Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Candy

Several weeks ago, I was giving a lesson to my book design students about the pleasures and perils of using initial caps in their texts. It was purely unintentional, but many of the examples I included in my slide show lecture happened to be decorative capital I's. Of all the letters in the alphabet, the I is not a particularly beautiful letter, but these featured designers each brought them to life. The example immediately above is a hand-rendered porchoir stencil surrounding an open cap I, and it was designed by Vance Gerry (1929-2005) of the Weather Bird Press in Los Angeles, for his book Porchoir.

This lovely initial cap I designed by Saul Marks (1904-1974) of the Plantin Press in Los Angeles, was for a book he designed and printed on the influential British designer and bookbinder T.J. Cobden-Sanderson. Mark's distinguished capital I is composed entirely of printers' ornaments and is a remarkable achievement which he often skillfully repeated in his work with other letters of the alphabet. I am most grateful to my good friend Bonnie Thompson-Norman for generously sharing her fine book collection and to let me photograph many of these lovely books.

The third lovely cap I is a wood engraving designed by British artist Miriam MacGregor for the Matrix in the article, The forgotten pleasures of hand-setting. MacGregor was very successful in interpreting the concept of this story with her design of a hand setting the I in its' place as a drop cap within the text. She cleverly invites the reader to participate in this story from the beginning which is one of the primary role's of a typographer.

Last, and least in this series, is what I refer to as a raised I of Newt cap. This oversized initial cap happened to appear earlier last month in a New York Times Magazine article on the rise of Newt Gingrich as the Republican party's flavor-of-the-week frontrunner in the race to the White House. Kudos to the NYT design team for selecting the oversized slab serif for the I of Newt. A perfect fit me thinks!

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