Wednesday, October 12, 2011

13. New books in Vale type

Designers of exhibition catalogues on Art Nouveau and programs for conferences about the Arts and Crafts movement seem unable to resist the temptation to use initials, types or page borders from the period. Some designers apparently think that these visual quotations help us to remember what the book is about, or possibly they think we need a form of nostalgia to lure us into buying their books. Do they really think we must love Art Nouveau to read about it?

Several publications about Ricketts in the past have included such quotes, usually too many of them, crowding the pages with designs that were not meant for these books in the first place, and frequently mixing designs by Morris, Ricketts, and others, in order to approach the atmosphere of the 1890s. And it gets worse, now that modern digital techniques have provided new attributes. It is possible to print your own book with Ricketts's types, or you can use them for menus, letterheads, visiting cards or e-mails, as two of his types are available at My Fonts
King's Fount: 'e' with diaeresis (My Fonts version)
The digital fonts include letters that Ricketts did not design, such as ligatures, or special symbols, for example the copyright and euro symbols. Ricketts did not draw numerals for his fonts (Vale Type, Avon Type and King's Fount), but the digital version can supply them. The modern user can now write about any given subject in Vale Type or King's Fount, discarding the many modern types that are at his disposal, however, what this new use of these types really demonstrates is that the writer is not modern and that he has no regard for the 'unity of the book' that Ricketts stood for.

Vale Type: fraction, a quarter (My Fonts version)
Vale Type, paragraph mark (My Fonts version)
King's Fount: question mark (My Fonts version)