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Éditions Allia

Contributed by Pierre Brossard on Feb 28th, 2021. Artwork published in
circa 2010
.
    Various Allia books
    Photo: Pierre Brossard. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Various Allia books

    Allia is a French book publishing house founded in 1982. The origin of the name is somewhat astonishing. Gérard Berréby, the director, found the idea during a stay at the bathroom when he saw the mark of the WC company named “Allia”. Then he decided to adopt this name as a kind of irreverent act and a reverence to Marcel Duchamp.

    The editor focused on texts that were neglected by others editors or unprotected by the copyright. From the year of its foundation to 1991, the editor published only 30 books with limited success. In 1995, when Allia was in great crisis due to its lack of sales, Berréby invented the “Petite collection” which is made of small format books (100×170mm) for a low price (six or seven euros per copy). This format proved a success, and now represents half of the collection.

    Book cover of a book from the “Petite collection” using Optima.
    Photo: Pierre Brossard. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Book cover of a book from the “Petite collection” using Optima.

    Berréby explains that from the beginning, he’s been deeply concerned with typography. He published a book of Tschichold but also integrates this knowledge into his own work. The first books he published were not set with the same typeface family. He oscillated between Garamond and Caslon before fixing his choice on Plantin, which he found well-balanced in boldness. It is the same about the paper. He found the contrast between the black color of the types and the white paper too painful for the eyes so he decided to adopt an ivory paper. His views on typography can be compared to Beatrice Warde’s Crystal Goblet:

    I don’t work for bibliophiles or typography amateurs. I am not offended if the reader doesn’t see the work that has been done to make his reading agreeable. If he notices it and thinks that the interesting text that he reads is served by an eye relaxing page layout, then I am happy.

    Interior of De Pictura by Leon Battista Alberti. The typeface used for the body and the titles is Plantin.
    Photo: Pierre Brossard. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Interior of De Pictura by Leon Battista Alberti. The typeface used for the body and the titles is Plantin.

    The book covers were designed by Patrick Lébédeff from the start of the Éditions Allia to his death in 2012. The covers contrasts with the design of the book interior. The covers use big pictures and small type for the title. The style is flexible; the logo doesn’t occupy the same place each time and the typeface can change from Helvetica Compressed (used for every music book) to Frutiger (used for every book about the Situationist International, not shown in this post) to Optima. The latter is the most widely used typeface for the covers, especially on the “Petite collection” covers ; it is furthermore the favourite typeface of Lébédeff.

    Gérard Berréby: La Banlieue du monde, 2019.
    Source: https://www.editions-allia.com Éditions Allia. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Gérard Berréby: La Banlieue du monde, 2019.

    Libero Bigiaretti: La Maladie, 2021.
    Source: https://www.editions-allia.com Éditions Allia. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Libero Bigiaretti: La Maladie, 2021.

    José Ortega y Gasset: La Mission du bibliothécaire, 2021.
    Source: https://www.editions-allia.com Éditions Allia. License: All Rights Reserved.

    José Ortega y Gasset: La Mission du bibliothécaire, 2021.

    Lloyd Bradley: Bass Culture, 2005.
    Source: https://www.editions-allia.com Éditions Allia. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Lloyd Bradley: Bass Culture, 2005.

    John Cage: A Composer’s Confessions, 2013.
    Source: https://www.editions-allia.com Éditions Allia. License: All Rights Reserved.

    John Cage: A Composer’s Confessions, 2013.

    Robert Palmer: Deep Blues, 2020.
    Source: https://www.editions-allia.com Éditions Allia. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Robert Palmer: Deep Blues, 2020.

    Beréby explains that this deep focus on each detail of the book printing is made with the goal of:

    considering the book object in its packaging, which is to say inside the process of designing it, making it, in its page layout, in its paper, in the manner in which we make it… The idea is to craft and offer an object that gives the will to be taken in hands.

    The titles are in the same size as the body, the contrast is made by small caps. A little envelope is set in Optima.
    Photo: Pierre Brossard. License: All Rights Reserved.

    The titles are in the same size as the body, the contrast is made by small caps. A little envelope is set in Optima.

    This book is set in Helvetica Extra Condensed.
    Photo: Pierre Brossard. License: All Rights Reserved.

    This book is set in Helvetica Extra Condensed.

    Typefaces

    • Optima
    • Helvetica Compressed
    • Plantin

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