Summer 2003

Punch cuts

The type and layout of a Victorian weekly anticipated Modernism

No culture or era is a monolith; the Victorian epic was packed with sub-plots. Yet time can flush out diversity, and the common received notion of Victorian design quickly conjures a retro image of eclectic hyperdecoration.

The opposite is also true. Beyond the poster, the title page, and the exotic foundry specimen, everyday Victorian typography was smart, generic and utterly of its time. The page layout of Punch magazine, a work of precise, elegant restraint, persisted from the magazine’s founding in 1841 for almost a hundred years, the only change being an increase in text size in the 1890s. Very classic, practically indestructible and perfectly Modern . . .

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