There’s more to Froshaug than letterpress typography

It’s very good that Quentin Newark touched on the issue of letterpress typography (DW 8 September), which is an intriguing one for those of us interested in Anthony Froshaug’s work. [His writings are to be published in a book due out next month.]

I might say that he’s blundered into this like an innocent – and unafraid fools have their virtues. Though it’s a heavy drawback of fast journalism that people are forced or force themselves into spouting off about subjectmatter that they don’t know too much about. So, for example, they give the misguided impression that the whole of a person’s work can be inferred from just a couple of short essays.

Certainly, Froshaug was very attracted indeed to letterpress printing, and he did almost nothing else for two or three years during the 1940s and 1950s.

What is also true is that he was very attracted to computers, from the middle of the 1940s onwards. Froshaug set projects about digital typography to his students from the late 1950s onwards.

In the early 1960s he built a primitive computer. In the late 1960s he studied at the Architectural Association in London, and was especially interested in the kind of structure and modular architecture that architects such as Walter Segal and Bucky Fuller were renowned for.

In the 1980s, until his death in 1984, he did almost nothing else but work with computers. He then taught a course at the London College of Printing on digital typography.

So letterpress typography was just one example of Froshaug’s broad range of interests. I would think it’s misleading to mention Froshaug in the context of the people – all of them forced by the ‘social-technical conjuncture’ into being just decorators, alas. Even Alan Kitching – whom Newark discusses in the Design Week piece – falls into this category.

It would have been more to the point to discuss Froshaug and what has been going on in the world of digital typography. For instance, what about the latest developments in typography for use on the Web – the primitive procedures of HTML and CSS, which might seem to bear some resemblance to traditional typesetting and the procedures of specification for print production in the 1940s? And so on.

Robin Kinross

Robin Kinross says I skew Anthony Froshaug’s meaning. I think in the context of the whole article my meaning is clear: letterpress can be taken to stand for the original principles of typography.

I take Froshaug’s Typographic Norms to demonstrate that the original development and lore of typography has been inseparable for 500 years from the development of its application, letterpress.

It is extremely shrewd of Robin to use my article to slip in a plug for his book, however, it is bound to be wonderful and I will be the first in line for a copy at the launch at Conway Hall in London on 10 October.

Quentin Newark


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