(Above) Liberty Machine Works, advertisement, 1888.
(Above) Trade card of J. F. Earhart, 1883, employing elaborate color effects.
Click any image for larger view.
(Above) This 1881 cover of The American Model Printer most likely involved fitting together hundreds of individual pieces of type.
IN THE EARLY TO MID-1990s, WHEN THE MAC COMPUTER WAS GROWING UP AND DESIGN APPLICATIONS like Adobe Illustrator was gaining more users with strong creative proficiencies, I saw designers pushing the envelope of their design by building imagery (at times) with extraordinary complexity. The new technology was allowing them to flex their creative muscles, with instant drop shadows, backgrounds of .25 ruled lines stepped and repeated to create marvelous logos and magazine headlines. Fonts were now digital and plentiful, and I saw designers falling in love with the art of decoration. Many designs, which I still remember, were absolutely beautiful with Photoshop blends and other effects at work. I think all of us at the time, were mesmerized with our new found abilities for intricate and elaborate typographic fancies.
Now let’s go back in time 110 years or so. It’s 1892 and letterpress printers, engravers and lithographers of the day were going through their own new design discovery. It wasn’t so much a discovery gained from new technology but a creative challenge to the traditional staid design of the day. What the public began to see in books, on cabinet card backs, business cards and other printed material were intricate and elaborate design where quirky type, ornament of all kinds, corner frills and border embellishments were the norm. Like many design fads we have seen come and go just in the last 50 years of our time, it wasn’t long before most of the lithographers and engravers of the day had jumped on the “freaks of fancy” bandwagon.
Graphic designer Doug Clouse and freelance writer/designer Angela Voulangas have teamed up to present a very solid history of this period of design in the late nineteenth century. Packed with great period designs (some of which are showcased for you above) and solid scholarship, this 224-page book by Princeton Architectural Press should be on the shelf of any designer, library or bibliophile.
Doug Clouse is a graphic designer. A graduate of the Bard Graduate Center in New York, where he studied the history of typography, he teaches graphic design and prints on nineteenth-century treadle-powered presses whenever possible.
Angela Voulangas is a freelance writer and designer. Her love of New York City history and nineteenth-century estoerica have lead her to work for institutions as the New-York Historical Society, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and the New York Public Library.
Handy Book of Artistic Printing, The: Collection of Letterpress Examples with Specimens of Type, Ornament, Corner Fills, Borders, Twisters, Wrinklers, and other Freaks of Fancy.
Doug Clouse, Angela Voulangas
8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm), Paperback , 224 pages
185 color illustrations; 12 b/w illustrations
In print (publication date 5/30/2009) A PAPress publication; Rights: World; (1652.0)
Also available on Amazon.