The Daily Heller: The Golden Age of Book Design in Buenos Aires

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Cómo se Imprime un Libro: Grafistas e Impresores en Buenos Aires 1936–1950 (How a Book is Printed: Graphic Artists and Printers in Buenos Aires 1936–1950), curated by David Carballal and Silvia Longueira, is an exhibition that started in 2018 at Fundación Luis Seoane in A Coruña and traveled to Madrid and Argentina (it was slated for Milan, too, prior to the pandemic lockdown). It's a panoramic study on book design in Buenos Aires after the Spanish Civil War and during World War II, and the accompanying exhibit catalog is focused on a group of European artists who went into exile in the Argentine capital.

Of that group, Attilio Rossi designed the first pocket-book collections in Latin America (and Spain): Austral and Contemporánea, the equivalent of Albatross and Penguin. Grete Stern and husband Horacio Coppola made beautiful photo books. Jakob Hermelin brought the calligraphic arts from Germany to Argentina. And Luis Seoane also designed several collections, such as Buen Aire, a series of pocket books on pre-Hispanic culture. They were all key artists during the birth of industrial book design in Argentina, and most of their jobs were printed by Imprenta López in Buenos Aires during the 1940s, a period known as the “golden age of publishing” in Argentina.

David Carballal notes: The exhibition and text are named after the photo book Cómo se Imprime un Libro, published by Imprenta López in 1942 as a present for its clients and partners. Designed by Rossi and including photographs and photomontages by Coppola and Stern, it shows the graphic art trades during this period through a dazzling informative sequence of text and images. It was an atypical publication in Buenos Aires at the time: standard format, asymmetric layout, large areas of white in contrast to solid blocks of text and full-page photographs. The keys of the New Typography from Europe had arrived in Argentina.

This little masterpiece of modern design landmarks the starting point of the new eponymous catalog. Featuring essays by Longueira, Carballal, Pablo Rossi and Horacio Fernández, the publication reviews the birth of modern book design in Argentina through publishing houses such as Espasa-Calpe Argentina, Losada, Emecé and Nova.