Winter 2018

Imperfect beauty

Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, &c.: The 1874 Masterpiece of Colorful Typography

Esther K. Smith, Steven Heller and Wayne White
Rizzoli, $45, £32.50

This book exists solely because its author Esther K. Smith considers Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, &c. by William H. Page & Co. to be ‘the most beautiful book in the world’ – and is eager to share her enthusiasm for it with the rest of the world. But a grandiose statement like that makes one want to say: ‘Whoa, whoa, hold on a minute now! Is this really the most beautiful book in the world?’ Forget Smith’s constant comparison of it to the Gutenberg Bible – which is unfair since that book was only decorated by its owners and thus no two copies are alike – and think about other books that could claim the title.


Right and top: Cover and specimen from Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders &c. Specimen shows 16-, 20- and 25-line Chromatic Corinthian.


Paul Shaw, letter designer, design historian, New York

Read the full version in Eye no. 95 vol. 24, 2018


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. You can see what Eye 95 looks like at Eye Before You Buy on Vimeo.


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