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The Liberated Page (Herbert Spencer, 1987)

Written by Pierre-Yves Cachard, 7 years ago, 6 Comments
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The Liberated Page
A Typographica Anthology

Herbert Spencer (editor)
Aaron Burns (forewords)
Bedford Press, San Francisco
1987, first edition.

8.5 x 11 inches
232 pages
with hundreds of illustrations
printed in black-and-white with red spot color (most of the work reproduced in this book was originally produced in these colors), on matte-coated paper.

This book is an anthology of major typographic articles and experiments of this century as recorded in Typographica magazine – published from 1949 to 1967 by Lund Humphries in London. The subject matter of these articles is avant-garde graphic design and typography, ranging roughly from the mid-1910’s to the 1950’s. Many of the artists in this book were associated with notable art movements of those years, including futurism, dada, surrealism, de stijl, and Russian constructivism. An excellent resource.


  • Foreword by Aaron Burns
  • Robert Massin by Germano Facetti
  • Josua Reichert: typography as visual poetry by Jasia Reichardt
  • The Books of Diter Rot by Richard Hamilton
  • BCG: The work of Brown, Chermayeff, and Geismar
  • Idéogrammes lyriques (discusses Guillaume Apollinaire) by Stefan Themerson
  • Paul Van Ostaijen by Edward Wright
  • Lyric Poetry – Instructions for Use by Paul Vincent
  • Richard Hamilton’s version of ‘The Green Box’(discusses Marcel Duchamp) by Edward Wright
  • From Painting to Photography: Experiments of the 1920s (includes Raoul Hausmann, El Lissitzky, Man Ray) by Camilla Gray
  • Avant-garde graphics in Poland between the two world wars by Anatol Stern
  • Henryk Berlewi and Mechano-Faktura by Eckhard Neumann
  • Piet Zwart by Herbert Spencer
  • Paul Schuitema by Benno Wissing
  • John Heartfield by Eckhard Neumann
  • Alexander Rodchenko: A constructivist designerby Camilla Gray
  • Herbert Bayer’s photographic experiments by Eckhard Neumann
  • Kurt Schwitters on a time chart by Stefan Themerson

Typographica was the brainchild of founder, editor, designer and renowned typographer Herbert Spencer, and had a brief life, totalling 32 issues published between 1949 and 1967. But its influence stretched and stretches far beyond its modest distribution and print runs of the time. For many graphic designers, Typographica is something of an obsession, to be collected if and when found, savored, and poured over for designs, and techniques not seen since.

Spencer never intended to turn a profit, so no expenses were spared in production (just like Alexey Brodovitch’s Portfolio). Different papers, letterpress, tip-ins, and more were all employed in the presentation of an eclectic range of subject matter: Braille, locomotive lettering, sex and typography, typewriter faces, street lettering, matches, and avant-garde poetry all found their way into the magazine.

Urbane, prolific and unfailingly modest, Spencer was a reformer dedicated to improving standards of design in a field dominated by the printing industry’s outdated conventions. But he was also an aesthete with a connoisseur’s eye for the wild modernist innovations with letterforms and layout of the 1920’s. Spencer launched the seminal publication, Typographica, in 1949, when he was 25, and edited, designed and sometimes wrote for it for 18 years. Equally at home publishing one of the first articles in Britain about concrete poetry (then an international phenomenon), or an illustrated study of the design challenges presented by Braille, he was a new kind of designer-editor, able to think both visually and verbally, and to fuse images and words in meaningful new relationships.

Click on the thumbnails to view full size.

Text: Modernism101
Picture:  Pierre-Yves Cachard

Some copies could be found (hardcover of softcover edition), prices are between 30 to 150 US$. You can send a message if you want some informations.

About Pierre-Yves Cachard

Pierre-Yeves Cachard is the head librarian of the Le havre's University Library and one of the organizers of "Une saison graphique", french graphic design festival.

  1. HardtekFebruary 26, 2011, 11:14 am

    Exellent article… rien à dire !

  2. Josh NychukSeptember 21, 2011, 7:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing all these images from the book. Hopefully I can find a copy!

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