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You are here: Home / Conferences / Amsterdam 2013 / Presentation programme

After black and red:

multicoloured typefaces of the 19th century
When Fri 11 Oct 1620
Where Krasnapolsky A
What Perspective alteration
Who Pierre Pane-Farre

Today, colour in printing is normal. While we can trace back the use of colour in printing to its very beginnings, it used to be restricted to the colours black and red. The range of colours could be broadened, but only manually. At that point the production was to become very expensive, error prone and limited to small scale editions. Further, this practice was narrowed down by the size of the item (mostly illustration) to be coloured – hence type, being too small to colour, was rarely affected by this.

In the 19th century, all this changed. With the social and technical developments, the typographic field was experiencing its second major expansion since Gutenberg. Within this plurality of printed ephemera, typographic designs started to fulfil new tasks to which type-founders and printers adapted their work. This not only led to the development of bigger and therefore more eye-catching type designs, but also led to decorated type designs, in which the letters even appeared three dimensional. By the late 1830ies the palette of printing colours the printers could choose from was widely broadened. As a logical consequence, all printed matter started to become more colourful and it is here where the first multicoloured typefaces appeared.

Following the progression of the German printing business and its lively exchange with the English printing trade, the evolution of colour and its influence on the development of multicoloured typefaces will be investigated. Secondly, the talk will present different stages not only leading to the multiple foundation of colour factories by the mid-century, but also to a changing social relationship towards colour due its growing omnipresence. For it is within a period of only 50 years, that colour developed from an expensive and exclusive item to a more mainstream phenomena, when it was used on throw-away objects such as posters.

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