Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, Volume 1 : 1628–1900
Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, Volume 2 : 1900–1938
? 2009 & 2010: Cees de Jong, Alston W. Purvis & Jan Tholenaar
Taschen has a knack, unrivaled among contemporary art and design publishers, for successfully balancing price against quality and content. By licensing existing text and photography, and through the creative use of out-of-copyright material, the publisher consistently manages to create desirable, yet affordable, books. Unfortunately, such books generally add little to the public record or to a critical understanding of their subject. Every so often, however, Taschen produces a book of grand significance. Drawn from the collection of the late Jan Tholenaar, these astoundingly beautiful surveys of the printed type specimen are probably the most consequential design books Taschen has ever published. The majority of the examples are exquisitely rare Continental specimens from the Nineteenth Century. Typical of Taschen, there is precious little explanatory text. The introductory essays, by Cees de Jong and Alston W. Purvis, are superficial and provide practically no context for the material that follows. Which would be more of a shame if the material that follows were not so extraordinary and otherwise completely unavailable. In fact, the illustrations embedded in the introduction, a Berthold Hebrew script specimen from 1924 and an Arabic and Turkish specimen from Stempel in 1922, are so lovely that it’s hard to even pay attention to the text. What these volumes also demonstrate, quite dramatically, is the continued relevance of of the private book collection as both an intellectual exercise and a cultural record. There are certainly institutional collections that rival the one amassed by Mr. Tholenaar, but such collections are typically not accessible by the public and are virtually never documented in so glorious a fashion. (2009: Taschen; ISBN 9783836511018 & 2010: Taschen; ISBN 9783836515146)
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