Is there typographic life after death? In this issue, we can consider the impact of the engraver’s burin in the sombre world of coffin plate lettering, described by Martin Andrews.
Before this, though, there is much more to contemplate. The serious, structured, uncluttered typographic design of Emil Ruder (examined by Helmut Schmid), contrasts with Steven Heller’s gambol through the graphics of razor blade wrappers (a niche subject if ever there was one).
Type design contrasts too, as Otmar Hoefer discusses the types of Karlgeorg Hoefer, from his various scripts to the models for European car licence plates.
Caroline Archer documents the marketing effects of those British printers who took typographic design seriously, while Sam Winston presents an intensely personal response to his own dyslexic problems.
But back to that steady 18th century lettering job. To paraphrase: consider yourself unlucky only if you take up coffin plate lettering and people stop dying.
Those involved with typeface design and interested in letterforms are unlikely to have thought of 19th century burial and memorial practices as a rich source of diverse, inventive and decorative design. Over the last century as a society we have tended to shy away from the reality of death, and funeral arrangements have become rather clinical and lacking in aesthetic values. Mass-produced memorial stones have led to crude and debased lettering as the norm, mechanical and lifeless in design and execution – thank goodness for the revival of hand-cut lettering in recent years. In the 19th century, certain levels of society saw death as an opportunity to display wealth and status – so extravagant ostentatious display and indulgence in fashion accompanied the black gloom of mourning. Thus new styles of letterforms and type design were quickly reflected in the lettering used on coffin plates as well as on tombstones and the memorials which line our church walls and are to be found on the silent structures in cemeteries. In the 18th century, John Baskerville was known to cut letters on tombstones and Thomas Bewick regularly lettered coffin plates as part of his everyday work as a trade engraver…
©2002 Bradbourne Publishing Ltd.