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Archive for December, 2009

The great apostrophe turnaround


The eagle-eyed proofreaders and fact-checkers at The New Yorker clearly didn’t have a go at this pre-Christmas advertisement that came in my e-mail. If I were Eustace Tilley in this image, I’d be peering skeptically not at the butterfly but at the conspicuously backward apostrophe. ’Tis sad, is ’t not?

It wasn’t good association, but it was free


This morning I was trying to think of the name of the musicologist who compiled the famous 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music. “Harry Something-or-other,” I muttered to myself. The name I wanted was Harry Smith, but what my sieve-like brain came up with instead was Harry Carter. I immediately found myself imagining an alternate history in which noted typographic historian Harry Carter had gone out and conducted field recordings of ephemeral fonts. He would have hunted down an agèd and forgotten Garamond in the back country of northern France, a frail but feisty Bodoni in a village in the Apennines. Carter’s compilation would be credited with sparking the later type revival that swept the coffeehouses and small printshops of post-Eisenhauer America.

All right, my flight of fantasy probably owed more to another musicologist, Alan Lomax, and his father John, who actually did conduct field recordings to an extent that Harry Smith never did. But the imagination isn’t held back by petty fact.

Dublin & Birmingham, Nov. 2009


Last month I went to Dublin, and to Birmingham and London in the UK – so soon after returning from Typ09 in Mexico that it felt as though I was just visiting this interesting city called “Seattle” for a brief time. The main purpose of the trip was to check out venues and talk to organizers for next year’s ATypI conference in Dublin, but the timing was occasioned by my being invited to speak at the one-day Typographic Horizons conference in Birmingham (and incidentally to stay an extra day and address the Chitterlings typographers’ dinner). We flew into and out of London, so we had a chance to see a small sampling of our friends in London, too.

Typographic Horizons was a small but enthusiastic conference, bringing together some of the energy of Birmingham’s design community. Caroline Archer and Alexandre Parré, and the hosts at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, have ambitions to make Birmingham a design center. London, of course, is the metropolis, but second-city Birmingham actually finds it easier to attract people from around the country, including London, according to Caroline. And besides, it’s got three-foot-high stone statues of John Baskerville’s punches.

Dublin Castle is a remarkable venue, well set up for conferences of all kinds; and Dublin is a delightful city. We certainly enjoyed the Guinness (“the wine of the country,” as James Joyce called it) and the comfortable pubs that served it. Clare Bell and Mary Ann Bolger, the principal organizers of next year’s conference, were well organized and cheerful hosts; so were their colleagues at the Dublin Institute of Technology, which will be hosting the conference. We saw only a small bit of the city, but enough to be sure that it will be a good site for ATypI; Irish culture is so intimately tied up with literature that naturally the theme of the conference is going to be “The Word.” On the last day, before Mary Ann headed off to the picket lines for a one-day public-service strike, we managed to see the National Print Museum, which is full of presses, type, and printing artifacts of all kinds, as well as printed matter, including one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 proclamation of the Irish Republic.

I’ve posted a few photos from the trip on Flickr. This is just a taste; I took lots of shots of the interior spaces of Dublin Castle, but most of them will only be of interest to the organizers. You’ll see them all – the spaces, that is – when you show up next September for the conference.

Typ09 happened


I was too busy during Typ09, the 2009 ATypI conference in Mexico City, to write anything for this blog (or for much of anything else), but it wasn’t for lack of potential content. The conference was very well attended and full of ideas; everyone I’ve talked to seemed to think that the program was particularly stimulating, and the cultural and intellectual milieu was rich and intense.

Many thanks to the organizers of the conference – especially to Ricardo Salas, the mastermind of the whole event; to the indispensible Mónica Puigferrat and Paulina Rocha; to Marina Garone and Leonardo Vásquez, of the program and exhibitions committees, respectively; to Roger Black, who got the ball rolling; and to Barbara Jarzyna, ATypI’s conference organizer and executive director.

Although I didn’t have time to write anything, I did take a lot of photos. I posted an early batch to Flickr before the conference began, and later added quite a few more. Most of them even have captions! Here they are.

[Photos: Typ09 banner and posters at Anáhuac University (left); Mark Barratt & Simon Daniels at a sidewalk bar in the Centro Histórico (below, top, L–R); one of the multiple screens in the main program at MIDE (below, bottom).]

Mark Barratt & Simon Daniels

Main program at MIDE