Summer 1994

Typography

Robert Harling’s eclectic magazine, published in the 1930s, is the first in a new occasional series.

Among British typographic journals of the pre-war period, the eight issues of Typography (1936-39) stand out and retain their interest today thanks to an informality of presentation and modernity of subject matter that give them more in common with publications of the 1950s and later than with such bookish and book-like contemporaries as Signature or the earlier The Fleuron. Edited by Robert Harling, an advertising agency art director, and published by James Shand’s Shenval Press, London, the quarterly journal brought together articles on newspaper typography, train timetables, political graphics, patent medicine advertising and type in children’s comics, as well as the more predictable Victoriana such as ecclesiastical typography and street ballads. In issue 3, one of the finest, Jan Tschichold wrote about “Type Mixtures”, through Modernism remained just one interest among many rather than a passionate and exclusive commitment. The journal’s undogmatic eclecticism and breadth of content was reflected in a design format which, for the first six issues, varied from article to article, while its 11 x 9 inch pages were held together by a plastic comb binding that gave it the feel of a manual or exercise book. After the war Harling and Shand began a new journal, Alphabet and Image. In retrospect, the no doubt economically unavoidable switch to a smaller page size and a single text column highlights what was so fresh and distinctive about the earlier title.

First published in Eye no. 13 vol. 4, 1994

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