Posting a Letter and Sending a Telegram

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Stefan and Franciszka Themerson—the Polish-born, London-based, book-arts couple that is among the most famous Polish avant-garde artists of the twentieth century—lived their lives in creative collaboration—from their work in the Warsaw film avant-garde of the 1930s and in books for children, to the Gaberbocchus Press, which they ran in London from 1948 to 1979, publishing more than sixty books.

Poczta, illustrated by Franciska and originally published in 1932, is a book of “popularizing knowledge” in the field of technology, but in itself is also a small work of art. The contemporary reader, who uses the achievements of the latest technologies every day, will still learn the history of the post and the path of communication developments.

The Post (Poczta) addresses how people communicated before the digital age when the demands for rapid information transfer transformed its channels: from messengers, through communication towers, an ambulance or a postal plane, to a telegraph and radiograph. Like Piet Zwart’s famous PTT Book on the Dutch Postal, Telegraph and Telephone company, the Themersons reveal the way the paper letters are moved from place to place (children are taught how to address a letter). They provide insight into the Morse alphabet and show how to construct a Morse code recording apparatus.

Poczta is a fine example of ’30s avant garde art and design. The book was published thanks to funding from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. It is currently in reprinted form (Polish only) for all to enjoy and be inspired.


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →