Elizabeth Friedlander, modern print designer

Anyone interested in typography and book design will want to visit Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft in East Sussex this spring to see the exhibition devoted to the delightful work of Elizabeth Friedlander (1903-1985).

Born Elisabeth Friedländer (she anglicized her name on settling in Great Britain) into an affluent Jewish family, she studied typography and calligraphy under the renowned typographer Emil Rudolf Weiss. After completing her studies, she worked for the German fashion magazine Die Dame where she was responsible for designing headings and layouts. Her work came to the attention of the Bauer Type Foundry, one of the leading type foundries at the time, well known for commissioning and issuing modern and attractive typefaces (for example Futura by Paul Renner and Weiss Antiqua by Emil Rudolf Weiss). The foundry commissioned Elizabeth Friedlander to design a typeface. She finished the design in 1937 and the types were in production by 1938. “Elisabeth”, as the typeface became known as, is an elegant font, which cannot hide the influence of Emil Rudolf Weiss.

Promotional material issued by the Bauer Type Foundry (Morison.86.811)

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Manuel Puig and La traición de Rita Hayworth

2018 marks 50 years since La traición de Rita Hayworth, the debut novel by the Argentinian author Manuel Puig, was first published. Puig (1932–1990) is best-known outside the Spanish-speaking world for his fourth novel, 1976’s El beso de la mujer araña (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and its successful film, theatre and musical adaptations. However, his debut (Betrayed by Rita Hayworth in its English translation) remains his most directly personal novel, and introduces many of the themes and ideas that run throughout his work.

Traicion

1st edition of La traición de Rita Hayworth, with a picture of the author on the cover

Most authors’ first novels represent, in some way, a culmination of their life up to that point, but this is particularly true of La traición de Rita Hayworth. In fact, the book is almost as purely autobiographical as a work of fiction can be.

The book’s setting, Coronel Vallejos is a thinly veiled version of Puig’s hometown General Villegas. Boquitas Pintadas (Heartbreak Tango), his second novel – and first big commercial success – is also set there. His mother Malé had moved to Villegas, a dusty pampas backwater in Buenos Aires Province, from the state capital of La Plata, and met and married Manuel’s father Baldo there. Both the physical landscape of Manuel’s childhood and the people around him were clearly mirrored in his early work. His parents, a somewhat ill-matched couple, are represented in La traición de Rita Hayworth by Berto, a typical small-town Argentinian macho with matinée idol looks, and Mita, an educated woman nostalgic for her more cosmopolitan hometown and enamored of cinema and the arts.

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С Новым годом! Happy New Year! : late delivery of the December 2017 Slavonic item of the month

The December 2017 item of the month was held up in the post, so with apologies here is a lovely festive card sent on 20 December 1967 to celebrate the incoming new year.

Postcard recto. From the Catherine Cooke postcard collection.

In the Soviet period, Christmas played a much-diminished role – new year celebrations took on much of Christmas’ character and iconography, and New Year’s Eve remains the main time for present-giving in much of the former Soviet bloc to this day.  In the card above, we have Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) being ferried by a troika of horses, with the Kremlin star shining in the background.

This lovely card was sent from Nizhnii Tagil, a town in the Sverdlovsk Region, to the small Norwegian town of Vikersund.  The fact that the Russian sender had a personalised stamp for his details (a sign that he was well established), bottom right, made me hope that he and the recipient might be traceable – and so it turned out to be the case.

Postcard verso.

Rudol’f Kopylov was an artist and Thor Skullerud was a pharmacist – what linked them appears to have been bookplates.  Kopylov specialised in the production of ex-libris and Skullerud was an avid commissioner of them.  For readers of Russian, here is more about Kopylov in connection with an exhibition of some of his works in 2014: http://www.shr-ekb.ru/exibitions.php?exid=144; for all, here is a link to some of the bookplates he produced which commemorate the poet Sergei Esenin: http://www.esenin.ru/esenin-v-izobrazitelnom-iskusstve/ekslibris/kopylov-r-v  Skullerud is harder to pin down in terms of biographical details, but here are some of the ex-libris he had made for him: http://art-exlibris.net/person/1922  It would seem that several of his bookplates are now in the Rijksmuseum, but copyright sensitivity prevents the museum from providing images: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search?q=skullerud

Somewhere, presumably, there is a bookplate designed by Kopylov for Skullerud to be found, but I have yet to track it down.  Ex-libris are the subject of many books in the UL.  A search for the subject bookplates will provide long lists.  Among the results will be a formidable Russian publication which lists all bookplates found in the holdings of the rare books department of the Gosudarstvennaia publichnaia istoricheskaia biblioteka (the State Public Historical Library).  Listed by name of owner, the set has covered only three letters of the alphabet and already stands at four volumes.  Once complete, it will be an extraordinary resource.  It can be consulted via the West Room and stands at  874.d.70-73.

Happy New Year to all our readers.

Mel Bach

Nativity festivity: a celebration of crib scenes in the UL

The birth of Jesus has been represented in images since the 4th century when it appeared in reliefs on sarcophagi in Rome. St Francis of Assisi was perhaps the first to create a (living) nativity in the early 13th century. Since that time the nativity scene has spread from Italy across Europe and become an important part of Christmas festivities in many cultures in both public and domestic settings. The nativity has also been a major subject in paintings and other artistic forms since medieval times. We are celebrating this Christmas season with a look at some examples from our collections. Continue reading

Penck: beautiful and poignant

The University Library has recently acquired the catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition A.R. Penck, Rites de passage (S950.a.201.5701) which was held at the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence near Nice from March 18 to June 18, 2017. Penck was one of the greatest German artists of the late 20th century along with Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Sigmar Polke and Jörg Immendorff. The focus of the exhibition was on the challenges of his painting and sculpture through different periods, each chosen to give a better understanding of the richness of his aesthetic, existential, philosophical and literary worlds. The exhibition presented around one hundred paintings, sculptures, large sets of drawings, prints and artists’ books. Continue reading