Bayer, Herbert: WORLD GEOGRAPHIC ATLAS. Chicago: Container Corporation of America, 1953. An Inscribed Copy.

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WORLD GEOGRAPHIC ATLAS
A Composite of Mans Environment

Herbert Bayer [Designer/Editor]

 

Herbert Bayer [Designer/Editor]: WORLD GEOGRAPHIC ATLAS. A Composite of Mans Environment. Chicago: Container Corporation of America, 1953. Only Edition ever produced [never commercially available]. Folio. Monkscloth stamped in gold. Gilt page edges. Rosette-patterned endpapers. 368 pp. Maps, diagrams and illustrations. Index. INSCRIBED by Herbert Bayer on half-title page. Tips lightly bruised. Monkscloth (burlap) covers are lightly soiled -- common for this oversized volume, with spine showing a trace of sun darkening. Binding tight and secure: the Bayer-designed slipcase has done its job in protecting the book. The slipcase is in exceptional condition, clean and solid with only the faintest of the standard edgewear to the box joints. An exceptional copy of this legendary volume whose form and content guarantees use and abuse. A nearly fine copy housed in a nearly fine example of the Bayer-designed slipcase.

Inscribed by Herbert Bayer: "for Ferdinand Sperl / with many regards / herbert bayer / Aspen, 1953."  This example is the only Bayer-inscribed Atlas we have encountered, thus a true rarity with an interesting provenance.

Ferdinand P. Sperl [1918 – 2006] was a hotelier who actively helped — for good or ill  —turn Aspen into the resort it is today. Sperl was born in Switzerland and came to the United States through a Student Exchange Program with Cornell University Hotel School in 1939. He was drafted into the U.S. Army as a private in 1941 and rose to the rank of major in Military Intelligence. He was also trained by British Intelligence C.S.D.I.C. in England. Sperl took part in all five campaigns in Europe from Normandy to Czechoslovakia with the 2nd Armored Cavalry, where he earned five Battle Stars, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. Ferdinand started at the Stevens Hotels in Chicago, then the largest hotel in the world (now the Hilton). Sperl was instrumental in the development of the Aspen resort beginning in 1946.

11.25 x 15.75 hardcover book with 368 pages, including Table of contents, maps, charts, illustrations and an enormous (88-page) index. Illustrated throughout with color maps, renderings, free drawings, photography & montage.  This book is a triumph of the Bauhaus ideology of clarity put into practice. It is also a high point of American book design and production, from the rosette-inspired endpaper designs to the incredible ten-color printing throughout (CMYK plus custom spot blues, reds and others).

Bayer supervised a team of three designers (Martin Rosenzweig, Henry Gardiner and Masato Nakagawa) over a five-year period in order to produce this volume for the CCA's 25th anniversary in 1953. CCA Chairman Walter Paepcke wanted Bayer to produce an atlas that reflected the new geopolitical realities of post-WWII life. In order to achieve this lofty goal, Bayer travelled throughout Europe searching out suitable maps and data, producing a re-examination of the classic atlas with Bauhaus clarity and concision. Jan Van Der Mack noted Bayers "fascination with the shape of the earth resulted in an extensive use of pictorial and diagrammatic representations in the section of geomorphology" (Cohen p.237).

Bayer chose to cross-reference his information in the following categories:

  • economics
  • geography
  • geology
  • demography
  • astronomy
  • and climatology.

In doing so, Bayer's clarity of vision set a benchmark for information graphics that has yet to be equaled. According to Bayer: " Successful map study provides two kinds of knowledge: interpretation of landscape, and human development in the physical setting... swiftly spreading global communications and increasing interdependence of all peoples compel us to consider the world as one. This Atlas places emphasis on the physical and material background against which man is set."

Maps are arranged in regional sequence, commodities of produce: import and export are listed by rank in quantity. "Symbols for immediate comprehension noting they are not as exact as actual figures." Symbol coloring as follows, green for agriculture, blue for mining, red for manufacturing, brown for exports and imports (a few exceptions for special reasons). Mineral symbols based on chemical elements.  From the origin of the earth with 200-inch telescope, to air masses, from an air map to an economic map, from the production of synthetic nitrogen to that of butter, rayon, automobiles, and linseed. Literally thousands of images, words, maps, drawings, scale changes, Indian Tribal lands, Indonesian tobacco fields, peoples of the USSR, all again in words and symbols and maps.

This book has to be seen and experienced to be believed.

"In 1936 Container Corporation published an atlas which had some unusual features. It was enthusiastically received at the time, and ever since additional requests for copies have been coming in. It is important that we know more about the geography and the conditions of life of our neighbours in the world so that we may have a better understanding of other peoples and nations. Design has been a vital part of the activities of Container Corporation of America. The rather unique methods of presentation used in this atlas are in character with the principles of design and visualization employed by this company in its products, offices, factories, and advertising. We, in (sic) Container Corporation, believe that a company may occasionally step outside of its recognized field of operations in an effort to contribute modestly to the realms of education and good taste." -- Introduction by CCA Chairman Walter Paepcke

Of all the artists to pass through the Bauhaus, none lived the Bauhaus ideal of total integration of the arts into life like Herbert Bayer (1900 - 1985). He was a graphic designer, typographer, photographer, painter, environmental designer, sculptor and exhibition designer. He entered the Bauhaus in 1921 and was greatly influenced by Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky. He left in 1923, but returned in 1925 to become a master in the school. During his tenure as a Bauhaus master he produced many designs that became standards of a Bauhaus "style." Bayer was instrumental in moving the Bauhaus to purely sans serif usage in all its work. In 1928 he left the Bauhaus to work in Berlin. He primarily worked as a designer and art director for the Dorland Agency, an international firm. During his years at Dorland a Bayer style was established. Bayer emigrated to the United States in 1938 and set up practice in New York. His US design included work for NW Ayers, consultant art director for J. Walter Thompson and design work for GE. From 1946 on he worked exclusively for Container Corporation of America (CCA) and the Atlantic Richfield Corporation. In 1946 he moved to Aspen to become design consultant to CCA. In 1956 he became chairman of the department of design, a position he held until 1965. He was awarded the AIGA medal in 1970. Bayer's late work included work for ARCO and many personal projects including several environmental designs.

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