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Collection 1

Historically/Culturally Important Typography

Saint Christopher

This is one of the earliest known examples of European woodblock printing, and is a significant piece for the origins of European typography and print design. It is a devotional print for Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, who is depicted with Christ on his shoulders, leading the way through a river. The text reads “In whatsoever day thou seest the likeness of St. Christopher / in the same say thou wilt at least from death no evil blow incur / 1423”. These types of block prints were possibly created to communicate religious messages in a more effective and inexpensive way than individually hand painted works.


Quran Manuscript

Calligraphy was an important art form and tool in the Islamic world. Elaborate ornamentation, intricate designs, and illumination were used to decorate Qur’an pages and emphasize its sacredness. The script and the color palette of this example from the Ottoman Empire/Turkey are characteristic of late Ottoman Manuscript Production. Organic and abstract motifs were used due to Islam’s aniconism—opposition to the representation of the living and creation of idols. Vibrant colors and forms share motifs with Islamic architectural decorations and carpets.


Romain du Roi

The Romain du Roi (“King’s Roman”) was a typeface commissioned by King Louis XIV of France in 1692. He had a strong interest in printing, and wanted  the perfect typeface to be created, for it to be used at the royal printing office Imprimerie Royale. The typeface was created based on great research and “scientific” methods by a team lead by mathematician Nicolas Jaugeon. Each unit used for the construction of the typeface was divided into 2,304 squares. Phillippe Grandjean cut the punches, and Louis Simonneau created the copperplate engraving of the alphabet. Romain du Roi was the first example of what was later called “transitional roman”.


Mountains + Valleys + Streets x Joffre

Italian poet Filippo Tommasso Marinetti started the Futurism movement by publishing the Futurist Manifesto in February 20, 1909. Him and his followers produced work that defied typographical and literary conventions. They created “words in freedom” (parole in libertá) by breaking the horizontal and vertical structure of the printed page and creating dynamic and expressive designs. “Mountains + Valleys + Streets x Joffre” by Marinetti is a poem that depicts a journey.


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The London Tube Map

Henry Charles Beck redesigned the map for the London’s train network in the 1930s. His initial sketch that was a proposal to the Publicity Department, was seen as too “revolutionary”. The finalized map was printed to test the public’s reaction, and ended up proving to be highly effective. Beck earned 9 dollars for his design and did not receive recognition until the 90s. The map was a significant contribution to the design of diagrams, and inspired many variations.


Der Film

Der Film was designed by Josef Müller-Brockmann for Kunstgewerbemuseum Zürich. The poster can be seen as a significant example of International Typographic Style. The overlapping words “The Film” are set in Akzidenz-Grotesk. The exhibition poster has a minimal color palette, and effectively uses a strict grid while referring to time, space, and cinematography through a reduced typographic solution. 


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