Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Musical Notes on Type

These two random flea market finds this past weekend got me thinking about the nature of their appeal. They are sheet music ads from a catalog circa 1870 to 1880 most likely. Each measure about 5x8" and appear to be produced by the same hand. I think my attraction to them was seeing the combination and styles of fonts used, the layouts and their naive charm. By late 19th century standards, they were likely designed by someone with a fairly educated eye, and conformed to trending design standards using centered and justified layouts, frequent use of ornaments and decorated rules, combined with a large mix of handsomely designed display and text fonts. I sometimes wonder if typesetters got paid by the punctuation mark, as they had a tendency to litter their layouts with periods after single words and phrases as if they were a spice. These two layouts are no exception. 
     My forensic google findings turned up leads on the two mentioned companies; the Wm. A. Pond & Co. of New York and the Chicago Music Co. which were both dealers in printed sheet music. Pond also had a fine reputation as a manufacturer of pianos, organs and various musical instruments such as woodwinds and guitars. But it is the sheet music which most interests me. Songsheet publishers relied on highly skilled lettering artists and designers to produce their elaborate cover designs, many of them printed as multi-colored chromolithographs. The finest examples were published just after the Civil War and peaking about 1890. So this may explain the appeal of these two music catalog sheets. Though they aren't nearly as elaborate as so many of the songsheet cover designs, they still boast a charm. The job typesetter took great care to choose fonts and sizes which suitably express the concept of hierarchical standards in information design. Below are examples of other published songsheets with lettering on steroids from the Wm A. Pond companyThe Drums & Trumpets is part of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection of the Indiana State Museum. The other two songsheets are from the Library of Congress collection.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful examples! It somehow reminds of quotes/rules from "Nineteenth Century Job Printing Display - The Poster", a little guide about typesetting printed by Bowne & Co., Stationers:


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