The relevance of typographical collections for today’s designers
Tipoteca italiana, Cornuda, Italy, 2-3 October 2015
For those who couldn’t make it to Cornuda, you will find a photo album of the event in the Aepm Flickr Gallery.
Theme of the conference
Who cares about about outmoded letterpress techniques in the digital âge? Old machines and metal type are nice to look at, but do they serve any real purpose? Do they have anything to say to us today? Why should museums worry about preserving them and the traditional skills which they represent?
Designers are in the business of constantly reinventing the visual world in which we live. They do it by combining letters, images and white space to produce hand-crafted mass produced products. One of the essential raw materials of graphic design is type. And one of the principal sources of type as a raw material is history – the history of type design and type-based printing processes. Why does type look the way it does? What makes it work? Why are types different? How does type relate to technological, economic and cultural change?
Printing museums preserve the artefacts and the traditional skills of typography. As such, they are a key to understanding the history and uses of type; a means of understanding what is new and what remains the same in type-based communication as it confronts massive technological change; a prism through which graphic designers can look at an industrial, cultural and technical activity which helped forge the modern world. As such, printing museums are a vital resource for designers.
The conference considered the many ways in which typographical collections can be used (and are used) by graphic designers and all those interested in the development of graphic communication.
Friday 2nd October
The Friday session will take place at the Tipoteca italiana, Via Canapificio, 3, Cornuda, Italy
08.30 – 09.30
09.30 – 10.00
President of the Tipoteca italiana foundation
Chair, AEPM, former director of the Museum of printing and graphic communication, Lyon, France
New studies of fifteenth-century Venetian types
The progress of roman type in Italy from 1464 to Nicolas Jenson’s design of 1470 was extraordinarily rapid. Jenson’s model was copied and became a standard until Francesco Griffo’s modified design for the De Aetna type was printed in 1496. Forty years later Griffo’s roman inspired copies by Augereau, Garamond and other punchcutters in Paris. Those types were re-exported to Italy and became a universal standard that has continued right up to our digital times.
Riccardo Olocco will discuss his work on Griffo’s type and analyze some enlarged photos of his romans. He will also suggest a new method for naming and describing early typefaces that could replace the unsatisfactory system based on the measurement of twenty lines of type used by scholars of incunabula.
10.40 – 11.10
11.10 – 11.50
Professor of bibliography and library studies, University of Udine, Italy
Shapely variants. Letter design and typecutting in Renaissance Venice
The departure point of this paper is an observation of John Dreyfus in an article on the figure of Hans Mardersteig and his studies of Renaissance type. A Renaissance type-case, with its abbreviations and compendiums, was inevitably much richer and more varied than a modern one, especially once the shape of type was allied to the moulds in a Monotype or Linotype caster. What also seems to have been commonplace was the use of multiple punches for the same letter, creating minute, often imperceptible, differences in shape, that nevertheless contribute to the sense of variety that occurs when we look at the pages in Renaissance books. This talk looks at evidence for the presence of multiple punches in the type cut by Francesco Griffo for the Aldine Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499).
Standing on the shoulders of giants
At the beginning of his career, more than three decades ago, Fred Smeijers faced numerous unanswered questions. That’s when he headed to Plantin-Moretus Museum to take a closer look at the artefacts preserved in their collections. And it is certain that, over the years, the Plantin-Moretus’ collections have been pivotal in shaping the course of Smeijers’ s career as a type designer, as a researcher, and as a teacher.
In his lecture, Fred Smeijers will elaborate with real-life examples how an interest in historical sources can stimulate those searching for a deeper understanding of their subject matter. He will show how faint echoes from the distant past can come to play a major role in one’s life. And how small bits of historical evidence can lead to a whole new course of events today.
12.30 – 14.00
Referencing and creating types: how a digital font foundry can be nourished by a heritage collection
For seven years now, the Nonpareille digital typefoundry has been offering its customers a variety of fonts in different styles. Many of them would never have been designed without the constant input from my work with the Musée de l’imprimerie et de la communication graphique in Lyon: a collaboration which also started seven years ago. The setting up and referencing of the ‘French Typographic Corpus’, and the pursuit of various other heritage-related projects in the Museum, have offered me many opportunities to discover and study exceptional lead types waiting to be revived. Thanks to these various activities my knowledge of the history of typography has grown and I have been able to reflect on the pertinence of typographic revivals in the 21st Century and the many questions that they raise. How did this interaction of design and type heritage start and how did it develop: I’ll tell the story through the creation of three typefaces: Henry, Battling and Louize.
14.40 – 15.20
Phil Baines & Catherine Dixon
Central Saint Martins, London, United Kingdom
Back to the classroom: the Central Saint Martins museum & study collection and Central lettering record (CLR)
The museum at the college has its origins in a teaching collection set up in 1895 by London’s Technical education board under the direction of W R Lethaby, the founding principal of the Central school of arts & crafts (the Central). Holdings relevant to graphic design and typography students include manuscripts, printed books from the C15 onwards, and original works by alumni and staff such as Edward Johnston, Eric Gill, and others.
The Central lettering record (CLR) is a collection of images and artefacts about all aspects of lettering begun by Nicholas Biddulph with photographs by James Mosley in c.1963. The collection was developed by Biddulph and Nicolete Gray, and now also includes photographs by Alan Bartram as well as the current curators Phil Baines & Catherine Dixon.
After a period of time locked away in the Library the CLR is, through the determined efforts of Baines & Dixon, once again located within the studio environment and a working part of the Graphic communication programme’s resource. Along with the Museum & study collection it is actively used to support teaching, learning and research at the college, and through both collections it is possible to offer a view of the development of writing, lettering and type design from Roman lettering, through illuminated manuscripts, incunabula and early printed books to the development of the private presses in the 20th century and to the current digital era.
Change as a Constant
Celebrating 10 years as Designer in Residence at The Glasgow School of Art, Edwin Pickstone will discuss design, collaboration and the potential of typographic collections. By exploring the diverse motivations, methods and outcomes of a decade of projects, this talk aims to address why and how letterpress facilities can be relevant to contemporary design practice.
16.00 – 17.30
From Pantograph to Pixel: the sharing of an analog museum in the digital age
Brothers Jim and Bill Moran will discuss the heritage, protection and digitization of the Hamilton wood type & printing museum. What began as a modest but significant museum with a collection of type, patterns and presses in 1999, HWT has blossomed in the 21st century because of digital fonts, social media and the DIY movement. Founded in 1880, Hamilton Manufacturing was the largest maker of wood type in the U.S. The Moran brothers with a staff of 3 and a small army of volunteers have explored various ways of sharing the collection with graphic designers and others.
17.10 – 17.20
Museum of typography, Crete, Greece
The Museum of typography poster annual poster competition
Searching for a connection between typographic collections and modern designers is something that has concerned the Museum of typography for the past couple of years. Professional graphic designers, artists and photographers find both information and inspiration when they visit the museum. But what we were looking for was a stimulus that could attract creative attention and transform it to something tangible. And what could be more relevant to that, than an annual poster contest about typography, leading to a poster exhibition hosted in the Museum, updated every year with the winning posters of each contest. After the successful results of the last two years, it seams that this initiative serves its purpose and is here to stay.
17.20 – 18.00
Discussion and conclusions
18.10 – 20.00
Visiting time and cocktail at the Tipoteca italiana
Saturday 3rd October
The Saturday morning session will take place in Treviso with an afternoon visit to Venice.
09.00 – 11.00
Annual general meeting of the Association of European printing museums
Open to members of the Association only.
Excursion to Venice with a visit to a typographically interesting collection
Details to be announced.