Friday, 30 September 2016

Please Mr Postman

As the book's sub-title says: One hundred years of great design, 1850-1950. Very true because the two hundred examples that designer Leslie Carbarga has dug up are wonderfully exuberant examples of corporate stationary. These letterheads are from a time when companies were proud to have engravings of their huge factories or offices occupying a prominent place at the top of the sheet. Sear, Roebuck has two examples on page fifty-one with one of them showing their Chicago plant three or four blocks long. The Wrigley gum company, also in Chicago, has a splendid plant engraving with every window, traffic outside and wee folk on the sidewalk, predictably their cable address was Spearmint.

The contents are an interesting mix of companies: entertainment; printing; clothing; pharmaceuticals; tobacco; beverages; food; artists and designers. Oddly there is nothing representing railroads, steel companies and big industrial concerns. The format is to show the top of each letterhead but nicely the complete letterhead is shown where a company has a design that runs across the top and down the sheet, usually on the left-hand side. Another nice touch, I thought, was sometimes including the actual typed letter, where you can see the old fashioned way of including punctuation all over the place.

Cabarga writes a brief illustrated introduction to all these stationary examples and anyone interested in typography will find the book fascinating, if only trying to identify the huge number of typefaces throughout the pages. Color is used where it occurs on the originals and all of them are reproduced in a reasonable size.

I've had the book since it came out in 1992 and I still find it a worthwhile look through title.

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