The inspiration for Faber Fine Press (launched in November with a first set of Poetry Broadsides) was the restoration of a hand press discovered in Faber’s archive – and which was once used by the famous designer Berthold Wolpe. One of the greatest of names in the history of 20th-century book and type design, Wolpe was instrumental in creating Faber’s visual identity during a career spanning four decades.
Wolpe was born near Frankfurt in October 1905. He trained as a metalworker, and combined these skills with a passion for calligraphy by joining the Kunstgewerbeschule in Offenbach where he studied under Rudolf Koch and then went on to teach. During this time he designed the Hyperion typeface, an elegant italic face which presaged the sculptural quality of Wolpe’s later work.
Wolpe fled Nazi Germany for Britain in 1935, where he completed work on his Albertus typeface for the Monotype Corporation and, after some years at the Fanfare Press, joined Faber & Faber in 1941, to work with Richard de la Mare, Geoffrey Faber and T. S. Eliot. He would spend the next 34 years with the firm.
Wolpe’s enthusiasm for the whole world of design was all-embracing. He is still remembered at Faber, not only for his huge influence on the quality and reputation of Faber design, but for his eccentric hours of work and his lunchtime sorties around Bloomsbury, hunting down, in turn, rare books on typography and objects of design interest, rescued from skips. In a recent interview, cover designer Shirley Tucker (who designed the iconic 1966 cover for Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar) remembers what it was like to have Wolpe as a colleague.
During these years Wolpe built on Faber’s commitment to quality of design, developed in the 1930s under Richard de la Mare. Wolpe gave Faber a strong and immediately identifiable branding, based, in the most typical cases, around his Albertus face, used with the boldness and confidence of a billboard, and, in others, using his skills in calligraphy to match freely drawn lettering to the subject in hand.
Wolpe was a keen scholar of printing and letter forms, and used the press that we’ve recently found in the Faber Archive for small format work and book cover design. Once fully restored, our Production department – who are more likely to caress a beautifully-bound book than to download a digital file – have plans to use the press once again for many similar purposes. Watch this space …
– Faber Fine Press is a new venture by Faber and its inaugural products are a series of four poetry broadsides printed on letterpress. The four poets are Simon Armitage, Jo Shapcott, Alice Oswald and Daljit Nagra. Take a look at all four here.