By: Gwynn Thayer
During the last few weeks, students enrolled in GD 203, History of Graphic Design, have been visiting the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) to study items from the rare book collections. The SCRC continues to work with more and more faculty members who seek to make use of the collections for their classes.
For Professor Deborah Littlejohn’s Graphic Design course, students have been asked to select an item from a pre-selected list and reflect on some questions which are subjective in nature:
- What is my first visual impression of the artifact?
- What is the physical nature of the artifact? Size, weight, binding, paper, etc.
- How do I sense the artifact?
- What about the physical nature of the artifact interests me?
- What is interesting about the design of this artifact? Typography, images, cover, layout, etc.
The students are then considering more objective questions:
- Why is this artifact in the collection? Why is it important enough to collect?
- What is this artifact valued for? (may be more than one thing) subject matter, author, design, age, writing, illustrations, printing, previous owners, where produced
- Is this artifact mentioned in books about the history of books and printing?
- How does this artifact fit in with history? Printing history, art/design history, history of a discipline, etc.
- Is this artifact an example of something special? A beginning, an end, etc.?
- Is this artifact part of the development of something?
- If there are important individuals involved in the making of this artifact – who are they?
- Is this artifact connected with any other artifact in the collection? In a series, by the same author? by the same designer? about the same subject? etc. Does this add to its importance?
The end result will be a paper that incorporates their findings. Some of the items that the students are examining that have proven to be especially popular include:
The Art of Illumination and Missal Painting by Henry Noel Humphreys. The author created this book as a manual for students to learn the technique of illumination. It contains splendid examples of high-quality chromolithographs, some of which were printed in fourteen different colors. It is an excellent example of Victorian binding using white leather and gold lining. http://catalog.lib.ncsu.edu/record/NCSU1086276
Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain & Perfect Pronunciation by Paul A. Bennett. This book includes the work of forty-one designers, foremost among whom is Bruce Rogers, one of the most influential book designers of the early-twentieth century. The artists, designers, and printers were each given the task to produce one page in the volume independent of seeing the work of the other designers. The results of the project reveal great diversity of design. Rogers designed the title page and the ampersand page, which he printed on sandpaper. The binding, designed by W. A. Dwiggins, uses typography to illustrate the figure of Peter Piper. http://catalog.lib.ncsu.edu/record/NCSU347837
The birth, life and acts of King Arthur, of his noble Knights of the Round Table by Sir Thomas Malory (with designs by Aubrey Beardsley). This book, from 1909, includes illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley. Beardsley (1872-1898) was a leading English illustrator of the 1890s associated with the artistic movement known as Aestheticism. He was commissioned to design the book in 1893. Beardsley died several years later of tuberculosis; he was only 26. http://catalog.lib.ncsu.edu/record/NCSU399938
To learn more about Special Collections, go to: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/specialcollections/