Spencer, Herbert: PIONEERS OF MODERN TYPOGRAPHY. London: Lund Humphries, 1969. Softcover first edition.

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Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer: PIONEERS OF MODERN TYPOGRAPHY.  London: Lund Humphries, 1969. First edition. Tall octavo. Plain white wrappers. Printed dust jacket with glued spine [as issued]. Multi-colored endpapers. 160 pp. 161 color and black and white reproductions printed on a variety of paper stocks. Laminated jacket faintly edgeworn, but a nearly fine copy. Uncommon thus.

In their Ex Libris catalogs Arthur and Elaine Lustig Cohen simply referred to this book as "The Bible." What more can I add?

8.25 x 11.75 softcover book with 160 pages and 161 black and white and color work reproductions from the early days of the twentieth-century avant-garde typography movement. No disrepect to the MIT reissues of this book, but unless you've seen the Lund Humphries/Hastings House  first edition-- you haven't truly experienced this wonderful book. Spencer chose a wide variety of paper stocks for individual signatures, giving each spotlighted designer a unique look. The engravings and spot color work are super sharp, as is the book design, binding, etc. And if that doesn't matter to you, why have you read down this far?

Since its first publication in 1969, Pioneers of Modern Typography has been the standard guide to the avant-garde origins of modern graphic design and typography. In this essential reference, Herbert Spencer shows how new concepts in graphic design in the early decades of the twentieth century had their roots in the artistic movements of the time in painting, poetry, and architecture.

Spencer examines the "heroic" period of modern design and typography, the beginning of which he traces to the publication in Le Figaro of the Italian artist Manetti's Futurist manifesto. He discusses the work of such "pioneers" as El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. He examines the artistic background of the new concepts in graphic design, and traces the influences of futurism, Dadaism, de Stijl, suprematism, constructivism, and the Bauhaus. His text is profusely illustrated with examples of the new typography, shown in genres that range from posters and magazine covers to Apollinaire's "figurative poetry."

Spencer was the editor of Typographica and a premiere type historian. This book is considered the best volume on Modern typography, and is now sadly out-of-print. Copies of this book are getting scarce: Highly recommended.

Contents: Illustrated chapters with biographical information on:

  • El Lissitzky
  • Theo van Doesburg
  • Kurt Schwitters
  • H. N. Werkman
  • Piet Zwart
  • Paul Schuitema
  • Alexander Rodchenko
  • Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
  • Herbert Bayer
  • Jan Tschichold

Also includes work samples from the following typographers, photographers and artists: Guillame Apollinaire, Max Bill, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Henryk Berlewi, Lewis Carroll, Walter Dexel, Lionel Feininger, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Hannah Hoch, Vilmos Huszar, Iliazd, Johannes Itten, Oscar Jespers, Lajos Kassak, Senkin Klutisis, Fernand Leger, Wyndham Lewis, F. T. Marinetti, Christian Morgenstern, Paul van Ostaijen, Jozef Peeters, Enrico Pramolini, Man Ray, Peter Rohl, Pietro Saga, Christian Schad, Joost Schmidt, Ardengo Soffici, Kate Steinitz, Wladyslaw Strzeminski, ladislav Sutnar, Mieczyslaw Szczuka, Karel Tiege, Lucio Venna, and Teresa Zarnower.

Urbane, prolific and unfailingly modest, Spencer was a reformer dedicated to improving standards of design in a field dominated by the printing industry's outdated conventions. But he was also an aesthete with a connoisseur's eye for the wild modernist innovations with letterforms and layout of the 1920s. Spencer launched the seminal publication, Typographica, in 1949, when he was 25, and edited, designed and sometimes wrote for it for 18 years. Equally at home publishing one of the first articles in Britain about concrete poetry (then an international phenomenon), or an illustrated study of the design challenges presented by Braille, he was a new kind of designer-editor, able to think both visually and verbally, and to fuse images and words in meaningful new relationships.