Friday, March 2, 2007
Kelmscott Press, Doves Press, Updike and Centaur
William Morris & the Kelmscott Press
William Morris was a printer, artist, designer, writer and editor. In 1891 he set up the Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith, London. His adviser and associate in the press was Emery Walker, an English engraver and printer who was one of the most versatile designers, and one of the best typographic scholars, ever to work in England. Edward Prince, a punchcutter chosen by Walker, cut the three types – Golden, Chaucer and Troy – that Morris designed.
Morris preached a doctrine of interdependent factors in bookmaking: type, paper, ink, imposition and impression must be considered together. He regarded two facing pages as the unit. His edition of Chaucer, illustrated by his Oxford friend, Edward Burne-Jones, is one of his most highly prized books. Along with his contemporaries, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson with the Doves Press and Charles Ricketts with the Vale Press, Morris called attention to the inherent qualities of all typography and to the basic nature of letterpress printing in particular. He demonstrated that a typographer does not need endless sizes of type, but he needs consistency. It is not the amount of ornament that enhances and gives variety to a page of type, it is the harmony between the two. Above all, he taught those who were interseted to learn the value of reexamining the past and to profit by it.
William Morris, Troy type.
the Doves Press
In 1900, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and William Morris' former associate, Emery Walker, established the Doves Press, only a few steps from the old Kelmscott premises (Morris died in 1896). All of these presses had special type designed for them, and in each case the punches were cut by Edward Prince of London, who had also cut the Kelmscott faces.
The Doves Press type differs markedly from the others. Like Morris' Golden Type, it draws its inspiration chiefly from the roman of Nicolas Jenson, but the Doves Roman posseses, like its model, a deep simplicity which Morris' type does not. It is a modern type, in the same sense that the paintings of Paul Cézanne (who died in 1906) are modern paintings. Morris, like his friend D.G. Rossetti, remained to the end of his life something other than a modern. He remained what art historians call a Pre-Raphaelite.
(Here it is necessary to explain that, in older books about typography, the term "modern" is often used in another sense. It is used to mean "Romantic" – i.e., type such as Bodoni's and Firmin Didot's. This outdated terminology is based on a somewhat simplistic division of type into "old style" – meaning Renaissance or Baroque – and "modern" – meaning Romantic. In the nineteenth century, when Romantic type was new, such terminology made a kind of sense. It makes much more sense now to speak about typography in the same terms used for all the other arts.)
Emery Walker & T.B. Cobden-Sanderson. Doves Roman.
the U.S.: Daniel Berkeley Updike & Bruce Rogers
The Merrymount Press was established in Boston in 1893 by Daniel Berkeley Updike, one of America's most distinguished and able printers. His two great achievements were the operation of his press as a commercial establishment with impeccable standards, and his book entitled Printing Types: Their History, Forms and Use.
The most important American typographer for the early twentieth century was undoubtedly Bruce Rogers, who for a time was an associate of Updike's. In 1896 he became director of the Riverside Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a subsidiary of the publishing firm of Houghton, Mifflin. Later, he became the very prototype of the modern freelance typographer. (In doing so, however, he was actually reenacting a Renaissance form. Francesco Griffo and Robert Granjon had worked on the same pattern.)
In his three-score years of book designing, Rogers worked for many publishers, including the university presses of Cambridge and Oxford. In 1935 he designed his Oxford Lectern Bible. Rogers was also associated for a number of years with the admirable Printing House of William Rudge, at Mt Vernon, New York , and in England he worked with Emery Walker. He designed two typefaces, Montaigne (1901), and Centaur (1914). The latter is his masterpiece. It is based, like the Doves Roman, on the work of Nicolas Jenson, and like the Doves Roman, it transforms its fifteenth-century model into a new and modern type.
Rogers. Centaur type, 1915.