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• • • • • • on letters, words, books and graphic design • • • • • •

De Muze en het Meisje Dutch gift


This beautiful little book cost me a few euros in a bookstore in the Hague, but to the first owner it was completely free. A gift, presented during the dutch book week in 1957.

Each year the CPNB (Stichting Collectieve Propaganda voor het Nederlandse Boek or foundation for the Collective Promotion of Dutch Books) publishes a book (or books) around a varying theme, that booksellers then can present to their customers as a gift. They do this since 1930. From the late fourties to the early sixties a side series was produced four young readers, carrying de Muzethe Muse – in its title.

This one, the Muse and the Girl, was designed and illustrated by Jan van Keulen, who designed de Groene Amsterdammer as early as 1945 and taught graphic design and typography at the Academy of the Hague in the sixties. Take some time to look at the archive the NAGO website dedicated to his work.




The details below might help to explain what I meant when talking about spot colour printing and manual colour separation on the spinsels page of this blog. The density of the yellow and red and their overlaps with the greyish blue-green can not be achieved in CMYK printing. The power of solid colour on paper amazes me every time. On top of that, the black plate was first slightly embossed in the paper, which gives it an extra tactile dimension. This little book is very precious to me.



De Muze en het Meisje – 1957
Poetry collected by Ad den Besten and Bert Voeten
Design and illustrations Jan van Keulen
Book format: 135 x 215 mm


Filed under: book design, ,

Two sisters? needlework type

To finish the series on needle-crafted type with a sunday feeling, here are two pieces from the Ecole Moyenne de l’Etat in Verviers. Made by two girls with the same aristocratic surname von Hagen. Sisters I presume, but I have no information on the makers and the date. Looking at the detail and degree of sophistication, this can hardly be labeled as folk art. It is hard school work.






Berthe made some beautiful monograms with her initials, but got the Y mirrored. Jenny used a symmetric Y. I am not sure which piece I like most. The last picture shows the most adventurous try: a 9 plus!






Filed under: lettering, Uncategorized, , ,

Blink! Super Tailor’s Tape


I feel that if things stay on your table for a long time, they must mean something to you. This being decided, I just have to figure out what. Hm.

Filed under: Blink!, ,

Colourful Bindings Alexis Keunen


This colourful lot is part of the Livre du Mois collection, published for a subscribers-only book club in the early fifties. Many of the  Books of the Month were printed in Liège, and the ones shown here were all designed by Alexis Keunen (1922-1990), a surrealist painter from the same city. This could explain the – now slightly retro –  avantgarde look of those years.






Each book was presented in a red cardboard casing and dust protected by a transparent film, both of which did not survive the next half century too well. The materials used all look a bit more classy than they are, but the designs are still fresh, and charm there is plenty.

The covers shown:
A.J. Cronin – Sous le Regard des Etoiles
– Editions Albin Michel, april 1952
Ludwig Bemelmans – Cochon d’Eddie!
– Editions Robert Laffont, december 1950
Arturo D. Hernandez – Sangama
– Editions Albin Michel, july 1952
Betty Mac Donald – N’importe qui peut faire n’importe quoi
– Editions Robert Laffont, hors série 1950
Jaques Robert – Les Dents Longues
– Editions René Julliard, hors série 1951
James A. Michener – Pacifique Sud
– Flammarion Editeur, march 1952
Vasco Pratolini – Chronique des Pauvres Amants
– Editions Albin Michel, november 1950
Elisabeth Barbier – Serres paradis
– Editions René Julliard, september 1950
Claude Farrère – La Sonate Tragique
– Editions Ernest Flammarion, june 1950

Le Club du Livre du Mois
book format: 200 x 135 mm
design: Alexis Keunen

Filed under: book design, ,

Blink! Primetta


In Blink! I show stuff that tickles the corner of my eye.
Shop window in the Vossenstraat / Rue des Renards, Brussels.

Filed under: Blink!, type & typography

Tabloid! Dick Bruna


Striking but unconventional. Four shouting elements – an extra bold slab serif title, a strangely cropped up-close picture, the blurb text in red and a classical vignette – all together on the front cover of a book and yet kept perfectly in balance. This is the work of a master. Dick Bruna, forever famous as the father of ‘Nijntje’ or ‘Miffy’ in English, designed hundreds of book covers for ‘Zwarte Beertjes’, a Dutch pocket book series that published mainly thrillers and sci-fi. This is a hard cover book, the linnen embossing making the tabloid-like approach even more surprising.

Jack Lynn – De Professor
A.W. Bruna & Zoon
, Utrecht 1972
Cover design Dick Bruna

I will show some paperback covers from my growing Bruna collection in future posts. For more info on Dick Bruna you can look here and here.

Filed under: book design, ,

Power type! book cover


Seen at Books by the Sea, a nice second hand and antiquarian bookshop in Bude, Cornwall.

Philip K. Dick – A Maze of Death
Gollancz 1972, first UK edition.

Filed under: book design

Book design: grand openings 2


Another flea market finding, this book by Léon Bloy first struck me for its spartan cover concept. Opening it leads to a second surprise:


the end papers show a macabre mediæval scene (is it Bosch?).




After the frech title page, the real title follows. I always loved opening titles running across two pages. And it goes on for another spread. Two colour letterpress printing. The typeface used is Comstock.  Jaspert, Berry & Johnson’s Encyclopedia of Typefaces says: ‘A rimmed fat lineale. Bauer call their version Astoria’. Comstock dates – again according to J,B & J – from c. 1880, but here’s a surprise: you can still order it – in lead – from M&H Type!
Further in the book Comstock returns to mark the chapter numbers. Leafing through books from the fifties, set in metal, it strikes me that often the body text is set in rather heavy type.



What I like about second hand books, is they sometimes tell you about their former owner. That is a free extra. I usually keep the inserts, notes, postcards or improvised bookmarks I find in their original place. Expanded books, if you like. Analog hypertext. Here is a peek:


The picture of Mr. Bloy made me curious. If you want to read about his turbulent life and controversial work, there is an English Wikipedia page about him, but the French version has a lot more. Amazing character…

Léon Bloy – La femme pauvre
Le Club Français du Livre
, 1952
page format 135 x 215 mm

Filed under: book design, type & typography

Analog pixel art 5: faience?


Ninove, today. Postscript has taken over the market…

Filed under: lettering, type & typography, , ,

Analog pixel art 4: another stitched alphabet


Another great exercise, dated 1921. While she has all the other N’s right, Ghislaine mirrored the one in her own name. I like this piece a lot. It looks very even at first sight, while looking closer reveals some patching up for miscalculation: notice how the last letter of the name didn’t fit, and simply drops. It helps to spread colour where the dot after ‘Salzinnes’ would have left a blank space if left on its own. The 1921 sits close, but doesn’t mess up the Z. And I fancy the R trying to leave the grid. Is it mimicking the Q’s tail?



Filed under: lettering, type & typography, , , ,