Sunday, July 15, 2012

Victorian Typography goes Medieval

Every time I see something like this I come one step closer to putting everything on hold and starting in on producing the largest "sourcebook of Victorian typography" the world has ever seen. How very cool is this!? The more I look at this kind of typographical work where fonts and sizes and borders and ornaments are all thrown into together, the more I realise that this is, in fact, part of the Victorian hankering after a medieval ideal. The typesetter in this instance has tried to recreate something like the look of a page of illuminated manuscript. It's always tempting to snort with derision at Victorian adaptations of the styles from other parts of history as if we somehow know better what medieval 'style' ought to be like but consider for a moment, the seminal typographer of the twentieth century, Jan Tischold, whose work went a long way to creating the look of the Penguin paperback and whose rules of positioning on the page are used by many a modern graphic designer: he based those rules on a long study of the layout of text in medieval manuscript pages. Who are we to say that this, to our eyes, completely over the top piece of Victorian medievalism is any less 'right' or 'wrong' than the twentieth century medievalism of Penguin paperback design?

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