Friday, February 22, 2013

26 Letters Inspired by Other Letters

In 2009, Russell Maret designed twenty-six letters based upon the literary references, musings, and insights gained from many distinguished type historians, poets, writers, and type designers such as Baskerville, Bodoni, Koch and Zapf. His book Æthelwold Etc. is the compilation of these letterform explorations and a measure of his skills as a fine press printer. In the colophon, Maret describes this undertaking "as a dialogue with history, particularly with the historical form of the writing manual."
     Not content to design just the 26 different letters of the alphabet for this book, Maret insisted upon designing all of the text fonts for it as well. The text and the "images" were printed from 163 plates in 105 different colors on a Vandercook proof press, and printed on Hahnemühle Biblio paper. The "A" alone is printed in eight separate ink runs.

     Æthelwold Etc. was one of many fine showstoppers at the recent Codex Book Arts Fair which deserve a full mention, however my crappy digital cell phone photos can do it no justice. Not all 26 letters are featured here, but dang near. 

G for Golden, as in the perpetually spiraling golden rectangle I presume. 


The utopiate U composition uses actual text from De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater, for the shading of the dimensional letterform. The text is set in Maret's own rendition of Thomas More's Utopian alphabet. 

After mixing and testing the ink colors, Maret puts each ink into a loose packet for a week in order to stiffen it up. This way his halftones have almost no ink gain. 

It is impossible to do justice to the printing of this book with digital photos, but this one from Maret's own blog provides some idea of the seamless texture he gets with his halftones and inks which give it the appearance of a watercolor. Bear in mind, Maret printed this book entirely on a Vandercook proof press. 

The first four pages of the color diary for this book. Below is the deluxe set edition of Æthelwold Etc. with the book, the color diary of ink draw downs, and a portfolio of all 26 letters. All three are housed in a clamshell box. The standard edition is just the book alone.

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