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Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club)

Contributed by Peiran Tan on Nov 25th, 2016. Artwork published in .
    Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club) 1
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.

    In 1931, the Limited Editions Club in New York commissioned Jan van Krimpen to design a two-volume series for the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer. Shown in the images, the Odyssey is hard-bound with a dark blue cloth surface, contained in a yellow slipcase.

    The book title “The Odyssey of Homer” only appears on the spine in all caps, embossed in gold. Other than drop caps, there is no illustration inside. The pages’ top edge are gold glided, and the reading edges are deckled. Some pages are not even cut open.

    There are four kinds of watermark on many pages, indicating this paper is specially made for the job: lettering “The Limited Editions Club”; lettering “Homer’s Odyssey”; ornament; and human figure.

    This Homer was also the first use of Van Krimpen’s own typeface, Romanée, casted at 16-point. Romanée was an upright style originally conceived to accompany Enschedé's Kleine Text Cursyf (“[for] Small Text Italic” in English), rediscovered in its archive. At that point, Van Krimpen had yet to design his own Romanée italic. Therefore the introduction, which is set completely in italic, uses Monotype Van Dijck.

    This book has an edition of 1500, all signed by Van Krimpen himself. Photos are taken from my own copy, No. 352.

    Peter Matthias Noordzij of TEFF (The Enschedé Font Foundry) partially digitized Romanée with Fred Smeijers in 1995. This digital Romanée was based on the 16-point metal, and only has an upright. It was used to set a Van Krimpen biography, titled Adieu æsthetica & Mooie pagina’s, and also a subsequent small booklet, presumably an exhibition catalog, titled The Aesthetic World of Jan van Krimpen. Perhaps because the italics were never completely digitized, TEFF’s digital Romanée was never released.

    In TypeCon 2016 I met Smeijers, and asked him why it stalled. He responded, “[he and PMN] had a difference of vision” in how the italics should be digitized.

    Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club) 2
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.
    Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club) 3
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.
    Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club) 4
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.
    Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club) 5
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.
    Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club) 6
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.
    Watermark: “The Limited Editions Club”
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.

    Watermark: “The Limited Editions Club”

    Watermark: “Homer’s Odyssey”
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.

    Watermark: “Homer’s Odyssey”

    Watermark: ornament.
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.

    Watermark: ornament.

    Watermark: Human figure.
    Photo: Peiran Tan. License: CC BY-NC-SA.

    Watermark: Human figure.


    • Romanée
    • Van Dijck




    Artwork location

    9 Comments on “Odyssey of Homer (Limited Editions Club)”

    1. Some more details on TEFF:

      Bram de Does (1934–2015) was a fervent admirer of Jan van Krimpen, especially his Romanée. When Enschedé bought photocomposition machines, they decided to make a photographic Romanée and consulted De Does.

      De Does thought it to be a terrible idea—Romanée’s charm partially rested in its size-specific designs. Enschedé then said to him—why don’t you design one? So De Does embarked on a journey of converting Romanée’s beauty into a photo-ready typeface: Trinité.

      Trinité later became so popular on its own that it was digitized as a PostScript Type 1 font. This digital Trinité was also a huge success. Peter Matthias Noordzij set up an Enschedé offshoot—TEFF—to manage its sales.

      TEFF did not really become a type business until the addition of other typefaces, such as De Does’s Lexicon.

    2. Do you know whether the open initial in the fifth image is type? It is quite similar (but not identical) to the later Romulus Open. In Letters of Credit, Tracy mentions that Van Krimpen said the effect of these open caps, with intact profiles, pleased him more than the previous Lutetia Open, where the white line had been cut through the edges of the letters.

    3. That inital 'N’ is a beautiful piece of engraving. It also looks a lot like a simplified version of his initials for the Curwen Press, too. Of course Van Krimpen designed dozens of pieces of incidental lettering over his career.

      I vaguely wondered if it might be something from the archives but nothing in the Enschede specimens of 1768 or 1825 is even slightly similar.

    4. Incidentally, since it seems to be discussed nowhere else on the internet, I might as well put here that John Lane’s Amsterdam talk (24 mins in) mentions that about fifteen years ago Justin Howes discovered that there’s a complete type specimen of Christoffel van Dijck/Dyck in the National Archives in London. This is quite some discovery-I wasn’t previously aware of it, although I’ve now found that Lane mentions it in a 2013 article, because until then no historian of type design apparently knew such a thing existed: all there was to go on was an impressive, but jumbled-up specimen issued ten years after he died (see Shaw/Dutch Type), and some really nice fragments from an early specimen that had been cut up to put in a scrapbook. (There’s two eerily similar stories with-I think-the first German specimen of sans-serif types-it was thought that the only copy had been destroyed in WWII, but Sébastien Morlighem found another copy in Cambridge recently, and the famous 1592 Berner Specimen in Frankfurt which was also mislaid after the war.) Anyone fancy paying them to do a photograph?

    5. Thanks for pointing us to these resources, Blythwood!

      Do you have any additional info about the German specimen of sans-serif types? Also on this topic: Dan Reynolds’s lecture at Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin about 19th century sans serifs in Germany (video, in German), and Pierre Pané-Farré’s research about 19th century poster typefaces (including but not limited to sans serifs).

    6. I had forgotten about your wonderful translation of the Pierre Pané-Farré article! That came from a conference on the history of sans-serifs in Birmingham that I was lucky enough to attend in 2016, which included presentations from James Mosley, John A. Lane, and Sébastien Morlighem among others. Unfortunately none of this has-as far as I know-ever been published either, so all I have is some hastily-scribbled notesbut I’ve re-examined them now; what I was thinking of was an early 1830s French specimen by Legrand that was reported in a 1931 article to exist in a collection-my notes aren’t clear here but I think of a German printing museum-that vanished in the war. (Maybe it’s in the Hermitage?) Apparently Morlighem found a Henri Didot specimen in Cambridge that seems to be the same thing, with an 1828 title page but actually containing an 1834 supplement. (My memory is some of them were shadowed, but I might be thinking of another set shown in the same talk.) I also noted Lane saying it was a shame that the Sept. 1834 JfB issue Pané-Farré references (image 8) has been digitised by Google Books, but you can’t see the sans-serif designs because the photographer didn’t fully unfold the fold-out supplement sheet…

      As you can imagine, I’m extremely excited about Dr. des. Reynolds’ research and hope it gets published! I should add that although Lane said in his 2013 ATypI talk that nobody’d ever published anything about the Van Dijck specimen I haven’t yet seen the second edition of Dutch Type, so it may be in there.

    7. Thanks! I will point Dan and Sébastien to this thread.

      Dan Reynolds will definitely publish his dissertation eventually, but there his focus is on a different topic, namely the emergence of the typeface designer as a profession in Germany in the late 19th century. Or more accurately, he undertook A historiographic examination of the relationship between handcraft and art regarding the design and making of printers’ type in Germany between 1871 and 1914.

      I’m sure Dan will talk and write more about early sans serifs, too. On his blog, he has posted an abstract of this other ongoing research project, in English: Distribution of sans serif typefaces across German-speaking foundries in the 19th century.

      For Dutch Type: I haven’t checked for the Van Dijck specimen. As far as I know, Jan Middendorp didn’t do a fully revised edition, but “only” fixed a number of errors.

    8. Sébastien Morlighem says:
      Feb 19th, 2019 11:48 am

      Hi everyone,
      first of all, John A. Lane asked me about this type specimen in an e-mail (28 août 2016), while he was preparing his Birmingham talk: “Bockwitz in Archiv für Buchgewerbe 62 (1931), p. 168, records a sans-serif under the name ‘Lettre sans traits’ in an 1834 specimen of Marcellin-Legrand.”

      I was not aware of this specimen at that time, but these “Lettres sans traits” sounded familiar. I quickly found out where I first read about them: In Sara Soskolne’s dissertation Sans serif: the early years. Its evolution as a bicameral style (University of Reading, 2003).

      Sara must be credited for finding it at the Cambridge University Library when she was researching for her dissertation. She kindly sent me copies of the pages displaying these first French sans serif the day before the conference and we were quite happy of this collaborative outcome ;°)

      I recently asked to Stephen Coles at Letterform Archive about the early French specimens from the Tholenaar Collection they bought years ago and he put up a list and selection of images on Flickr.

      Guess what? They have another copy of the ‘1828’ H. Didot, Legrand & Cie specimen, comprising the “Lettres sans traits” as well as the “Lettres Blanches, Italiques, Deux-points de Mignonne”, a wonderful & different take on sans serif. I assume this sheet was printed and the copy was made after 1834, as the mention on this page now says “Marcellin-Legrand & Cie”.

      As a sidenote, I’ve been working these last years on a research project about French sans serif in the nineteenth century. The Birmingham presentation was a short, first report of my foraging, and I hope to be able to start sharing more things before the end of the year…

    9. Thank you for linking to my Staatsbibliothek talk’s video! The lecture was in German, so I know that it is not really accessible to everyone. The talk was a bit less process-focused than I initially intended, but it does still present some snapshots from an ongoing research project I have on the backburner. I have to close a chapter on that project and write my initial findings up this Spring. With any luck, that will be published, and can spread what I have been looking at to a wider audience.

      I only implied in that presentation how heavily shaped that research project has been by Berlin’s various public type specimen collections. These are considerable, particularly for the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. But their weakness is their national-centricity. Although I don’t know for sure, I have a hunch that researchers working in Leipzig, Frankfurt or Mainz have specimen collections available to them that, while being slightly less deep in terms of what they’ve gotten from German firms, might have far more on hand from Britain and – especially – from France. A visitor to Berlin’s public collections of type specimen, who did not come with any prior knowledge of the history of printing – might be forgiven for walking away from it all with the impresssion that there were no typefoundries in France after the eighteenth century. This is a problem.

      A result of this is that I have not done any systematic looking at French type specimen at all. Not from any period, ever. I have unsystematically looked at French specimen in that, both in real life and online, I have paged through what I could get my hands on, without going to any collections that specialised in that. When it came to a few particular designs I have looked into, I have asked French researchers what French foundries carried them (if any), knowing that I would not easily be able to find this out myself. This is all one big way of writing that … I’m sorry! I’m afraid that I can’t contribute any details about Legrand.

      Without more details about what and where this lost early German sans serif specimen was … well, I’m afraid I can’t be of much help on that front, either. Several collections of German type specimen were damaged or destroyed in the war. Perhaps the destroyed museum that you are thinking of was Gustav Mori’s in Frankfurt? I think that he had the Egenolff-Berner sheet there that was believed to have been lost, but was not (it is now in the half of the Mori specimen collection at the Frankfurt University Library). The Schriftmuseum in Berlin was destroyed, and I imagine that the Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum in Leipzig was damaged, too. Even at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, I will regularly click on a book’s entry in the electronic catalogue, only for the details page to tell me that it was lost in the war.

      The 1931 article you mention … was that Hans Bockwitz’s »Egyptienne und Grotesk« in Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphik? He did write the oldest example of a sans serif in a German specimen was the 1834 sans serif from Caslon & Livermore, which Haenel’s (then in Magdeburg) typefoundry showed on a type specimen sheet sent as a supplement to the September 1834 issue. As you mention, Pierre reproduced a close-up of that in his Forgotten Shapes article. Bockwitz did not believe that this was actually the first sans serif sold in Germany … it was just the oldest that he had found. I, on the other hand, do believe that it was the first, although this is more of a gut feeling than something I can justify watertightly.

      I have trouble imagining that this Haenel specimen could have been considered something that was lost to time during the war, though, since it was a supplement to a journal. I have never tried to figure out how many copies of this have survived into the present, but the image Pierre uses is from the copy at the University Library in Amsterdam, and I have seen the specimen sheet bound into the volume of 1834 issues of the Journal at the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin. I have also seen all of the early Journal issues at the Technical University in Braunschweig, although I don’t recall if they had the issue’s supplements or not. What I am getting is … well, I have not done the research myself, but I would be surprised if there were only two copies of this specimen sheet left in public collections in the world.

      That typeface is also shown in later Haenel specimen. The image of it that I showed in my Staatsbibliothek lecture (which you can see in the video) was printed by Haenel in Berlin a few years later. It probably appeared in other Haenel/Gronau specimens to. For example, even the much later 1891 catalogue from Gronau still has the font in it.

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