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.
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.
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.
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.
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