Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Free Art Talent Test! See Offer Inside

Before the term "graphic designer" became part of our lexicon, many artist correspondence schools popped up across the country to train "commercial artists" for careers in advertising. During the 1940s and 50s, matchbook advertising was considered one of the most effective methods of reaching a wide audience of young talent, (or maybe they just assumed all artists were smokers at the time). The schools encouraged men and women to enter their talent tests and submit drawings for chances to win scholarships and earn big money. Although tempted myself, I was too young to enter, but I can recall carefully copying some of the "Draw Me" matchbook illustrations of dogs in the early sixties. It was my first introduction to the world of advertising art. Note to students: this old matchbook talent test still has merit, and would make a great lettering exercise in class this quarter. Stand on notice! The matchbook gem above is from Michael Karshis' Flickr photostream. 

There is something so delicious about this clown drawing and the awkward "circus type". It looks more like an advertisement for clown school than art school. It is from Animation Archive where you can read a great post on the Famous Artists School correspondence courses.

Naked girlz and men smoking pipes were a constant theme of many of the advertising campaigns. This cover is one from Design for Good. 

Earn Big Money drawing "Spunky"! From Calsidyrose's Flickrstream.

Art Talent Hunt from What is This? New talent needed!

Front and inside covers of the landscape challenge. From eBay.

Free art contest! Draw the Boxer and you may be a winner too. Front and inside matchcover from the Letterology Archives.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Spreading The Love

Christopher James of Porridge Papers in Lincoln, Nebraska is the Cupid of the Typosphere. Since 2008, he has been hosting Love on the Run, a free pre-Valentine's Day event merging vintage typewriters, love notes and special delivery services. Anyone can stop by his shop and type out a love note on an old working typewriter, onto some nice Mohawk Ultra Fuschia paper and have it sent to a designated Valentine by special delivery. Each note gets rolled up to fit inside a little bottle, and then packaged inside a letterpressed bag made with handmade wildflower seed (for Spring planting), and delivered in time for the Valentine's holiday. With four years of Cupid expertise, James would now like to assist businesses in other cities to adopt this Free Love campaign. Stop in at his Kickstarter site to watch a short video and learn how you can help spread the love in your neighborhood in the future. My only question to him is, "Do you have any Pink-Out on hand in case of typos?"  
::Thanks to my friend Alyson Kuhn of Felt-n-Wire for spreading the typewriter love links.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Poetical Works & Letters of Robert Burns

In honor of Robert Burns birthday today (1759-1796), I have one of my own favorite title pages to share from a 1787 edition of The Poetical Works and Letters of Robert Burns. I recently found this book on a flea market table for $10. It has a very nice stamped leather binding with some wear, gilded edges and it is all in tact. Evidently, this is the "family edition" of this book. Just beyond the title page it has the comment "(In this Edition the more Objectionable Passages and Pieces are excluded)". The decorative title with beautiful line art and blackletter text is an inspired work of lettering and illustration. I have seen other titles of this very same nature, but so it goes...I can't seem to put my fingers upon them now. (I have digital copies of them floating around here somewhere, so will revisit their comparisons again later once I find them). This title page and other illustrated pages throughout the book are steel engravings. Below is the same edition of this book I found on The Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company site recently. It has a plaid front cover and a nice fore-edge painting of Ripley Castle.   

This beautiful edition of the same Burns book is currently on display through February 5th for a Robert Burns exhibit at the Morgan Library in New York City. It was lavishly rebound for Charles J. Sawyer (1876?-1931), in the 20th century, probably by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, in London. The binder even included a miniature portrait of the author on the back cover. Visit the Morgan Library's online exhibit and you can listen to some audio versions of Burns works over a hearty meal of haggis tonight—or not. 

 This is how the poet's birthday was celebrated in Glasgow a few years back.

Birds and Words

In my mind, this set of 1959 Czechoslovakian postage stamps designed by painter, illustrator, lettering artist, teacher and stage designer Karel Svolinsky (1896-1986) and engraved by Jirka Ladislav, are some of the most beautiful I've seen. The illustrations of the birds with the lovely script lettering, and the high quality multi-color engravings, set these Czech stamps apart as works of art. More of Svolinsky's postage stamp artwork can be seen in two of my earlier posts here and here, and in this set of lovely postcards in a recent post. Look for many more of his stamp designs to come in the future.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sweet Packaging

Swiss Chocolat Suchard ad from pages of the Allgemeine Illustrirte Zeitung, 1886. Via the Flickrstream of Mosh Garumpelaxias

Tiny French Chocolate paper sleeve wrapper for a bite-size vanilla chocolate from Chocolat Menier, 1878. From the Letterology Archives.

Tiny caramel candy paper box from the Gum & Sweetmeat Co. of New York, undated. Folded size is 1.5 inches long. From the Letterology Archives. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Treasures of the 19th Century Dutch Book Trade

Catalog cover for an association to promote the interests of booksellers in Amsterdam in the 19th century. Below is an 1876 advertisement for a bookstore.

1883 menu for the Book Society dinner.
Lithographed bookstore poster, 1903. Designed by William Bernard. Below is a promotion for the International Exhibition of Books and other related subjects. 

Drawing of an exhibit for the Netherlands Booksellers Association. Below is a chromolithographed poster from 1875 for a children's bookstore. 
The book trade in Europe during the early part of the 19th century was a prospering and flourishing industry, despite few major advancements since Gutenberg's era. Earlier this month I reported on a Dutch book about The Making of Books in 1850. This happens to be sort of a companion post to it, and just like the earlier post, these images of the 19th century book trade in the Netherlands also belong to the University of Amsterdam's Bibliotheek van het Boekanvak, or the library of the Book Trade. Their rich archive contains booksellers' catalogs, type specimens, posters, source material about the production and design of books, and ephemera from the printing industry.   This library contains one of the largest and most comprehensive historical collections in the world documenting printing and book design.
      This just in: For those of you lucky enough to be in Amsterdam between February 8th and May 13th 2012, you might enjoy visiting the University of Amsterdam's exhibition, The Printed Book, A Visual History. The exhibit and companion book by the same name which is compiled by Mathieu Lommen, curator of graphic design, covers 500 years of Western book design. According to the press release, "
It showcases book design in all its forms: reference works, and works of art, 'for reading machines' and picture books, prestigious collector's items and throw away paperbacks. It includes work by famous printers of the hand-press period—Nicolas Jenson, Aldus Manutius, Christophe Plantin, the Elzeviers, John Baskerville, Giambattista Bodoni—and trendsetting designers of the modern era—William Morris, El Lissitzky, Jan Tschichold, Paul Rand, Massin, Irma Boom. It also includes remarkable illustrated works by architects and artists such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Maria Sibylla Merian. Special attention is devoted to printers' manuals, illuminating the printing process, and also to type specimens and writing masters' copybooks, placing letterforms in a broader context."
      Below is a glimpse of the exhibition design by Experimental Jetset. I am so ready to pack my bags!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Check Out This Library Material

Leave it to librarians to uncover some great film and TV clips about libraries and setting it to a dance beat. This is over 5 minutes of solid gold material and long past due. Excellent editing of 31 different Hollywood clips by Ryan Ireland and the staff at the Greene County Public Library in Ohio. Parker Posey has to be the best librarian! Thanks to Booktryst for the tip on this one. Made my day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Glacial Graffiti

Loving the snow today! The graphical interface outside today is amazing! ;)
::from aesthetic sensibility

Illuminating Characters

These hand-illuminated letters are no wallflowers. They are spirited characters of nobility and deserve to be illuminated once again. Their geometric and botanical designs are not refined, yet quite beautiful none-the-less. They can be found in an early printed Italian book on the history of Rome, titled Scriptores Historiae Augustae, from the Special Collections of the University of Glasgow and published by Philippus de Lavagnia in 1475. The letters are thought to have been added to the text in the 15th or 16th century, though their style appears as if they could have been illustrated just yesterday. Many have exaggerated serifs, some are sans serifs and a few have more literal interpretations such as the "I" above which vaguely resembles a chalice. All of the illuminated letters are on view at the University of Glasgow's flickr set.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ephemeral Books

I'm rather intrigued by the ice book projects of Basia Irland who is an environmental artist concerned with river and watershed restoration. She works with research biologists, botanists, stream ecologists and community groups on various conservation projects to promote healthy watersheds. As part of her river restoration projects, she works with participants to hand carve ice books of frozen river water and embeds each with local native seeds which become sort of an "ecological language or riparian text" as she calls it. As the frozen books are launched downstream, the ice melts in the river's current and the seeds are released. Theoretically the seeds will grow into plants and trees which help to stabilize the river banks and provide shelter for fish and wildlife. I imagine this could happen, but it seems rather overly simplistic to me. I do appreciate the concept however and think her ephemeral books are beautiful. They promote an awareness of watershed preservation and restoration, and oh yeah, it must be really fun to watch ice books float downstream. You can watch a video of Irland's ice book project Receding/Reseeding here.

This ice book weighed 200 pounds and included seeds of the mountain maple, columbine, and spruce. It was released in Boulder Creek, Colorado in 2007.

A young ice book reader wonders why there are no pictures. 

Irland makes other materials in the construction of her environmental books. The one above is Barnacle Book II on the shores of Puget Sound in Washington state. Below is a text of sand dollars in what else, but sand.

The Book of Drought is made from parched field notes and dehydrated paragraphs. The pages are dry from being sun-baked.