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Une histoire vivante des ouvriers. De 1900 à nos jours by Bernard Chambaz

Contributed by Production Type on Jan 8th, 2024. Artwork published in
November 2020
Une histoire vivante des ouvriers. De 1900 à nos jours by Bernard Chambaz 1
François-Xavier Delarue. License: All Rights Reserved.

Bernard Chambaz (*1949) is a French historian, writer, and high school teacher. During his career he won several literary awards, among which are the prestigious Prix Goncourt, the Prix Apollinaire, and the Prix Roland de Jouvenel awarded by the Académie française.

In 2020 Chambaz published the non-fictional Une histoire vivante des ouvriers. De 1900 à nos jours through Éditions du Seuil. The title translates roughly to “A living history of workers, from 1900 to today”. In this book, Chambaz comments on a selection of photographs that depict workers, workplaces, strikes, sport events, etc. He found them in the archives of the picture agency Gamma-Rapho that holds more than 20 million images, including works by prominent names like Robert Doisneau, Édouard Boubat, and Sabine Weiss. You can get an idea of the photographs featured in the book in this French review.

The cover photo shows the core of what constitutes la main d’œuvre, the labor force: the hands of a worker – here those of an ochre miner. The cover was designed by François-Xavier Delarue who, telling from his portfolio, has a thing for interesting typographic titles. The typefaces he used on the cover are Acier and, for the line “de 1900 à nos jours”, Stratos, both published by Production Type.

The original metal version of Acier was first cast by French foundry Deberny & Peignot in 1930. It was designed by A.M. Cassandre, the famous French poster artist and advertising pioneer. One is inclined to describe it as a spin-off of his earlier Bifur typeface on which he worked from 1927 on and that appeared in 1929, also at Deberny & Peignot. Largely inspired in style by cubism and Eastern European modernism and in concept by modularity and Le Corbusier, the mastermind of modernist architecture, Bifur as much as Acier are meant to achieve stunning effects in print by using more than one style, more than one color, and more than one printing cycle. When Jean-Baptiste Levée from Production Type revived this typographic marvel for digital use, he chose to maintain two optical sizes (see the differences in detail respectively the number of fine strokes in the fillings), but also to extend on the number of styles that make the modular system.

On the cover of Une histoire des ouvriers you see Acier Display Solid for the author’s name, Acier Display Outline for “Une histore vivante des”, and Acier Display Gris rendered in three different colors for the biggest word, “Ouvriers”. In a very clever way the book designer picked up on the yellow and orange tones found in the ochre miner’s hands to breathe life into the letters and achieve an overall harmony in the title.

Une histoire vivante des ouvriers. De 1900 à nos jours by Bernard Chambaz 2
Éditions du Seuil. License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Acier
  • Stratos




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