Catching up recently on some long-
Tellingly, that successor is called ‘50 Books/
The contrast with the earlier shows couldn’t be greater. Even as late as 1979, a number of small- and/or fine-
It is fascinating to track style and trends across the years and decades. Though these annuals may not have been representative of the entire book trade, it is surprising (especially given the kind of work featured today) that there are so few books from the late 1960s and 1970s, for example, that seem influenced by the pop, neo-
The books of the 1950s through to the mid-
Another trend is telling: work comes not only from small or scholarly presses – the sort which are usually represented in works on printing history – but also from quite mainstream publishers, and from industry, which in another era saw specialty or ‘novelty’ books as appropriate giveaways for clients and put into them the design effort and budget that today might be more wholly dedicated to a corporate identity program and ‘swag’. Americana, including a considerable number of journals of war and exploration by otherwise unknown authors, features heavily in work from all these sources.
One can also track changes, and some lack of changes, in the typefaces used. Kis (‘Janson’) was of course a major force in twentieth-
There are, I was pleased to see, a number of books familiar from my own shelves featured in these archives, including several examples from two sources that I have not seen much featured elsewhere: the Peter Pauper Press, whose work appears quite often in the Fifty Books over the course of many years, and the series of Westvaco Christmas gift books (among other works) designed by Bradbury Thompson.*
I remarked earlier on the presence of textbooks in the show; similarly, the inclusion of several liturgical or religious-
A final, and pleasant, surprise in looking through the archives was the significant number of women designers featured: many more than I might have expected in the era represented.
In all, the archive – though one wishes for much better reproductions – is well worth the perusal, and many of its contents repay much further study. If many legacy typefaces are still unavailable in useable digitizations (of those mentioned earlier, Monotype Bulmer, Monotype Janson, and Barry Schwartz’s versions of Fairfield and of several Goudy faces being the main exceptions; we still await the completion of Schwartz’s Jannon revival) and offset printing usually lacks the richness of letterpress, the typographic refinements available in digital typesetting and the explosion of new type design in recent years – as well as the crispness available in the best offset or digital printing, and even the renewed availability of letterpress – mean that excellent book-
* Thompson was, amusingly to me, called a ‘classicist’ in the juror notes to his Fifty Books of 1968: I would call most of his book work ‘modern classic’ or ‘classic modern’, but a wider audience, knowing mainly his magazine work of the 1950s, would probably still consider him a cutting-
edge graphic designer for his time.