Wednesday, 4:23pm
16 June 2010

Electro-Library dreams

‘Will the new El Lissitzky please stand up?’ demands Barrie Tullet

First published in Merz No. 4, July 1923, Lissitzky’s manifesto has come of age, writes Barrie Tullett of the Caseroom Press.

Lissitzky told us that ‘the new book demands the new writer’, and with the advent of the iPhone, the iPad and the Kindle, the new book is undeniably here. But there is more to it than even Lissitzky dreamed of. The nature of the e-book now means that the new book demands a new kind of writer, reader and designer.

The Electro-Library demands that we reconsider every aspect of page design – from the details that we understood to represent the craft of typography, to the elements of the page itself: the running heads, the folios, the paragraph and chapter. The ‘design of the book-space, set according to the constraints of printing mechanics’ no longer matters to us. This new page is an undiscovered landscape of opportunity and possibility.

The surface can now truly transcend space and time – the ‘printed’ surface must be re-invented and the infinity of books embraced. The rules no longer apply.

Everything about the page is new again. Everything we ‘know’ about the conventions of book design and typography demands to be re-invented for the new kind of writer, reader and designer.

Will the new El Lissitzky please stand up?

Electro Library_Merz4_9

The Electro-Library
First published as ‘The topography of typography’ (above) in Merz no. 4 (Hannover: July 1923).
1. The words on the printed surface are taken in by seeing, not by hearing.
2. One communicates meanings through the convention of words; meaning attains form through letters.
3. Economy of expression: optics not phonetics.
4. The design of the book-space, set according to the constraints of printing mechanics, must correspond to the tensions and pressures of content.
5. The design of the book-space using process blocks which issue from the new optics. The supernatural reality of the perfected eye.
6. The continuous sequence of pages: the bioscopic book.
7. The new book demands the new writer. Inkpot and quill-pen are dead.
8. The printed surface transcends space and time. The printed surface, the infinity of books, must be transcended. THE ELECTRO-LIBRARY.

Merz 4 cover

Above: cover of Merz no. 4.

Eye magazine is available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and back issues. The summer issue, Eye 76, will be a music special. You can read a selection of pages on Eye Before You Buy on Issuu. Student subscriptions are half price