Brian's History of Communication Design Blog

Weekly exposition on recent learnings.


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final post

For my final posting, I wanted to share the photos I took on our class trip to the Vancouver Public Library’s Special Collections floor. We saw some amazing books.

The first three photos are of an abbess’ Book of Days, an incunabula on vellum.

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We then saw a leaf from the Gutenberg bible.

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This was followed by an early book, printed in Venice. The page was densely covered in type.

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Of particular interest to me was a book fo Martin Luther’s works, in Latin, that had been owned by William Morris. One has to wonder how much influence the typesetting and type design had on Morris himself.

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To contrast against Morris, we also looked at Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament.

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There was a classic example of Morris’ work available as well. True to form, the frontispiece was more elaborate than the inner pages.

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Finally, we looked at Owen Jones’ masterpiece, his two volume work on Alhambra. It was exquisite and reminded me of all the work I’d done on Islamic themes.

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The King James Bible or Shakespeare

The last class reviewed the early history of the printed page, from the Roman-inspired incunabula through the advent of Gutenberg A comment made by the professor was how Gutenberg’s bible led to the standardization of modern German. And although there was no German state, there was certainly a German language. The Gutenberg bible, therefore, standardized orthography and word use.

I began to wonder, therefore, about modern English. I had read and long believed that Shakespeare, with his extremely broad and inventive vocabulary, and his active adoption of non-London dialects into his plays, had a profound impact on the standardization of modern English.

But when you consider that it was indeed the KJV of the bible that had a far greater scope of reach than Shakespeare (after all, most homes would have a bible, but not everyone would bother to buy plays), I began to realize that the KJV would have a much greater impact than Shakespeare.

Indeed, the King James bible added 257 idioms to English, more than any single source, including Shakespeare, including, according to Wikipedia, feet of clay and reap the whirlwind. Not to mention the standardized orthography.

I guess Shakespeare worship is best left to the English literature department. His plays are brilliant, but he didn’t have the overall effect on modern English at the level that the KJV did.


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Vienna Secession Typeface Reborn in Psychedelia

We were reviewing the various movements that followed on after Art Nouveau (Jugendstil, the Glasgow School, and the Vienna Secession), and it was interesting to see how the typefaces of the Vienna Secession developed. At first they were similar in their clarity and elongated forms to those of the Glasgow School, but they soon developed more abstract, less legible, forms.

Of particular note was one by Alfred Roller, shown here in an example of a calendar page from Ver Sacrum.

Ver Sacrum August

Alfred Roller typeface in Ver Sacrum

When I saw this I immediately thought of the typeface used in late 1960s psychedelia posters, particularly those from San Francisco. I found two examples that used Roller’s typeface:

brignallimg2Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore

I think it’s great that it might have taken nearly 70 years for the renaissance to occur, but that a perfect one did happen for Roller’s very unique typeface.