Typography and Beatrix Potter

When you pick up a children’s book such as those created by Beatrix Potter, it is easy to simply focus on the beautiful pictures and fun of the story.  One doesn’t realize how crucial the typography of such a book truly is.  However, Beatrix Potter did comprehend the importance of this when she was creating the original designs with her publishers.

With children’s books, the text must not only look appealing, but it also must flow with the illustrations and enhance the theme.  The text can not simply just be put to the paper, as those who reprinted the centenary edition of Peter Rabbit showed by using a hand spacing of the text to make the layout more fun and appealing for a child.

In the centenary edition of Peter Rabbit published in 2002, typography historian Douglas Martin chose to use Founders Caslon.  This typeface was popular of the period in which Potter originally published her first book.  Furthermore, as with the original editions, the spacing and contrast between the actual text and the pictures was executed in great detail, as can be seen below.

Caslon’s typefaces had originated and became popular during the 1700s, dominating the preferred styles of most texts.  Yet his popularity had fallen as time progressed.  However, not too long before Potter’s books were published at the beginning of the 20th Century, a movement to revive his typefaces had began, resulting in an increased use in various versions of his original texts.  In the 1840s, the Chiswick Press helmed by Charles Whittingham began using the Caslon styles in their books.  As time progressed, it became more widely used for the public once more, and is still in use today.




My Baby for the Semester: Beatrix Potter

For as long as I can remember, Beatrix Potter’s characters have been like old friends, always sitting upon my bookshelf waiting for a new adventure.  They were a big part of my childhood, and to this day I still treasure my old copies that my mom bought for me as a baby.  For that reason, when I saw her books mentioned in the Miller’s Collecting Modern Books textbook, I knew it would be my baby for the semester project.

While it is a children’s book, the details in which Beatrix Potter put into her books is far from simple.  She is known for creating her own illustrations for almost every book she wrote, only stopping when she was physically incapable of doing so any longer.  She also put great efforts in the design of the books themselves, not just her words and drawings.  She worked with the publishers every step of the way, making sure that it turned out just as she wanted, something I doubt was very easy in the early 1900s for an author to do.

For this reason, I feel as if her books are worth being looked at and studied for this project.  The details and topics in which we are planning on discussing in class are the very things she wanted to ensure were as perfect as possible with her books, from the words she wrote, to the illustrations, to the texts and bindings used in the publication.  It is easy to get caught up in the fun adventures she created and not fully grasp how these books are in their own right a work of art.  That is something I hope to be able to show throughout this blog.