New Exhibit! Iterations: from Paris to Providence

Special Collections’ new summer exhibit, Iterations, features pochoir-printed plates from our extensive art and architecture collection. Pochoir is a many-layered stenciling process that produces extremely vivid and dimensional prints; it was particularly popular in late 19th and early 20th century Paris, and was used for fashion plates, interior design illustrations, architectural prints, and pattern and motif books like the ones featured in our exhibition.

Poster

Pattern books were intended for use by artists and designers as inspiration for wallpaper, textiles, and other decor. In that spirit, we invited local artists to view the pattern books and to use them as inspiration for a new piece created just for this exhibit. Participating artists include Chelsea Gunn, Taylor Polites, Caitlin Cali, Rebecca Volynsky, Lois Harada, Hope Anderson, Beth Brandon, Xander Marro, and Elizabeth Novak.

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The exhibit is currently on view in the cases in the Rhode Island Room (on the first floor of the library). In August, the exhibit will expand to include two additional cases on the library’s third floor.

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Stop by to check it out any time during the library’s open hours, and/or come to the Meet the Artists reception on July 15th, where you can talk to our creative collaborators, eat some snacks, and get a guided tour of the exhibit.

Tobias Frere-Jones & the Updike Award

We’re now just under two weeks away from our big type event of the year, when Tobias Frere-Jones will be our guest speaker at an event to award our first ever Updike Prize for Student Type Design.

Frere-Jones poster

It should be a fantastic night, so put it on your calendar now: Thursday, February 19th at 6pm. You can get a sense of Tobias Frere-Jones’s engaging take on typographic history by visiting his terrific blog.

At 5:30 we’ll be offering a short tour of our latest exhibition, “Inhabited Alphabets,” which highlights some typographic oddities from our Updike Collection as well as our other collections including children’s books, Civil War items and more. The Washington Street entrance will be open starting at 5:15. The event is free and open to the public, but you’re welcome to RSVP on the Library’s website.

And that’s not all! If you’re a proper typographic enthusiast, you need a great typographic t-shirt, and we’ve got one for you:

Tee shirt

Visit our Teespring campaign and order a t-shirt now. We’ve taken one of our favorite images from the current exhibition (from an 1838 Austin Letter Foundry specimen book) and turned it into a t-shirt that proclaims your typographic allegiance. Not only do you get a great shirt, but you also support Special Collections. The campaign runs through February 25th, so don’t delay. After that, they’re gone.

Thanks to Michael McDermott for once again designing the event poster featured at the top of this post. And thanks also to our event sponsor, Paperworks!

Paperworks Logo

SaltWaterColors

A newly-opened exhibition in our Providence Journal Rhode Island Room draws on our Nicholson Whaling Collection to highlight artistic creations by whalemen during the age of offshore whaling. You can view the exhibition now through the month of December. But in case you can’t make it to the exhibition, here are a selection of images (including quite a few not on display):

 

Whale Guitar Installed

If you missed the Whale Guitar unveiling and exhibition opening a week ago, you missed a great show.

After Jen Long and Rachel Rosenkrantz eloquently explained the motivation and process that led to the guitar, they officially unveiled it…

Whale Guitar Unveiling

And then lots of people packed the balcony outside Special Collections…

Audience

 

… to hear performances by Area C (aka Erik Carlson), Reza Clifton, and Shannon Le Corre & Chris Carrera (of Bloodpheasant):

Bloodpheasant

 

The performers signed the back of the guitar…

Guitar Signing

… and then it went in to the exhibition case…

Guitar in Case

… where you can see it until June 5th, as part of an exhibition on the guitar’s creation.

Whale Guitar Exhibition

The exhibition is in the Level 3 hallway beside Special Collections. And stay tuned for more information about the June 5th closing celebration, which will feature more music.

Bodoni One More Time

We’re just a few days from our Thursday lecture and opening of the Bodoni exhibition, so I wanted to offer one more blog post. First, because I wanted to share the great poster that graphic designer Michael McDermott designed for the event. Here it is:

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One of the great things about it is that it’s designed so that each panel can be printed on a sheet of 11″x17″ paper, creating a giant version of the poster. Here’s an example in the wild:

Poster on wall

Second, I wanted to share one image of something you can’t see in the exhibition:

Title page of Amoretti specimen

This is the title page of a type specimen (with a great border) by the Amoretti brothers of Parma. It’s often the case with exhibitions of books that there are a lot of openings from individual volumes that you’d love to show, but in the end you usually can only pick one. In this instance the title page lost out to another opening. But that’s just a reminder that if you see something that interests you in an exhibition you can always come back and work with the whole book, cover to cover, on your own.

The Alphabet from A to A

We’re less than a week from our big Bodoni celebration (you’re invited), so here’s an example of the kind of thing you can look for if you visit the exhibition.

One of Bodoni’s predecessors (and the man whose types he first used when he set up the press in Parma) was Pierre Simon Fournier, the great French typographer best known, perhaps, for his origination of the point system that became the basis for the system we use today. In 1766 he published the Manuel Typographique, and below on the left is a scan of the letter A from that book, which is on display in the exhibition.

FournierVsBodoni-sidebyside

On the right is an A from Giambattista Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico, posthumously published in 1818. There is a long list of reasons not to make too much of the comparison (each A is just one example of just one letter, at a large size, etc.). But it’s still kind of fun to view a 50-year evolution of a letter in detail.

And just in case you want to see it in motion:

FournierVsBodoni

Hopefully you’ll be able to join us on the 27th for this typographic celebration, with a lecture by Matthew Carter at 6:00 pm. The Washington Street entrance will be open at 5:00, and I’ll be offering a short guided tour of the exhibition at 5:30. The exhibition will be up (in the Providence Journal Rhode Island Room) through April 19th.

More information is available on the Library website.

Planning Your February Calendar

If you’re in Providence (or anywhere else nearby), here are a pair of February events at the Library that you shouldn’t miss.

One week from today we’ll have the opening of an exhibition by two artists, Agata Michalowska and Andrew Oesch, who have been working with PPL Special Collections materials (particularly the Wetmore Collection) to create new art. The exhibition (on display in the Level 3 hallway outside Special Collections) will give offer a chance to see historical materials and their transformation into contemporary art. On February 3rd at 6:00 pm, Andrew and Agata will discuss the process in a lecture in the 3rd Floor Meeting Room. More information and online signup here.
primer

 

And if you’re planning even farther out in the month,  save space for our February 27th event. We’ll be opening a new exhibition on the printer and typographer Giambattista Bodoni, who dieed 200 years ago, in the Providence Journal Rhode Island Room. Our opening event will feature a lecture by prestigious type designer Matthew Carter, who will discuss the role of historical research in type design. It’s a fitting topic for a night on which we’ll also be launching the Updike Prize for Student Type Design, a competition to reward undergraduate and graduate students who use the Updike Collection and then go on to design their own typefaces inspired by their research. More information about the event and online signup form here.