Category: Collections (Emma’s project)


1870s Vintage Sheet Music

Background information

The collection I chosen was a sheet music cover from Frank Laughlin: The Orphan, illustrated by T. W. Lee, and published by Chappell & Co Ltd (New Bond Street, 50 – London) in 1870.

Illustration: Cat and sheet music in 19th century

The reason I choose this sheet music is that I was appeal by the drawing of the kitten, which is realistic and cute. From the picture, we can see a woman that put on noble clothes and accessory was holding a wretched and little kitten by whole hand, which correspond with the title ‘The Orphan’ above. The picture creates a sense of sadness and helpless of the kitten, which I assume the target audience may be upper class woman, and the illustration arouse their sympathy and appeal them to listen the music. Besides, the text is in different typography style, which is decorative.

In 19th century’s sheet music cover, there are quite a lot illustrations found using cat as object.  It is said that animals were often used in advertising caught on in Victorian times, as using anthropomorphized animals in human activities more clearly demonstrates to the viewer an aspect of the character’s personality, thereby making the consumer more sympathetic with the animal in question.

Printing technique: Lithographic

(An example of lithographic stone for printing music. The music is written backwards on the stone.)

Lithography is invented by Alois Senefelder in 1796, and was first used to print music in 1796 and the earliest music sheets to be illustrated by lithography were produced in this country in about 1820 and were coloured by hand.

According to the video on lithographic process and website of music printing history, the process involved drawing an image or text on a smooth piece of limestone with an oil-based ink. Then, acid was poured onto the stone to burn the image onto the surface. A water soluble solution was then applied, sticking only to the non-oily surface and sealing it. For printing, the water adhered to the gum arabic. The oily ink, however, repelled the water, thereby allowing for the printing of the images.

Overall, I have learnt the complicated printing process in lithography, the asthetic of vintage 19th century sheet music, and how illustrator attract the audience by animals in sheet music cover and advertisment. These advance me a lot in the history of printing and future album covers design.

The Ritz Menu

For this mini brief I’ve chosen to write about a menu for New Year’s Eve 1937 at The Ritz. This particular item grabbed my attention with its print design’s minimalist use of colour, and hints of Art Deco style. The gradient in the background shifts the viewer’s focus to the face of the clown and the type by giving the upper half of the design higher contrast between dark and light. The arch in the ‘1938’ frames the clown nicely and draws together the focal points of the image further. The design successfully conveys the theme of celebration which is appropriate for the occasion.

The fun outside cover of the menu is juxtaposed, on the inside, by a formal choice of typeface which matches the prestigious image of The Ritz Hotel. Rules are then used to break up the separate dishes on the menu — this is especially helpful seeing as the highly embellished ascenders tend to slightly obscure the lines. The layout is very simplistic and the items on the menu are ordered in a way that gives the body of text a diamond shape which is an elegant stylistic touch.


Real mermaid

This was a news notice that I had found within the collections. This particularly stood out to me because someone had written on it in the top right corner. To me this made the piece much more personal and unique. I loved the look of the handwriting and how there was a slight bleed in the ink, giving it a more historical feel. The notice declares that a “mermaid” was caught alive on the coast of the Shetland Islands. However, the writer of the notice conveniently didn’t include an image of the mermaid to prove his claims. I think that was intentional to entice more people to pay and see the exhibition.

Mr Darlington’s note (in the top right corner) was very hard to decipher. I couldn’t figure out if he was amazed by the exhibition or if he was disappointed. To me, the description of the mermaid sounds a lot like a large fish with hair, I can’t say I was surprised, but I’m sure that this must of been news to spread around town. I think everyone would have their own opinions about whether it was true or not, even today.

Grand Concert and Dance

Grand Concert and Dance

This piece interested me for a couple reasons, firstly the colours of it were very different to a lot of other things in the collections, I found the gradient interesting because when you look closer at it you notice that it’s possible that it was one gradient across the whole piece and each of the separate sections of information all use the sections of the same gradient that will have been applied just once.
Secondly, the choice of fonts for this poster, more particularly the amount of fonts used on the piece, from a quick glance you can notice more than 10 different typefaces on this piece, which is absurd compared to now where we’re advised that 3/4 is the absolute maximum.

Trade cards

This was a really interesting session for me as we got to look at some things from the collection that we have access to in the department. This was one of my favourite pieces from the collection. I was immediately drawn to it because of the shapes and colours.  I loved how each one was shaped into what was sold at each shop, I thought that this was a really creative and thought threw design. When I looked at it initially I wasn’t quite sure what it was, I had a few thoughts. To me it seemed as though it could have been a tags or perhaps some kind of business card?

After the sessions I went home and researched to see if I could find out more information about them. I found that most were made in the mid/late 19th century, and that they were in fact trade cards. So these were used by merchants and traders to give to their customers, which were usually made out of paperboard or thick paper as these ones were. They are made small enough so that they fit inside a pocket for easy distribution.

National Theatre Poster

Introduction to the Brief

In the lesson with Emma, we looked through a wide sample from the Collections within the department, seeing a vast array of different ephemera. After looking through all of these, I was immediately drawn to the National Theatre poster for ‘The Advertisement’. I found the use of colour and the layout of the text visually interesting, following the modern conventions of a National Theatre poster. Having selected this as my focal item from the collection, I then looked into this piece in more detail, looking for its context and creation specifically.


History and Context

After doing some research into this design, I found that this was a poster for the 1969 London performance of the play ‘The Advertisement’, Henry Reed’s translation of Italian author Natalia Ginzburg’s original piece. The design itself was done by Ken Briggs, a renowned designer and typographer of the 1960s. He became the first of only 5 designers for the National Theatre, coining the unique typographic style and visual identity. However, in the early 1970s, Briggs abandoned this conventional style, placing more emphasis on the individual plays by creating something visually new and fresh for each new design. His modernist, Swiss-style design was often done on short notice, often sometimes in as little as one night. His use of Helvetica, originally through the use of a Letraset, built the foundations for the theatre company’s branding for the years to come.

The photographs used were taken during rehearsals of the play in 1968, featuring images of Joan Plowright as the leading lady, Tessa.

While now highly collectable items, these posters were originally (and ironically) for advertising; These posters would be in varying sizes, placed around London to promote their upcoming shows. The design choices are likely used to reflect this, with the application in places like the London Underground giving a designer very little time to engage and communicate with an audience. Upon researching, I was unable to find much about the creation of this poster. It would have been done by hand, with Briggs being known for his Letraset typefaces, likely meaning a mast copy of this poster was created before being replicated and mass printed. The grainy, textured images would have helped this,  meaning that the quality of the images was not lessened by upscaling the poster for different uses.



The use of colour within the design appears minimal in an intentionally modernistic manner. The use of a predominantly triadic colour palette allows the design to appear simple and visual hierarchy to be easily created and manipulated to guide a viewers eye. In this design, lime green is used to highlight the words ‘The National Theatre at The Old Vic’. As an already established and credible theatre company, their reputation is something that would likely attract an audience, with the piece being a little known translation of the original Italian play. This allows the poster to achieve its goal more successfully, helping to promote the show with the use of this visual hierarchy. The same green shade is used again on the two blocks of quotation. While also highlighting them to a viewer of the poster, this was more likely used to add visual balance to the overall design, used here to accent and balance the poster.

However, the photographs include an array of monochromatic colours, creating depth and texture within the images. This can be seen within the left image, especially on the nose, which appears to have depth through the use of tonal textures and monochromatic colours. While the dimensions of the face are important, the stylistic application of this allows the images to fit well into the simplistic, modernist design style. Practically, as these were shots from rehearsals, this may also have been used to make the images seem more congruous by removing the background and styling them all in the same way.



The layout of this poster is visually striking and engaging through the angular text, immediately breaking many conventions of other advertisements and theatre posters. The words ‘The National Theatre’ are positioned centrally on the poster, being the focal aspect and carrying the promotion through their positive reputation.

The incredibly small amount of kerning and leading, a modernistic style choice by Briggs, shows contemporary and unusual nature, again, positive attributes for the experimental and critically acclaimed theatre company. The distance between the text ‘National Theatre’ and ‘The Advertisement’ would usually be visually confusing, but the use of colour helps to distinguish and differentiate these two elements despite their close proximity. The 90 degrees flip for the words ‘at The Old Vic’ created more visual difference and engagement in the design, using the principles of Swiss design in order to captivate and interest a viewer of the poster.

The vast amounts of black negative space around the text allows the images to blend well into the block background colour. In direct contrast to the tightly structured text, this creates a sense of visual balance in the design, helping to not overwhelm a viewer with textual and photographic elements. The space is seen between the two blocks of quotations also helps this idea, giving large amounts of space to these elements, allowing them to accent the main text. The small lettering seen beneath the title of the play, while still relevant, is conveyed as less visually important through the sizing selected, creating visual hierarchy through the size and positioning. While only using two text colours, two sizes and one typeface (likely to create a minimalistic, Swiss-inspired, modernistic appearance), Briggs utilises all three harmoniously in order to create visual balance and hierarchy within the design. The use of layout and negative space only amplifies this, creating a poster that is effective in captivating a viewer, visually stunning through its initial simplicity and modern aesthetic, despite being technically impressive, especially given the hands-on working of Briggs.


Francis, Day & Hunter Ltd Collection

Following the Thursday interactive session from Emma about the introductions to the collections that the Typography department have relating to Typography and how it was created/used over time; I took an interest in evaluating and researching the music sheets and covers of Francis, Day & Hunter Ltd.

The origin of these particular music sheets originate from 1938 (Any broken hearts to mend?) and 1928 (I’m sorry Sally) and were published by Francis, Day & Hunter Ltd. From first glance the covers conveyed a sense of nostalgia, as the old minimalistic style as well as colours fit the interwar era of design as it was a rather depressing/lonesome era (as the vast majority of men were fighting at war). The purpose of these music sheets were for families to purchase to be able to play the most recent songs at home on the piano, as most households owned a piano for entertainment. Additionally, Orchestras and bands that would play at venues, would also purchase these music sheets as playing the most recent music of the time was there occupation.

The front covers of the designs connotate a sense of melancholy and intense sadness relating to love, which clearly relate to the historical context of lost love/missing a lover due to the war. The cover for “Any broken hearts to mend?” has the female character possess the same colour scheme as the background itself, to possibly minimise the printing cost as well as having the correct blend of colours for the tone of music. The layout of the title suggests a sense of optimism as the flowing/rhythmic text suits the curiosity of the question if there are “any broken hearts to mend”. Whereas “I’m Sorry Sally” has only used black and white to present the cover, possibly due to the fact that this cover was 10 years older than the other cover, showing the development of the publishing company. But more interestingly, the typeface included possesses serifs compared to the other cover, to potentially emphasise that the music included is of a more serious or somewhat “classier” fashion as the typeface has more visual flair. The age of the music sheets clearly show, due to the fact that the price that is present on both covers is “6d”, or is more commonly referred to as a sixpence; thus the historical context suggests that these are older published music sheets.

To conclude, observing the vast examples of the collections within the typography department has aided me in recognising how old style of print was developed/conceived for particular genres or styles; as well as understanding the potential ideas that were intended when publishing designs and other forms of media.



Price’s Candle

From the vast range of Ephemera I chose to look at a set of advertising for Price’s Candles, which could be advertisement to be displayed in a shop, or more likely to be labels or packaging from the candle its self. 

I think that this set is from the Edwardian era, of the early 1900s, due to the rather recognisable white tie dress code and the elaborate table decorations that are associated with this time period, featured on Image D. 

To begin with they look like rather decorative forms of branding but at a closer look they tell us a lot about the time period, in particular the role of women in the home. 

Image A depicts a house maid or nanny looking after a young child, perhaps showing that any wealthy Mother need not to be tucking the child into bed, but leaving that responsibility to one of the house staff. This image suggests that it its not the lady of the house hold to be choosing which candles to purchase but rather than head house keeper. 

In Image B shows the women or wife in the role of entertainer, but also highlighting her education in the arts and music. Any aspiring women should be able to play the piano. The design is rather clever in the way that on the surface it looks like it is about the different candle types you can buy, but further than that is it informing women, in a rather passive aggressive way, in how the ideal women or wife should be.

In Image C the Mother, of all people, is shown taking the child to bed rather than the nanny! Perhaps this is a more bit more of a modern image in comparison to Image A since it encourages (wealthy) mothers to take a more active role in the raising of their own child. 

Finally, in Image D the ideal wife in hostess role. I am assuming that the hostess is dressed in red, making a last minute tweak to the cutlery. This suggests that it is the female’s role to make sure the house is well presented, and thus it is her role to chose the candles. Her husband is not the focal point, but he is still present none the less. 

To summarise, a women has a high calling, since she has to take on many roles: the soft and motherly side, the wealthy home owner, the educated entertainer, the extravagant hostess, and a wife. The home is the place for any women, her husband is merely at her side.   

The colour illustrations indicate that this is an expensive make of candle, looking to sell to the large estates. Any cheap candle makers would not have gone to the effort or cost of printing colour labels. The content of the illustrations confirm the indented buyer.

Each of the labels have a slight different take on wording of “ Price’s ” which lead me to believe that they are not part of the same set, but rather have been collected over serval years. 

I think Image D is the oldest because the illustration is placed in a box, unlike the others where the image is softer without a definite edge. Images A, B, C have serval of the same features including the golden swirls, a similar style of the women at the focal point. 

In Image B there are four different styles of text, which goes against the typographical rules of the present, to only use two typefaces, even more so when the wording “ Price’s “ is repeated twice. Yet the overall style reflects the very traditional and decorative era that this design comes from.

Human analysts

One of my favourite pieces in the collections I saw today was this ‘Human Analyst’ ticket, from what I can assume came from a fairground stall, or similar environments. I was drawn to this piece particularly because of its simple format which is designed so efficiently for its purpose, in the way that the exact same design can produce a large number of readings for customers and would also provide a personal experience for the user. The use of hole punches allows a large amount of information to be communicated quickly and clearly which feels optimal for not only the user’s understanding but also business in aiding speed of work therefore enabling more customers.