This past week, while researching through Dr. Arturo Dávila’s personal library, I came across a stack of pamphlets, about 11 of them in total, sewn and bound in varied marbleized papers. Trim-wise, these are considerably small, ranging from 3×4.5 inches to 5.5×8 inches, and yet, they called my attention. Don Arturo, as wise as he is, felt as my eyes were drawn to the colorful spines. “Pick them up; take a look“. In the process, he explained that these reproductions were used by the Church to spread its message. Little did I know, my curiosity had brought me to a series of original 18th Century texts—printed versions of homilies recited by Catholic priests in Mexico.

To share these, I took the time to scan one of the leaflets in its entirety. Please note a curious type treatment that has been killing me since I became aware of it: at the end of every page the typesetter included the first few characters of the word that follows on the next page. I had never seen this kind of strategy employed, and it was used in almost all of the documents, printed in a range of many different years, which means it was not a one time thing.

In their time, these documents would have probably not attracted any aesthetic conversation, but today, I can’t help but see them with a clinical eye, and hold them in my hands with admiration. Right now, everything about them—texture, color, smell, sound—is just fantastic. More importantly, each and every one of them holds some kind of typographic lesson that I can learn from.

Click on any of the images for a larger look.

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5 Responses to Learning from the past

  1. Wow, really these are beautiful!

  2. martha says:

    These are lovely; the thing that is ‘killing you” is called a ‘catchphrase’ that helped the printers put the pages in order; and the binders. Usually it’s just on the last page of a signature to get them in order.

    Nice marginalia printing and the display italics with swash! advanced = two columns that break together for a pull quote (who knew, back then, they did that?)

    Perfect timing for my Type Two students and their ‘traditional’ books.

  3. ajrigau says:

    Martha, thank you so much for the information. I really had not come across this before. I wonder if a contemporary interpretation of this “catchphrase” could be incorporated into a text, but instead of helping with the organization of the pages, maybe it could help with making sense of information, maybe on an online component. Thanks so much!

  4. Liese Zahabi says:

    What a find! I love the marginalia too, especially the few places where they implement the pointing hand icon. The decorative blocks are nice too. Just lovely.

  5. […] a continuation of my previous post, here another scan, this time of a 1725 document. Again, the use of the “catchphrase” […]

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