What The Old Guard Said About The New Typography

The Inland Printer was the printing (and typography) establishment’s journal. Its writers discussed the right way to do this and that. Its leading typography “critic,” J.L. Frazier, referred to black letter types as “modern.” In 1926, only a year after Jan Tschichold coined the term “Elementary Typography” to indicate a New Typography washing through the avant garde capitols of Europe and Russia, N.J. Werner wrote “A Lesson in Typography” to introduce the radical methods to those old timers who he  sarcastically accused of being in the “wrong pew.”

This article is arguably the first time the New Typography was discussed, no less seen, in the United States. And certainly the largest amount of editorial real estate devoted to its serious — if jaundiced — analysis. Werner was not always in favor—indeed, he calls some of the rationales for a New Typography “psuedo-scientific bunk”—but he is somewhat respectful of its designs and the designers. Reading this vintage article is not unlike reading type commentators today. There is the requisite skepticism for the new and warnings against eccentricity. Plus ça change. By the way, Werner also offers an alternative for the professional label “graphic artists”: He calls our ancestors “graphicians.”


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