A. Gardener
of the Royal Sappers and Miners. 750 X 510 mm. Reading Universiry
James McNeill Whistler, title-page for his The gentle art
of making enemies, 1890' 201 X 153 mm.
Raithby & Lawrence, Specimens of printing, Leicester,
1884. Letterpress, printed in crimson. III X 166 mm. St Bride Printing
important break with one of the most enduring traditions of printing came
with the challenge to the principle of symmetry. This tradition, which
is rooted in the ideas of Renaissance humanism, began to be undermined
in the nineteenth century as a result of various stylistic and technical
influences. The Gothic Revival had drawn attention to the great variety
of medieval manuscripts, many of which were not organised within such
a strict geometrical framework as printed books. While manuscripts were
usually written within some kind of grid, which was repeated from page
to page for the sake of convenience, it did not impose nearly such rigid
limitations as those demanded by the craft of printing and was modified
as occasion demanded according to linguistic and decorative needs. It
is also a characteristic of the Western tradition of writing that it is
easier to start lines at the left-hand margin than to centre them, as
centred lines involve very careful planning. In letterpress printing,
on the other hand, any break with the overall rectangular structure of
a type area presents considerable technical problems, though either method
of composing lines can be adopted with equal ease.
of medieval manuscript books in the nineteenth century revealed a structural
freedom which, for both technical and philosophical reasons, was not found
in early printed books; and it upset the well-established convention of
symmetry. But though some printers were prepared to abandon symmetry from
around the middle of the nineteenth century as a means of producing books
in a medieval style, the positive practical advantages of the change were
not appreciated at this stage. Later on in the century the widespread
interest in the intuitive and, to Western eyes, unorthodox aspects of
Japanese art left its mark on printing, and led Whistler to experiment
with asymmetric typography in a more enlightened and original way in a
few of his manifestoes and exhibition catalogues .
commercial growth oflithography in the jobbing field with the introduction
of powered machines shortly after the middle ofthe nineteenth century
was another reason for the movement away from symmetrical design. Lithography
imposed very few technical limitations on the appearance of printing and
lithographic artists and letterers explored its possibilities to the full,
deriving their inspiration from all kinds of sources and combining images
and words in every conceivable way. In face of this threat from lithography
the letterpress jobbing printer developed a similar style in the 1880s
 which became known as Artistic Printing or the Leicester
Free Style (as it was particularly popular among Leicester printers).
It is typified by the rejection of many of the conventions which stemmed
from the traditional craft ofletterpress printing: symmetry was abandoned,
words and ornaments were irrationally placed, decorative rules and flowers
were used with great abandon, and jobs were frequently printed in close
register in many colours. Such virtuoso pieces of typography were made
easier by the invention ofa machine which could bend plain or patterned
rules into all sorts of shapes for decorative purposes, and by the invention
of the small
jobbing platen machine which gave accurate register. All the same, the
time spent in setting work of this complexity could only be justified
economically because of the greater output of the new machines and the
longer runs which were needed to meet growing markets.
Morris and some of his followers in the Private Press Movement took up
the practice of ranging their text to the left on title-pages, book typography
of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for the most part held
firmly to the principle of symmetry. It was only in jobbing printing that
the tradition was seriously challenged. There was no real dogma behind
the change, however, and symmetry was abandoned at first in the course
of producing novel and exciting visual effects, without any serious alternatives
T. Marinetti, Les mots en Liberte futuristes, 1919.
Lissitzky, cover for Merz, 8/9, 1924.
Herbert Bayer, Bauhaus catalogue, 1925.
B.Evans, 'A note on modern typography', in J.C.Tarr, Printing to-day
(London, 1945), p.168
break with symmetry, and other aspects of the typographic tradition as
well, came in the twentieth century; and it formed part of a much wider
movement in art, architecture, and industrial design which challenged
accepted concepts and sought to find new forms more suited to the machine
age. Isolated pleas for a new approach to design which openly embraced
the machine were made in America and Europe around the turn of the century
by Frank Lloyd Wright, Henri van de Velde, and other architects. By the
outbreak of the First World War the movement had taken root on the continent
and had begun to find enthusiastic support from groups of imp assioned
artists. Typography began to be affected by these new ideas just before
the war when the Italian Futurist leader, Marinetti , used
a more dynamic approach to typography in some of the movement's manifestoes
'to give words all the speed and power of aeroplanes, trains, waves, of
explosives, of the sea spray, of atomic energy' .44
Soon after the war the Russian El Lissitzky, who came under the influence
of the Suprematist painter Malevich in Russia, began exploring the visual
possibilities of words in some of his own paintings and, later on, in
printed work as well. He moved to Berlin in 1921, where he met many of
the most advanced thinkers in the arts and took advantage of the better
printing facilities to produce some of his most original typography .
Thereafter, he travelled widely in Europe and became one of the main channels
through which the new ideas about typography and graphic design were spread.
to typography were explored more systematically at the art school, known
as the Staatliches Bauhaus, which was founded by the architect Walter
Gropius at Weimar in 1919. Though Gropius did not lay down any firm policy
at the Bauhaus, he tried to reconcile some of the ideals of the English
Arts and Crafts Movement, which had influenced him strongly, with the
needs of industrial production; and by the time he came to set up the
Bauhaus he had already completed the buildings which form the cornerstone
of twentieth-century architecture and bear witness to an approach which
has since become central to the development of design theory. Typography
became part of the Bauhaus curriculum only after the school's move to
Dessau in 1925. Like other areas of design taught there, it was approached
with a real regard for function, an understanding of production methods,
complete freedom from the fetters of tradition, and an underlying modernity
of style. The typography produced by Herbert Bayer  and others
at the Bauhaus in the 1 920S marks the most profound change in the appearance
of printing since its invention, and represents the first serious attempt
to develop an approach which came to terms with the needs of both the
user and the machine.
centred approach catered reasonably well for most problems encountered
in book design, but it was not nearly adaptable enough to cater for the
needs of advertising and business printing and took no account of the
advent of the typewriter. In answer to these new requirements the typographers
of the Bauhaus abandoned the symmetrical layout and placed their type
in meaningful groups of words or sen tences; and in doing so often arrived
at striking visual arrangements. They frequently set words or lines of
type at right angles to one another and used heavy rules and simple geometrical
shapes to produce powerful abstract arrangements. They also used space
as a positive factor in their designs and made great play with contrasts
of scale, setting a single word or line of type in a very large size in
close proximity to passages of text in composition sizes. The sanserifwas
regarded as the type most in keeping with the spirit of the machine age;
its clean lines and geometrical shapes harmonised well with the prevailing
style, and it marked the most obvious break with the black-letter tradition
of German printing. The pictorial equivalent of the sanserif letter was
photography, which was seen by Bauhaus designers as the most objective,
powerful, and immediate means of pictorial communication.
Jan Tschichold, Die neue Typographie, 1928.
Ashley Havinden, poster for Eno's fruit salt, 1927. Colour lithograph,
designed and produced by W. S. Crawford Ltd, printed by Haycock, Cadle
& Graham Ltd, London. 762 X 508 mm. Victoria & Albert Museum.
so often happens, however, there appears to have been a discrepancy between
theory and practice. Much of the work of the Bauhaus typographers reflects
a struggle between their desire to express the meaning of a message and
their instinctive tendency to produce visually stimulating patterns. The
two need not be in conflict, of course, but in Bauhaus typography which
falls short of the highest standards they sometimes were, and on occasions
words were arbitrarily broken or squeezed into geometrical shapes for the
sake of effect.and at the expense of ease of reading.
break with the past was made in Germany in the late 1920s by Jan Tschichold.
Though he never worked at the Bauhaus, he shared many of the same ideals
and became the publicist of the new movement in typography. In 1928 he
published his Die neue Typographie  and in 1935 his
Typographische Gestaltung, in both of which he described the new
asymmetrical approach to design for printing and demonstrated some of
its applications. Tschichold's work was more restrained than that of the
Bauhaus typographers and shows a greater respect for the meaning of the
text and the method of production; and it is probably for these reasons
that it has had a more lasting influence on the printing trade.
promoted with such enthusiasm on the continent met with little favour
in this country, where printing was still dominated by the book tradition.
English typography was undergoing its own quiet revolution, and Stanley
Morison, Francis Meynell, Bernard Newdigate, Harold Curwen, and Oliver
Simon showed their dissatisfaction with the muddle of Victorian and Edwardian
printing by reviving a straightforward approach to typography based on
the finest examples from the past. Most of the examples they turned to
were books, and the lessons learned from book production were applied
with great discrimination by the Curwen Press and other quality printers
to the field of jobbing work.
magazine Gebrauchsgraphik, founded in 1925, was one of the earliest
channels through which the avant-garde graphic designer in England
came to hear about the new continental ideas. In the first place, as might
be expected, the influence of continental design made itself felt in advertising.
In the 1920S the posters and other publicity designs of McKnight Kauffer
and the work of the most enterprising agencies, such as Crawford's, where
Ashley Havinden was designer, and Greenly's, began to take on exciting
new visual forms . The change revealed a new freedom of spirit
in design rather than any particular dogma, but the trappings of continental
design and painting were taken up with great verve. Many of the visual
images derived in a generill way from cubist painting and other forms
of modern art, and the use of bold lettering, often set on the slant,
stems from German typography. It was the advertisers too who abandoned
for a time the practice of beginning proper nouns with capital letters
and used German types, such as Erbar, Kabel, and Futura.
In the early
1930S the ideals of the New Typography began to be set out for all the
British printing trade to read in articles in Commercial Art, Printing
Review, and Penrose Annual. Tschichold wrote an article entitled
in print' which appeared in Commercial Art (July 1930), and in
1935 an exhibition of his work was held in the London offices of the printing
and publishing firm of Percy Lund, Humphries, for which he worked for
a time as consultant typographer [328, 329]. However, there were
far fewer advocates of the New Typography than there were opponents, and
even those typographers who did attempt to practise it did so with little
real understanding. With the exception of the Penrose Annual for
1938, which was designed by
Guide published in connection with the exhibition of typographical
Jan Tschichold at the offices of Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd, London,
1935. Letterpress, set in Gill Sans and printed by Lund, Humphries
in black and red on grey antique laid paper. Page size 212 X
113 mm. John Johnson Collection.
Penrose Annual, vol. 40, 1938, titlepage. Letterpress,
designed by J an Tschichold and printed by Lund, Humphries & Co.
Ltd. 279 X 203 mm.
S. Morison, First principles of typography (Cambridge, 1936),
p.B (originally published in The Fleuron, no. 7,1930)
himself , the book seems to have escaped its influence almost
entirely in the inter-war years; and when Stanley Morison declared in
his First principles of typography that book typography 'requires an obedience
to convention which is almost absolute'45
he was almost certainly echoing majority current opinion.
the New Typography did leave its mark on jobbing printing in this period,
and the popularity of Gill Sans, which was often used in the 1930s as
a means of giving printing a modern look, must be partly seen as a product
of German influence. Stanley Morison's arresting book jackets for the
publisher Gollancz and Francis Meynell's press advertisements of the 1930s
also show a refreshing new outlook which seems to owe something to continental
influences. Some English printing can be more specifically related to
the new approach to design for printing. The catalogue of Greenly's second
exhi bi tion of modern advertising (1930) is a vigorous pastiche of Bauhaus
typography [331-4]; the use of heavy rules and juxtaposed rectangles
of type clearly relates to their style, and so too does the visual impact
gained by printing in black and green on silver card. The publicity booklet
of the match maker Bryant & May Ltd, which was printed in the early
1930s by the Curwen Press with a cover design by Paul Nash and photographs
by Bruguiere, is a more restrained example of the influence of the new
approach to typography and graphic design [335, 336]. The narrow
margins of the text pages and the use of photographs which bleed off the
page are deliberate breaks with traditional practice, though it will be
noted that the headings are centred on the page. For the most part English
typographers of the interwar years did not understand the full significance
of the New Typography, and certainly did not see its implications in the
fields of business and information printing.
after the Second World War were the possibilities of the New Typography
really explored widely in this country, first by a few pioneers, such
as Anthony Froshaug, Ernest Hoch, and Herbert Spencer, and then more generally
in the 1950s as a result of the influence of Swiss typography. What was
originally seen in England as an experiment with visual elements began
to be taken for its important design implicationsas an approach
to typography more widely adaptable to a range of requirements than the
traditional symmetrical approach.
of Greenly's exhibition of modern advertising, '930. Letterpress,
printed in emerald green and black, the cover on silver card with
blind printing. Page size '72 x 229 mm. John Johnson Collection.
E. P. Leigh-Bennett, Match making, c. 1930. Letterpress, designed
and printed by the Curwen Press, London, with photographs by Bruguiere.
Page size 236 X '75 mm.
use during the last decade of text set with even spacing between words
and a ragged edge to the right, which was itself partly the consequence
of the widespread acceptance of the typewriter, must also be seen as a
contributory factor in the relaxation of the hold of symmetry. It is a
practice which encourages the ranging of headings to the left and, of
course, results in an arrangement of type which has an irregular profile
to the right and is therefore asymmetric. The introduction of ragged-edge
setting has also begun to modify the traditional view that facing pages
of a book should be considered together as a balanced arrangement of two
parts which are virtual mirror images of one another . Though
the individual pages of a traditional book mayor may not be more or less
symmetrically arranged, the placing of items such as page numbers and
running headlines off-centre has been accepted traditionally only when
they conformed to an overall scheme of symmetry which applied to both
pages, that is, when they were placed to the extreme left and right respectively
of opposite pages. Raggededge setting cannot be accommodated by such a
scheme of symmetry, and its widespread use has led to a breakdown of the
monopoly of the traditional view of the book and to an acceptance that
facing pages may equally well
be considered as two separate but related parts arranged side by side
significance of the New Typography does not lie in determining whether
or not type should be symmetrically disposed on a page, any more than
the modern architect is concerned as a matter of principle with whether
to place the front door in the centre of a house. Symmetry has come to
be regarded asjust one of a number of possibilities. The real contribution
of the New Typography is that it brought about a new approach to design
for printing based neither on outmoded craft conventions nor on preconceived
aesthetic principles, but one in which the principal concern is to find
an appropriate solution to a particular problem which has as a prime consideration
the needs of the reader. It is only fair to say that we do not yet know
exactly what these are, and, of course, any piece of printing is likely
to be read by thousands of very different individuals; but there has been
a growing feeling in this country and elsewhere in the last decade that
design for printing should be approached by first asking the question,
'Howcan what we want to communicate be ordered so as to be most easily
Petrus de Crescentiis, Ruralia commoda, Augsburg, 1471. Letterpress,
printed by Johann Schussler. Page size 298 X 215 mm. Reading Universiry
Penrose Annual, vol. 62, 1969. Letterpress, designed by Herbert
Spencer and printed by Lund, Humphries, London and Bradford. Page size
295 X 210 mm.
An algorithm for making a local telephone call. From B. N. Lewis,
I. S. Horabin, and C. P. Gane, Flow charts, logical trees and algorithms
for rules and regulations, CAS occasional paper, no. 2, 1967.
A sample letter drawn with vectors on a cathode-ray tube in
imitation of a Baskerville design. From the Journal of Typographic
Research, vol. I, no. 4, 1967.
to the design of printed material have really been forced upon the typographer
by developments in society as a whole. The growing demands of business,
government, and scholarship have made it essential that printing is read
as quickly, effectively, and with as little physical strain as possible.
Information may need to be read at different levels so that some readers
can skip through and pick up the essence of the contents just by reading
the headings; other information might perhaps be better expressed in simple
diagrammatic form. The very quantity of printing produced in the last
few decades taxes others besides the reader; if printing is not consigned
to the wastepaper basket it has to be classified, catalogued, and stored.
This has led to an increasing use in a number of countries of a rational
system of standard formats for information printing based on a national
standard which was adopted in Germany in the I920s. Methods oflearning
and transmitting information have also brought about changes in printing.
The growth of programmed learning techniques has led to new kinds of printing
which are not sequential in the normal sense, but are designed to be followed
by readers in many different ways. The use of diagrammatic methods for
presenting orderly sequences of operations, known as algorithms, which
have been used by scientists for the purposes of problem solving and communication
for some time, have also begun to be applied more generally in order to
simplify instructions for the general public . The advent
of television and the widespread use of photographic imagery have helped
to create a generation much more reliant on visual means of communication
than ever before, and have led to an increasing use of pictures and diagrams
in printing both to stimulate and to inform. All these changes call for
new approaches to the design of printing where reference to examples from
the past can be of little immediate help.
to traditional practices in typography has been encouraged by recent technical
developments. The widespread use of offset lithography, which allows a
greater freedom in arranging text in relation to illustrations on a wide
range of papers, has helped to break down the convention of printing images
separate from the text which stemmed from the days when copper plates
were used for illustrations. The increasing use of high-quality typewriters
has made us more accustomed to text set with a ragged edge to the right,
and has led to the questioning of the need for the extensive founts of
type used in traditional printing which normally include lower-case letters,
capitals, small capitals, italics, figures, superior figures, and a variety
of other symbols, as well as related bold alphabets. New methods of reproducing
graphic material, such as xerography and microfilm, have drawn attention
to the need for letterforms, illustrations, and overall design which satisfy
a variety of purposes.
the increasing use of computers in connection with traditional composing
machines and cathode-ray tubes has forced the typographer to reconsider
some of his conventions. While computers can be programmed to copy most
features of traditional typography, they can do some things very much
cheaper than others. The most subtle letter designs of the past and the
most complex typographical arrangements can already be simulated reasonably
well on a cathode-ray tube in response to purely numerical data from a
computer , but the cost in computer time is at present extremely
high. Though it is almost certain that costs will come down gradually,
the expense of implementing complex traditional designs compared with
others planned with the machine function in mind is bound to remain high.
What may be a simple mental and manual activity for the compositor is
not necessarily easy for the programmer nor good use of computer time.
The introduction of computers into the field of printing in the last decade
has merely emphasised the already existing need in a complex industry
Institute of Printing, Proceedings of the 1966 International Computer
Typesetting Conference, Advances in computer typesetting,
1967. Designed by Maurice Goldring, computer typeset by Southwark
Offset Ltd, London, and printed offset lithography by Fletcher &
Son Ltd, Norwich. Page size 297 X 210 mm.
Maurice Goldring, one of the master layouts for Advances
in computer typesetting, prepared in advance of receiving details
of the copy, 1966. Sheet size 420 X
The Bible, Revised Standard Version, with illustrations by Horace
Knowles, published by Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd for the British
& Foreign Bible Society, 1968. Letterpress, composed at Stephen
Austin and Sons Ltd, processed by an ICT 1500 computer at Rocappi
Ltd, printed by Collins Clear-type Press. Page size 189 X 135 mm.
her notes to Taylor's scientific memoirs, vol. iii, p.360.
Quoted B.V.Bowden (ed.), Faster than thought; a symposium on digital
computing machines (London, 1953), P.398
designers who are able to understand the limitations and possibilities
of the technology at their disposal. The typographer of today, like his
counterpart in the late eighteenth century, is concerned with planning;
but his problems are more varied, the tools at his disposal are infinitely
more complex, and he has to specify accurately so that others who may
not even speak the same language can understand his intentions [341,
For all the
technological developments in printing in recent years, the hold of tradition
has been very strong. The printing industry, with its longstanding trade
and craft traditions, has a great sense of history. Reading is one of
the most conventional of human activities and, despite recent trends,
many still believe that the printed word is the surest and most effective
means of communication, particularly from one generation to another. Yet
if radical changes are ever to be made in our letterforms and the conventions
we adopt for organising them, no greater opportunity is likely to arise
than in this present period of transition from mechanisation to automation.
The technological advances of the last decade are of even greater significance
for printing than those of the nineteenth century, but the very necessary
experimental work in the use of words and pictures for purposes of communication
has lagged far behind. When all is said and done, a computer can only
do what it is instructed to do. This axiom was phrased very precisely
by Lady Lovelace in 1842 with regard to the first real digital computer,
Charles Babbage's newly invented analytical machine, when she stated that
'It has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do
whatever we know how to order it to perform'. 46
At the time
of writing, it seems that engineers are ordering the machine to perform
in printing what years of experience have shown works reasonably well.
Conventions and the desire to emulate the finest and most complex productions
of traditional printing are still such powerful forces that the introduction
of computers into the field of printing during the last decade has had
little influence on its appearance. The first computer-set Bible, published
for the British & Foreign Bible Society by William Collins in January
1968, is a case in point . Large initial letters, which were
something of an anachronism when they were taken over into printing from
the manuscript tradition, have been used for its chapter openings and
a computer was programmed to instruct 'Monotype' composition casters to
leave the appropriate spaces in the text so that the letters themselves,
as well as illustrations of various shapes, could be dropped in by hand
afterwards. Many other works which have been set with the help of computers,
such as telephone directories, bibliographies, and newspapers, have also
been made indistinguishable from conventionally produced printing both
as a point of honour and as a commercial expedient. History records many
precedents of this kind, and it is worth recalling that when the first
printers experimented in the mid-fifteenth century by casting metal units
and assembling them into lines of words they took for their models the
contemporary manuscript books they saw around them.