Category: Collections-based research

Early lithography around the world: objects, processes, and experiences, workshop report

Early lithography around the world: objects, processes, and experiences was a workshop that was convened by Reading PhD candidates Borna Izadpanah, and Wei Jin Darryl Lim. It was conceived together with, and led by Professor Emeritus Michael Twyman, and was held in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication on the 27 March 2018. The workshop was planned as a series of informal sessions and brought together a select number of colleagues working internationally in various disciplines and professions, from conservation and restoration, to type design, and printing and book history.

A collections-based approach was central to Early lithography around the world. To that end, Michael Twyman drew upon his personal collection of printed artefacts originating from, and relating to the lithographic printing trade across two centuries, and set up a rare exposition – a miniature exhibition to be specific – of his personal collection of items, supplemented by the lithographic stones collection, and ephemera collection of the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. Artefact- and materials-handling was instrumental to the delivery of the workshop, and at various instances participants were strongly encourage to handle, study, and observe – by sight and touch – the visual and material nuances of a variety of objects: from a miniature model of a star wheel press, lithographed trade cards, manuscript bills of sale, to limestone fragments from France and from the Solnhofen quarries in Bavaria.

Divided into several parts, the workshop was loosely arranged around the themes of lithographic stones and their sources, trade tools and technology, operations and production, and products of the press. Our session began with Michael presenting and highlighting the intrinsic importance of lithographic stones to the nature of the technology and trade, regardless of geographic location, or scale of printing operation. This intense, in-depth presentation about the geological qualities of the lithographic stone bred fertile discussion by drawing in a new area of research consideration, with participants sharing anecdotes and bringing contributions from their own areas of expertise and interests. This was followed by a discussion about the lithographer’s tools – pens, crayons, and various paraphernalia employed by writers working in the trade, and the technicalities, considerations, and issues behind the operation of a lithographic press. The printed products emanating from presses were examined next; with participants learning how to identify specific characteristics that gave clues into how a lithographed piece might have been originated, multiplied and printed. Particular attention was paid to distinguishing between writing done in reverse on stone, and work done the right way round on transfer paper, and then transferred to stone. Various types of artefacts – books, pamphlets, newspapers, ephemera – printed from the various sub-branches of lithographic technology were also meticulously examined and handled; including products printed by gillotage, a process that was used to convert lithographic marks made on stone (or transferred to it) into relief images.

Numerous productive discussions punctuated the day. Participants actively drew connections and shared insights from their own specialisations in Persian, South Asian and Southeast Asian branches of research, and shared understandings from their awareness of localised conditions of adapting and using lithographic presses, the qualities of how specific Asian scripts were rendered, all in relation to the topic of lithography. Attendees that participated in Early lithography around the world included Emily Müller, paper conservator and Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Jasdip Singh Dhillon, book conservator with the Oxford Conservation Consortium with a keen interest in Sikh lithographed books; Aardarsh Rajan, Masters by Research candidate and type designer; Suman Bhandary, Masters in Typeface Design candidate; Sallie Morris, the Typography Department’s Collections Research Assistant; Professor Fiona Ross, a type designer and historian; and Vaibhav Singh, typographer, typeface designer, and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Reading.

Science communication for children

A new AHRC-funded project begins today. Transforming science for young people: Marie Neurath and Isotype books for children aims to find new audiences for the approach to science communication taken by Marie Neurath in her books for children, produced in the 1940s and 1950s. The illustrations in these books, in series such as the ‘Wonder world of nature’ and ‘Wonders of the modern world’, were innovative in their approach to the design of complex information.

Following on from Isotype revisited, the project will make extensive use of the materials in the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, to identify approaches to science communication relevant to teaching in primary schools today. We will work with teachers and teacher educators as part of the design process to ensure that their ideas and needs are taken into account. Pilot schools will be involved in evaluating the effectiveness of the resources to ensure they are relevant and effective.

An exhibition at House of Illustration in London in summer 2019, Marie Neurath: Picturing Science, will display examples of Marie Neurath’s illustrations from the children’s books, as well as sketches, drawings and correspondence that show the iterative nature of the design process.

Project people and partners

Prof Sue Walker and Prof Eric Kindel, Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading

Dr Andrew Happle, Institute of Education, University of Reading

Dr Emma Minns (Project Officer)

Partners:

Design Science

House of Illustration

Activity in Antwerp

Our use of the Lettering, Printing and Graphic Design Collections in the Typography Department, and our distinctive approach to collections-based research, was exceptionally well demonstrated at the 2018 ATypI conference in Antwerp. We enjoyed top quality presentations by Typography staff and PhD students. In a conference with over 550 international delegates, who repeatedly mentioned the ‘Reading’ influence in conversations and comments, it was humbling to realise just how influential and significant our work with collections has been in developing new knowledge about type and typography, and in inspiring people to undertake research.

Typography staff

Fiona Ross and Alice Savoie introduced their new Leverhulme-funded project: ‘Women in Type
Eric Kindel: ‘Objet-type: the French stencil letter

AHRC-funded Design Star PhD students

Riccardo Olocco: ‘The success of Jenson’s roman type
Borna Izadpanah: ‘Early Persian printing and typography in Europe

Recently graduated PhD student

Emanuela Conidi: ‘Uncovering Arabic type history, informing design

Letterpress: possibilities & practice

Due to popular demand, now on until 20 July 2018

We’re pleased to announce the continuation of our exhibition, ‘Letterpress: possibilities & practice’, until Friday 20 July 2018. Stop by to see a range of innovative letterpress practices and possibilities. To tempt you, two practices in the exhibition are featured below. Read on!

 

Reconstructing historical typography

Letterpress printing practice encompasses scholarly investigations of historical typography in pursuit of new knowledge. The two examples on display here involve the reconstruction of fifteenth-century relief printing surfaces in an effort to better understand the production of well known incunable works. The type on the left (in the image, below) is a facsimile of that used in Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible, printed in 1455. It has been composed to replicate a page from that book. The type was produced as part a BBC Four documentary, ‘The machine that made us’, on the life and work of Johannes Gutenberg, featuring Alan May alongside Martin Andrews and Stephen Fry. On the right are type and decorated borders and initials that together comprise a speculative reconstruction of the relief surfaces used to print a multi-coloured page from the 1457 Mainz Psalter of Fust & Schoeffer. The reconstruction was part of a research project to investigate Fust & Schoeffer’s probable working methods.

Reconstructing historical typography. Gutenberg, 42-line Bible. Reconstructed B-42 printing type (in vitrine, at left); page printed from reconstructed type (on wall, at left). Produced by Alan May and others, c. 2008 (original: 1455). Fust & Schoeffer, Mainz Psalter. Reconstructed three-colour printing surface; blocks for single-colour pre-inking (in vitrine, at right); printed page (on wall, at right). Produced by Alan May, c. 2013 (original: 1457).
Gutenberg, 42-line Bible. Reconstructed B-42 printing type (detail).
Fust & Schoeffer, Mainz Psalter. Reconstructed three-colour printing surface; blocks for single-colour pre-inking (at right).
Fust & Schoeffer, Mainz Psalter. Reconstructed three-colour printing surface (detail).

 

Re-invention of historical technique

This work has been created by the Leipzig designer, Pierre Pané-Farré. It takes its inspiration from compound-plate printing, a nineteenth-century technique that exploited multiple interlocking printing surfaces. Inked separately (in different colours) and then combined, a single impression would be taken from the interlocking surfaces, resulting in precisely aligned multicolour printed images. Pané-Farré has revisited the technique using laser-cut MDF printing surfaces, which produced the various sets of interlocking components displayed here. Ink was applied to each component in the set, either as ‘flat’ colour or in graduated hues. The set was then printed in a single impression to produce the polychromatic prints. The project was accompanied by the publication of Die polychrome Druckerei (Leipzig: Institut für Buchkunst, 2014), which reproduces the prints in four-colour offset lithography. Pané-Farré cites Michael Twyman’s book, Printing 1770–1970 (1970), and Maureen Greenland’s doctoral thesis, ‘Compound-plate printing: a study of a nineteenth-century colour printing process’ (University of Reading, 1996), as starting points for his work.

Re-invention of historical technique. Polychromatic prints (on wall, 2013–14); Die polychrome Drukerei (book in vitrine, at left, 2014); sets of printing surfaces (in vitrine, 2011–13). All items conceived, designed/written, and produced by Pierre Pané-Farré, Leipzig.
Detail of sets of printing surfaces (laser-cut MDF). Surfaces show the residue of their last-printed colour(s).

Women in Type

Type Drawing Office of the Monotype Corporation in the 1920s. © Monotype

‘Women in type: a social history of women’s role in type-drawing offices, 1910–90’ is a new three-year research project now underway in the Department, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and led by Professor Fiona Ross. The project team includes Dr Alice Savoie and Dr Helena Lekka. For more information about this exciting and timely project, see the Leverhulme Trust’s newsletter for January 2018 (p. 11).

Emigre magazine: design, discourse and authorship

Emigre 11 cover, ‘Ambition/fear’, 1989

 

An exhibition in the Department
12 June – 14 July 2017

Emigre magazine, co-founded in California in 1984 by Rudy VanderLans, was a provocative and highly adventurous fusion of self-publishing, critical writing and experimental typography. This exhibition investigates a key period in the development of graphic design as a form of authorship and shows how Emigre’s page designs and typefaces embodied new thinking about the designer’s role in communication.

Interviews with April Greiman and Glenn Suokko in Emigre 11, ‘Ambition/fear’, 1989. The early issues of Emigre coincided with the adoption of Macintosh computers by graphic designers. Emigre 11 is devoted to a series of interviews with designers about the new tool. The magazine’s pages often offered multiple reading paths.

With an initial print run of 3,000–5,000 copies, the magazine was supported by a design studio, Emigre Graphics, and by a digital type foundry led by VanderLans’ partner Zuzana Licko. Emigre published 69 issues in a range of formats, from tabloid to paperback book, before closing in 2005, and it was probably the most admired, influential and criticised design magazine of its era.

Emigre 15 cover, ‘Do you read me?’, 1990. This issue, focused on new typefaces and legibility, features typeface designs and interviews with Peter Mertens, Zuzana Licko, John Downer, Jeffery Keedy and Barry Deck, among others.

In the 1990s, the idea that graphic design could be a form of authorship was the focus of intense debate among designers. VanderLans created a vital forum for discussion during a period of rapid change and Emigre’s design and content inspired an international network of visual communicators. The magazine was an era-defining example of entrepreneurial design authorship, which still has lessons for self-publishers today, and a platform where designers could explore the relationship of writing and design.

The exhibition, co-curated by MA Book Design student Francisca Monteiro and Prof. Rick Poynor, draws from the University of Reading’s Special Collections and Rick’s personal collection. The display is divided into sections that reflect the range of Emigre’s activities:

Rudy VanderLans as editor
The Emigre type foundry led by Zuzana Licko
VanderLans as a graphic author
The Emigre Music record label
Emigre as a space for collaborative authorship for designers and writers
Emigre considered in context