Alastair Johnston wrote a nice piece on Booktryst about The Rise and Fall of the Printers’ International Specimen Exchange.
Not all books have a plot, or a beginning and an end. I am not referring to Artists’ books or directories, but rather sample books, like catalogues or salesman’s specimens. And all periodicals have a trajectory: they are born, boom, and then decline and die. The Printers’ International Specimen Exchange, which ran from 1880 to 1896, is a scarce work today, but it is very important in the history of graphic design.
The Printers’ International Specimen Exchange demonstrates how an ephemeral publication can have a major impact on aesthetics and the quality of work. It also documents the growth of a movement known as “Artistic Printing” in the USA and “Leicester Freestyle” in England that ultimately gave birth to modernist typography, as seen in the work of Oscar Wilde, J. M. Whistler, and then in the twentieth century, in practitioners like Jan Tschichold, Karel Teige and Jack Stauffacher.
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The spring 2012 issue of The Book Collector has some very nice reviews of our books!
The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson
It has been known for years that the Petersons were preparing a census of all known copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer, and I may confess that the idea puzzled me a little: who cares where they exist now, I wondered, so many of them, or what was paid? Half an hour with this immensely painstaking, beautifully organized book showed how wrong I was; for they had the vision to judge a unique situation in the history of printed books, and record it.
Several admirable decisions as to design were taken, converting what might have been mere reference into an enjoyable and charming work. No doubt its authors were largely responsible, but all praise to their publishers too. — Colin Franklin
Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell distributed for The Caxton Club
Finely produced and edited — imagine producing a book with more than fifty contributors — and with well-chosen photographs, this is a work which will resonate with almost everyone interested in books and their history. Every book collector who opens it will find some book to covet, and something to learn. — Christopher Edwards
The Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem: History of the Atlas and the making of the facsimile distributed for HES & DE GRAFF
The book provides the general reader with a most informative and prettily illustrated introduction to the atlas and its place in the culture of its time and in the context of Van der Hem’s other collections of books, prints and drawings which were sold at auction in 1684. — Peter Barber
Field & Tuer, The Leadenhall Press by Matthew Young
Matthew Young’s researches into the Leadenhall Press have extended over many years, and his short introductory essay is detailed and informative. The checklist of the press, upwards of 450 items, is similarly instructive, as are the Tuer checklist, details of the ephemera, and notes on the various series. There is a useful bibliography, with a comprehensive Index. The illustrations, especially those in colour, provide an entertaining grandstand from which to consider the widespread curiosities of the press. Apart from its bibliographical detail, it must be said that the present volume has had the considerable advantage of having been designed by the author, a typographer himself, so that the proportions of the text to the page are in perfect order, with balanced margins, and a seemly organization of the text matter. The binding is neat, with an elegant dust jacket.
This is a useful account of a press whose publications have largely lapsed from current view, Young’s essay bringing to life what proves to be a surprisingly long checklist. — David Chambers