Taiwanese edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ published

The Taiwanes edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ on top of the Dutch edition.

The Taiwanes edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ on top of the Dutch edition.


Two weeks ago the Taiwanese edition of my book ‘A Clear Dream’ (Droom van Helderheid) was published as part of the ‘Source series’. It is surprising to see such an interest in Taiwan in the history of Dutch visual identity, modernism and design agencies.

The ‘Source series” is an imprint of Taiwanese designer Wang Zhi-Hong facilitated by Faces Publications. Luckely the print quality of the book seems better then the Chinese edition published last year. It is fascinating to see how Zhi-Hong uses social media to generate interest: the book has already been seen by over 11.000 people on Behance (featured graphic design), and by many more on Tumbler, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The book features a nice cover and a carefully composed layout that to a large degree is based upon the Dutch edition, that was designed by Piet Gerards Ontwerpers. It is not clear whether Zhi-Hong takes note of this.

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Continue reading

New York: Being there

Central Park

Central Park


New York is a nice city, unless you experience it during one of the more severe frost periods of this century. Average day temperature was -6, at night it was -15 degrees Celsius. Earlier I had imagined leisurely walking from my hotel through Central Park to the archive I worked at each day. It now became an slippery and icy adventure! Continue reading

CAFA Lecture

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To my surprise my translator–Mike Liu–arranged for me to give a lecture about my book at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing. It is the flagship of Chinese art academies and I felt much obliged. So yesterday I found myself at the entrance of the CAFA School of Design. Continue reading

Chinese version of ‘A Clear Dream’ published

ChineseDroomBoekBakker-005Yes! Finally the Chinese edition of my book Droom van helderheid : Huisstijlen, ontwerpbureaus en modernisme in Nederland : 1960-1975 (A Clear Dream : Visual Identity, Design Agencies and Modernism in The Netherlands : 1960-1975) is for sale! A large colourful pocket with an interesting print quality to match. Some people asked me, how did that happen, a book in China? Well, with a combination of luck and hard work. Let me explain. Continue reading

Printing 1770-1970: A good book!

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Michael Twyman, Printing 1770-1970: An illustrated history of its development and uses in England, Eyre & Spottiswoode (Publishers) Ltd., London 1970. ISBN 413-264203-2, 21.5×30.3×2.5 cm, 283 pg

Used as we are to graphic design histories featuring hero’s like Paul Rand, Wim Crouwel and that German named guy who is into self mutilation, we tempt to forget that there are also other histories possible. Critics originating in the field of visual culture studies have pointed this out frequently. Still they fail to construct an alternative. Which makes sense if deconstruction is your specialty. Continue reading

French Booklet for aspiring botanists

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Guerard, Les enfans voyageurs, ou les petits botanistes (T. I. & II., 2 ed.), Librairie d’éducation d’Alex, Paris 1826. 13.5×9 cm.

A lovely booklet originally part of a four volume set. A children’s book series for aspiring botanists. Complete with a frivolous yellow bookmark and dried leafs. From a bookshop in the French village of Crest (Drôme).

Who held this book in his or her hands? The booklets deliver a pensive image. In the vain of ‘remembrance of a summer day’. What I like most on the title page is it the logotype ‘2nd Edition’. A nice construction.

There are many images in this book. Lightly printed gravures of plants, very detailed. Some say that engraved texts are at the foundation of Didot types. The engraving process itself facilitating even strokes. True? I don’t know but it is a nice story.

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Theo means ‘Godslove’?

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Kramers’ Nouveau Dictionaire de Poche: Français-Néerlandais et Néerlandais-Français (9e ed.), G. B. van Goor Zonen, Gouda 1908. 16x12x7cm, 1320 pg.

Huig, Jas, Louw, Stoffel, Stansje and Trui are remarkable surnames for people. They are old dutch names and I found them in a an age-old Dutch-French ‘pocket’-dictionary. On its last pages it carried a list for translating dutch surnames into french ones.

Middle/upper-class citizens still use many of the names listed here, like Hugo, Jaap, or Krijn for their young borns, spiriting them with an old ‘Dutch’ aura. Nevertheless, I doubt they’ll use Noach, Pius, Urbanus, Ursula, or Vitus. Too Catholic. A former owner underlined Gustaaf, Hendrik and Karel. Conservative.

Most remarkable: ‘Godlief’. Translated into English it means ‘Godslove’, which for Dutch ears has a hippy ring to it. I never realized that the French translation was ‘Theophile’. But of course, ‘Theo’ stands for god! But except for ‘Theobald’, ‘Theo’ is missing from this list of surnames.

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Best (Old) Printing Industry Dictionary

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Every industry has its own lingo. A typical job advertisement in the IT-industry for example might ask for ‘a front-end developer with experience from UI level (Javascript) to the controller level (Python)’. It is not likely that people outside the industry understand this. It is even harder to decipher sentences like this when the industry in question is that of letter press printing. Except for handful of hobbyists who are on the verge of extinction its gone. Continue reading

Jean Carrot or how to recognise a stereotype

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Jean Racine, Oeuvres de Jean Racine (Tome Second), De l’imprimerie et de la fonderie stéréotypes de Pierre Didot l’ Aîne, et de Firmin Didot, Paris 1803. 15.7×10.5×2.3 cm.

Some time ago I bought a small dishevelled book written by the famous French playwright Jean Racine (last name translates as Carrot). I was interested in the printer of the booklet: Pierre Didot, whose beautiful composition of initials ‘PD’ can be seen on the title page.

The Didot printers are famous for being the inventors of the modern type, a type face that has lost its handwritten character. Its serifs and stems have become mere geometrical stripes. It is regarded as a the first step on route towards sans serifs types. At least in French eyes.

Italians might detract from Didots achievements by pointing at Giambattista Bodoni, whose typefaces are still used for fashion magazines like Vogue and Harpers Bazar. French will retaliate by saying that the Didot face can be traced back to the ‘Romain du Roi’. Etc.

Enfin. I wanted to a piece of that history. The interesting thing is that the title page of this booklet also says it is a Fonderie of Stéréotypes (foundry of stereotype). That is right! These are the guys that invented stereotypes!

With the Didot’s stereotyping was a process in which a paper maché mold was made from a ‘page’ with handset type matter. This paper maché mold could be filled with melted lead. The result was a massive new positive typeset page that could be used for printing.

The advantage of a paper maché mold was that it was easier to store. For reprinting a book, it was not necessary anymore to store thousands of pounds of lead, or to typeset a book again, a process that was prone to errors. The Didot’s profited from stereotyping and produced many cheap editions.

In the course of time the expression ‘stereotyping’ became a metaphor. In the mid nineteen hundreds dictionaries defined it as ‘an image perpetuated without change’. In 1922 its was ‘officially’ coined as a metaphor by the American journalist Walter Lippmann while writing an editorial for the magazine Public Opinion.

In it he stated that the pictures in the press influence people’s perceptions of reality, and consequently, they developed their own stereotypes: ‘Wether right or wrong, our imagination is shaped by these pictures seen. Consequently, they lead to [our own] stereotypes that are hard to shake.’

Brainwave. What do my old French-Dutch dictionaries say?
In my 1908 dictionary it is still missing as a Dutch expression, between steranijs (star anise) en sterfbed (deathbed). As a French expression: ‘Stéréotype, with concrete type’, as a process ‘Stéréotyper, printing with concrete type, stereotyping.’

My 1937 dictionary–unfortunately only French-Dutch–says: ‘Stéréotype, stereographically printed.’ But it also notes it can be used metaphorically.’ Interestingly it also introduces the ‘Stéréotypeur, workman who works with concrete type matter.’ It seems likely that this trade became that of journalism.

Now the final and politically correct question. How do I recognise a real stereotype? Have I bought a ‘stereotyped’ booklet?

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‘Racine’=‘wortel’=‘carrot’

‘Racine’=‘wortel’=‘carrot’