Samstag, 22. Juni 2013

Intersectional Tolkienism: Typography

Tolkien’s calligraphy and decorative¹ handwriting (“worthy of an illuminated medieval manuscript”) are well worth some admiration, and Hammond & Scull’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator is an excellent place to start. There’s one ironic little twist to be gleaned from that book which I’d like to point out.

When designing the covers of the first edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien commented on the typeface chosen by the Production Department of Allen & Unwin:
I think the lettering […] is unusually ugly. It has no affinity at all to ‘Black Letter’, being not decorative but brutally emphatic: the f e R g and J might be singled out for special condemnation. (It is much less unpleasant when smaller, but even then the e stands out as an ill-designed letter.)²
This is an approximation of what the lettering might have looked like:
“The Lord of the Rings: J. R. R. Tolkien” set in the Albertus typeface
Looks familiar? It’s Albertus, a typeface nearly contemporaneous (designed 1932–1940) with the publication of The Lord of the Rings. And, more saliently, since 2001 (or thereabouts) it has been in the style guide of the movie franchises helmed by Peter Jackson. Have a look at your movie merchandise, be it one of the official books on the The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movie trilogies, or the OSTs, or the recent trailer of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug … you’ll find it all over the place. Keep an eye out for the characteristic upper left corner of the capital M or N, for example.

I guess this might be one mosaic tile of what Tolkien would have thought of the movies.

¹Though not the other handwriting – “mere wavy lines rather like the print-out from an oscilloscope” (John D. Rateliff (ed.): The History of The Hobbit. HarperCollins, London 2011: p. xxix f.)
²W. G. Hammond, C. Scull: J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. HarperCollins, London 2004: p. 182.

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Das Foto im Blog-Header wurde freundlicherweise von Sandra Rugina zur Verfügung gestellt. Es zeigt den Bâlea-See in den rumänischen Karpaten. Alle Rechte liegen bei der Autorin.