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Robert Bringhurst

Introductory remarks by Daniel J. Slive

The 2009 APHA Awards Committee nominates typographical historian and author Robert Bringhurst as the recipient of the APHA Individual Award. This award is intended to recognize “a distinguished contribution to the study, recording, preservation or dissemination of printing history, in any specific area or in general terms.” In nominating Robert Bringhurst, the committee notes his significant series of publications which have contributed to our study and understanding of the broad cultural contexts of typography.

Bringhurst’s highly important and influential manual, The Elements of Typographic Style, was first published in 1992. Eloquently written, Bringhurst’s work engages the reader masterfully with aesthetic, cultural, and historic approaches to understanding and practicing typography. Richard Eckersley noted in Bookways (Number 9, October 1993), “It is a breadth of vision one associates with the Renaissance, a vision that persisted into the eighteenth century, when publishers were also writers, translators, compositors, printers, papermakers, and, above all, readers.” Paul Koda, writing in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America (Volume 89, Number 4, December 1995) concluded that the work “will be retained as a milestone in book making and book history. . . . The Elements of Typographic Style belongs on all our shelves.” Printer, publisher, and designer Gerald Lange, in Abracadabra (Number 7, Spring 1993), wrote that the manual “combines the practical, the theoretical, and the historical in a manner that is a delightful pleasure to read and of value not only to the amateur but to the professional as well.” Bringhurst has revised The Elements of Typographic Style five times, most recently in 2005, with substantive additions to the text. Now in its third edition, the manual has also been translated into ten languages.

Following the initial publication of The Elements of Typographic Style,Bringhurst produced a series of detailed essays on specific aspects of typographic history. Published in Serif: The Magazine of Type & Typography, these include:

An additional essay on typography, “The Typographic Nude,” was published in Critique in 1997. In October 2000 Bringhurst delivered the keynote address at APHA’s 25th Annual Conference, published in Printing History 46 under the title “The Voice in the Mirror.” (This was not his first presentation at APHA, as he also delivered APHA’s 1993 J. Ben Lieberman Memorial Lecture.) Bringhurst’s recent publications include The Solid Form of Language (2004), an extended essay on language, writing, and typography, and The Surface of Meaning: Books and Book Design in Canada (2008), a survey of English and French-Canadian books and book design from the early 19th-century to the present.

In addition to his own writings related to printing history, Bringhurst has also been involved in making the work of others readily available. He is responsible for the 1999 second edition, revised and updated, of A Short History of the Printed Word. He and Warren Chappel are co-authors of this second edition. He also edited, and provided an introduction to, the 1991 English translation of Jan Tschichold’s The Form of the Book.

In his publications, Bringhurst has influenced the way students, scholars, curators, and practitioners of typography approach, consider, understand, collect, and create. His placement of type within a larger cultural context—as an object of serious art historical and anthropological study—is an important contribution to printing history.

The awards were presented during the Annual Meeting of the American Printing History Association, on Saturday, January 24, 2009, New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York City.