A Face of Its Own

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A FACE OF ITS OWN

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TYPOGRAPHIC IDENTITY OF THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, WITH A SUGGESTION FOR ITS FUTURE



A FACE OF ITS OWN A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TYPOGRAPHIC IDENTITY OF THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, WITH A SUGGESTION FOR ITS FUTURE

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he Metropolitan Museum of Art enjoys a long and distinguished history of collaboration with important graphic designers. Joseph Blumenthal, Lance Hidy, Martino Mardersteig, Roderick Stinehour, and Ivan Chermayeª, among others, have all collaborated at one time or another on design work for the Museum. Recently, Peter Oldenburg and Bruce Campbell have been instrumental in maintaining the high standards of Metropolitan Museum publications, established at the beginning of the twentieth century. ¶ Probably no collaboration has had a more lasting impact on the graphic identity of the Metropolitan than the partnership of Museum Secretary Henry Watson Kent with the designer and typographer Bruce Rogers. Aside from his contribution to management of the Museum’s collections, H.W. Kent is remembered for establishment and operation of the fabled Museum Press, which provided graphic design, typesetting, and printing services for the Museum. Kent endeavored to raise the quality of graphic design (then commonly known as “printing”) produced by the Museum to the highest level. It is no surprise that he turned to Bruce Rogers, the most prominent typographer of his time, and considered by many to be the greatest American book designer of all time, to assist in this eªort. No less an authority than William Ivins, Jr., the legendary curator

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Henry Watson Kent  ‒. Librarian, The Grolier Club. Secretary, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, ‒. President of The Grolier Club ‒ and the American Institute of Graphic Arts ‒.

of prints and drawings at the Museum for a large part of the twentieth century, testified to the success of their collaboration. In a book of essays dedicated to the work of Kent at the Museum Press on the occasion of the 1938 exhibition commemorating twenty-fifth anniversary of the Press at the Pierpont Morgan Library, Ivins wrote: “I know no other museum in which . . . the quality . . . is so high. . . .To put it flatly, I am acquainted with the printing of no other public institution that is comparable to the printing of the Metropolitan Museum.”1 Another essay in the same catalog further stated: “In appreciation of the work initiated and furthered by Mr. Kent, in raising the standard of institutional printing to that of one of the Fine Arts”. THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART: A HISTORY OF ITS INSTITUTIONAL IDENTITY Bruce Rogers’s most recognizable contribution to the Metropolitan Museum is the adaptation of the letter M from Fra Luca da Pacioli’s 1494 manual on the construction of Roman letters2 for use as the Museum’s logo a century ago. This logo is perhaps the single most permanent and widely recognized element of institutional identity in the history of graphic design. ¶ Another lasting monument to the partnership of Kent and Rogers is the Centaur typeface. Designed by Bruce Rogers, this typeface was based on the seminal 1470 roman type created by Nicolas Jenson. Some3 have called the fifteenth-century Jenson design the most perfect roman typeface of all time, and “the noblest roman of them all.” Kent saw the great

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potential of this type, and had the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchase it for the exclusive use in their publications. Foundry Centaur 4 was put to use for a wide range of museum printing, from exhibition labels and proclamations to signage and catalogs, celebrated for their Fra Luca de Pacioli (?)–(?) Mathematician, professor, and artist. Lecturer at University of Perugia, Professor at University of Naples and University of Milan. His designs for constructed Roman capitals are among the earliest and finest of their kind. As a mathematician, he is considered the father of modern double-entry bookkeeping. Friend of the renaissance artists Mantegna and Alberti.

Fra Luca da Pacioli, Suma de Arithmetica Geometria Proportione & Propotionalita. Venice: Paganinus de Paganinis, 1494.

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Bruce Rogers ‒. Book designer, type designer, and typographer. Head of the department of special editions, Houghton Mifflin, ‒, typographic consultant to the Cambridge University Press (UK), Harvard University Press (MA), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Awarded the gold medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

quality. For nearly a half of the past century, the foundry Centaur type, along with the long-lived Pacioli M logo, constituted the principal visual identity of the Metropolitan Museum. ¶ The marriage of the institution and its typeface was quite happy. Unlike other Italian Renaissance typographic revivals of its time, which quickly became dated, Centaur proved a perennial classic, looking as fresh and contemporary today, as it did almost 100 years ago. Its timeless elegance came to be a perfect expression of the institution’s vision, recognized for its authority, beauty, and grace. ¶ The virtues of the Centaur type were not overlooked by typographic experts. Surely no writer

Bruce Rogers’s sketch for the original Centaur, c. , rendered over grayed-out prints of Nicolas Jenson’s fifteenth-century type.

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Maurice de Guerin, The Centaur, privately printed, 1915.

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Nicolas Jenson ‒. Apprentice engraver at the Paris Mint; master at the mint at Tours. Legend has it that King Charles VII of France sent Jenson to Mainz, Germany in  to learn the secrets of the new printing art. Printer at Venice from ‒. First printer to combine Roman and Greek types in a single book. Made Count of Palantine by Pope Pius IX in recognition of his service to the art of printing.

on type design is more respected than Daniel Berkeley Updike, whose monumental work Printing Types: Their History, Forms and Use, has been the standard reference on the subject since it was first published in 1922. Of Rogers’s original foundry Centaur font, Updike wrote “It appears to me to be one of the best Roman fonts yet designed in America, and, of its kind, the best anywhere.”5

The original Jenson roman typeface; c. 

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Museum Centaur capitals

THE PROGENY OF THE MUSEUM’S CENTAUR FONT The original 1914 Centaur typeface was only available for hand composition at the Museum Press.6 In 1929 Rogers traveled to England in order to supervise the cutting of the design for machine composition by the Monotype Corporation of London to make it available to the general public. Rather than make a precise copy of foundry Centaur design, the type was re-drawn for Monotype casting. Aside from the compromises necessary in adapting a foundry type for machine composition (among other restrictions, Monotype had a complex spacing system that

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ABCDEFGHIJK abcdefghijklm LMNOPQRSTU nopqrstuvwxyz VWXYZ 1234567890 ([?,.:;”’“‘!]) FOUNDRY CENTAUR (NONPAREIL)

ABCDEFGHIJK abcdefghijklm LMNOPQRSTU nopqrstuvwxyz VWXYZ  ([?,.:;”’“‘!]) MONOTYPE CENTAUR

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required all letterforms to fit a limited number of widths), other design changes were made as well. Most noticeably, the entire Monotype Centaur font is lighter and more delicate than the original foundry Centaur design. Ever since the release of Monotype Centaur some typographers saw this thinness as a fault, and preferred the original foundry design, but the foundry Centaur remained the private typeface of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sadly, the original type fell into disuse when the Museum Press folded its printing operations in the 1950s. The digital Centaur available today is based on the Monotype version of the design. This is a fairly accurate re-issue of the 1929 font, maintaining the thin weight and delicate hairlines. With digital type generation and oªset printing, the thinness of its strokes presents a greater problem, since type printed by oªset appears thinner than type printed by letterpress, due to the lack of the additional weight gained when the ink from the metal characters spreads slightly beyond their edges. Other significant diªerences between the two versions are the design of specific letters, such as the p, y, G, M, W, 5, etc. Indeed, one could say that foundry Centaur is as diªerent a typeface from Monotype Centaur, which is a useful typeface in its own right,

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Metropolitan Museum Centaur as shown in Bruce Rogers: Designer of Books (Harvard University Press, 1928).

Adobe Jenson:

AB CDE FGHIJK LMNOP QRS TU VWXYZ abcdefghij klmnopqr stuvwxyz 1234567890


Centaur font used by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

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especially in the larger sizes, as are some other Jensonbased typefaces (such as 1927 Ludlow Eusebius and the popular 1996 Adobe Jenson). ¶ Today, the opportunity is present for the original patron of the true foundry Centaur font, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to re-instate the type as the font for their institutional identity, much like the famous Pacioli M logo, also initiated by the team of Kent and Rogers, proven so enduring through generations of Museum design. Reproductions of the original patterns used by Robert Wiebking to cut the Centaur font used by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

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An early type specimen from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, showing the Centaur font

AN IMMODEST PROPOSAL As we have seen, the Metropolitan Museum of Art pioneered the field of identity design for cultural institutions. In fact, the Museum paid careful attention to the quality and consistency of its design before the importance of branding design was understood in the world of commerce. The Pacioli M was first adopted as the Museum’s device around a century ago, before the concept of a logo as we know it today was widely accepted. The Met became the first cultural institution in the U.S. to operate its own printing department, the acclaimed Museum Press. Finally, the Metropolitan was the first museum in

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the U.S., and quite possibly in the world, to acquire and use a proprietary typeface. ¶ Although the terminology of branding, identity design, and design principles was not employed in 1914, it is evident that the value of these ideas was well-appreciated by the Museum administration. They understood the need for public relations to operate on many levels including visual communications and saw the importance of promoting the Museum’s mission with typography at every touchpoint of interaction with the public. The Museum communicated with the members of its community in a visually consistent and coherent fashion through a variety of media, including signage, posters, exhibition labels, and publications. It was in part thanks to this path-setting vision that the Museum succeeded in building loyalty, trust, and high reputation among its constituents and became the magnificent institution it is today. ¶ In contrast to its human scale of the early twentieth century, the Metropolitan Museum of Art today is a gigantic organization of staggering complexity. The largest art museum in the Western hemisphere, and one of the three largest in the world, it has earned instant name recognition and a stellar reputation as one of the world’s greatest art institutions. However, its present scale and the scope of its operations make it challenging to maintain consistent visual style as conceived a century ago. This situation is easy enough to understand. The Museum generates a range of visual communications: scholarly books and journals, periodicals, exhibition graphics, a sprawling website, children’s books, gift items, stationery, printed ephemera, and electronic signage, to name a few. Numerous media and applications intended for diverse

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The original Jenson roman typeface; c. 

Typefaces based on Jenson:

Foundry Centaur Bruce Rogers [Nonpareil, 2010]

diBue. Item elfiele. Lacarne ponendouela cal lunghia con laqqua o colmele. Lorina delle Ca a o lostercho cocto colmele.Fiele dOrso o di V pel caualcare non sistropocciano o chuochono

Monotype Centaur Bruce Rogers [Monotype, 1929]

diBue. Item elfiele. Lacarne ponendouela cal lunghia con laqqua o colmele. Lorina delle Ca a o lostercho cocto colmele.Fiele dOrso o diV pel caualcare non sistropocciano o chuochono

Adobe Jenson Robert Slimbach [Adobe, 1994]

diBue. Item elfiele. Lacarne ponendouela cal lunghia con laqqua o colmele. Lorina delle Ca a o lostercho cocto colmele.Fiele dOrso o di V pel caualcare non sistropocciano o chuochono

Golden Type William Morris [Kelmscott, 1892]

diBue.Item elfiele. Lacarne ponendouela cal lunghia con laqqua o colmele.Lorina delle Ca a o lostercho cocto colmele.Fiele dOrso o diV pel caualcare non sistropocciano ochuochono

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target audiences call for a variety of visual solutions. Yet, with all inevitable diªerences accounted for, it may still be possible to create a union of disparate visual idioms through judicious application of consistent typographic style. No institution-wide guidelines to this eªect are presently in place. Typographically speaking, the Museum does not have a face of its own. ¶ At this time of decreasing donations and falling admission rates it becomes crucial to establish a strong institutional identity. The Museum needs to take every opportunity to reassure the philanthropists that an investment in its future would be worthwhile and to persuade the visitors it is still a place of sophisticated and vibrant culture. ¶ An overhaul of the Museum typographic identity could not have been more timely. Change is best accomplished with the changing of the guard. New administration is in a better position to pursue a bold vision and to innovate. Similar to the seminal changes introduced to the Museum by H.W. Kent, the current administration could establish a groundbreaking identity program of its own. ¶ An argument could be made that change would be at odds with the Met values, since its mission is in preserving the heritage of world art and not necessarily in keeping up with the cutting edge of contemporary culture. Our proposal may prove to be the answer to this argument. ¶ Heritage is at the heart of the Museum’s brand. Continuity consistently accompanied by innovation has been the Met’s core value from its inception. It was the daring vision of its leaders that allowed it to become the world-renowned institution it is today. The Met represents the strength and viability of preservation of the past in the world focused on the future.

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The institution has maintained its mission with authority, beauty, and grace. Far from being an argument against branding design, these qualities are the answer to how typographic identity can help the Met’s mission succeed. Few institutions in the world can identify with these values in a way the Metropolitan Museum does. It is time the Museum stepped forward and claimed what it rightfully owns. ¶ How can this be accomplished? As we see it, the answer is clear: the original Centaur. EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN We propose a revival of the Museum’s original proprietary typeface to become the cornerstone of the new system of typographic identity. Its sentimental value aside, the history, the tradition, and elegance of this venerable typeface would lend the ideal visual expression to the Museum’s unique values: HERITAGE: Centaur is based on the earliest, and by many accounts the most successful, typographic interpretation of the roman letter. CONTINUITY: Centaur belongs to the Museum and is an integral part of its history. INNOVATION: Similar to the way Centaur preserved the spirit of the original in a contemporary setting, the proposed digital version aspires to make the old design suitable for the new digital technologies with corrected weight, expanded set of characters, and a newly designed italic (the original face was roman only).

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AUTHORITY: In the wave of typographic revivals based on Jenson’s models at the end of the nineteenth century led by William Morris, Centaur emerged as the most distinguished, spontaneous, and beautiful. Neither cumbersome as Morris’s own Golden Type, nor a slavish copy of the original as the recent Adobe Jenson, it gracefully breathed a new life into the old form as a modern reinterpretation. CONCLUSION In addition to development of the font, we would create guidelines for institutional typographic style, based on the revived Centaur typeface. Growing organically as it does out of the Museum’s own heritage, our proposal appears as the intuitive solution for its typographic identity. Not intended as a substitute for a comprehensive institutional identity design overhaul, these typographic guidelines could establish best design practices that we feel would be certain to become a foundation for any future branding and identity initiatives.

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NOTES

1. Addresses Given at the Exhibition of Metropolitan Museum Printing. New York: American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1939. 2. See William Morris, Notes on the Kelmscott Press, (London: The Kelmscott Press, 1896), Theodore Low DeVinne, Plain Printing Types (New York: The Century Company, 1902); etc. 3. Fra Luca da Pacioli, Suma de Arithmetica Geometria Proportione & Propotionalita. Venice: Paganinus de Paganinis, 1494. 4. Foundry, also known as cold metal type, is cast at a type foundry to be later set by hand. Monotype is a hot (molten) metal casting system for machine composition, run off a keyboard, which produces individual characters as composed in lines of text. 5. Updike, Daniel Berkeley. Printing Types: Their History, Forms and Use. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1922, Reprinted many times, with revised editions in 1937 and 1962. 6. The font was first used in a book in 1915 to print a small edition (135 copies) of Maurice de Guerin’s The Centaur, from which the name of the typeface was derived. At first only one size (14 point) of the Centaur font was cast as foundry type for handsetting. After the acquisition by the Metropolitan Museum, Kent commissioned Rogers and his engraver, Robert Wiebking of Chicago, to cut and cast sets of Centaur capitals in additional sizes (10, 12, 24, 30, 48 and 60 point).

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS JERRY KELLY is an independent designer, calligrapher, and printer. Before establishing his own business in 1999 he was a vicepresident of The Stinehour Press (a major American printer, over the course of its 56 years in business responsible for many important publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among other clients), and designer for the Press of A. Colish (a printer known for its history of fine work produced in collaboration with Bruce Rogers, among other designers; also one of the Metropolitan Museum’s printers). Since 1978 he has been a partner in the Kelly/Winterton Press, a private press dedicated to limited letterpress editions printed from hand-set type. He is also a freelance calligrapher, producing hand lettering for assorted publishers and organizations. His work has won numerous awards from the AIGA,Type Director’s Club, Society of Typographic Designers (London), and Premio Felice Feliciano (Verona, Italy). He is a leading authority on the work of Bruce Rogers, a contributor to his biography by Joseph Blumenthal, Bruce Rogers: A Life in Letters, and the author of The First Flowering: Bruce Rogers at the Riverside Press. His articles on typography and calligraphy have been widely published in various books and journals. He is a member of The Grolier Club, the American Printing History Association, and The Typophiles; an honorary member of the Double Crown Club, a corresponding member of the Bund Deutscher Buchkunstler, and a professional fellow of The Pierpont Morgan Library. He earned his BFA from Queens College; he has also studied with Hermann Zapf at Rochester Institute of Technology. MISHA BELETSKY is the Art Director of Abbeville Press, a publisher of fine illustrated books in New York. Misha is responsible for brand management and design for Abbeville, as well as for identity design initiatives at a number of cultural institutions and corporations, including Dutton Children’s Books, McGrawHill Professional, National Yiddish Book Center, and Rubens

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Research Center. He designs publications for a range of clients, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MFA Publications, Abrams, Prestel, Brepols, Harvey Miller, Little, Brown, New York Public Library, New York University, Princeton University Press, New York Academy of Medicine, Pantheon Books, W.W. Norton, and Longwood Gardens. His work has earned a number of awards from prestigious design competitions, including AIGA Fifty Books of the Year, New York Book Show, I.D. Magazine Design Review, and Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Fine Printing. His work is in permanent collections of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the State Hermitage Museum, as well as in major special library collections, including Harvard’s Houghton Library, Yale’s Beinecke Library, Rhode Island School of Design, Cornell University, Library of Congress, New York Public Library, British National Library, and Russian National Library. Misha is the author of Book Jackets of Ismar David: A Calligraphic Legacy and a co-author of Language Cuture Type: International Type Design in the Age of Unicode. He is a member of the Non-Latin Advisory Board of the Type Directors Club. Prior to joining Abbeville, he worked as a designer for Alfred A. Knopf. He holds a degree from Rhode Island School of Design.

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THIS BOOKLET WAS PREPARED SPECIALLY FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE ADMINISTRATION OF T H E M E T R O P O L I T A N M U S E U M O F A R T. S E T I N THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF BRUCE ROGERS’S FOUNDRY CENTAUR FONT, NEWLY DIGITIZED B Y J E R R Y K E L L Y O F N O N P A R E I L T Y P E F O U N D R Y. © BY MISHA BELETSKY AND JERRY KELLY, MMX. PRINTED IN AN EDITION OF THIRTY COPIES BY THAMES PRINTING COMPANY, NORWICH, CONNECTICUT. THIS COPY IS NUMBER