January 2010 Archives

On view through February 1 at Honnold/Mudd Library are books from the special collections at Honnold and Denison libraries designed by avant-garde book designer Merle Armitage (1893--1975), one of California's leading advocates of modern culture.

armitage poster image-2

Armitage designed more than forty books for which he wrote essays and/or edited; he designed more than sixty books for other authors and had a long affiliation with New York publishers Weyhe and Duell, Sloan, and Pearce. When he “retired”, Armitage moved to Yucca Valley, California, where he continued to write, design, and publish books under the imprint Manzanita Press until his death in 1975.

gershwinsprd

Armitage knew and authored books about some of the finest artists of the century, among them Igor Stravinsky, Martha Graham, George Gershwin, Pablo Picasso, and Rockwell Kent, to name a few. A participant in the circle of artists and writers surrounding local rare-book dealer Jake Zeitlin, Armitage supported the work of his friends such as Edward Weston and Ramiel Mcgehee. Armitage authored and designed the first published monograph about Edward Weston. Scholars have written of Armitage’s background in artist promotion as the beginning of his life-long interest in re-imagining-- and innovating --the design of printed books for the modern age.

armitage art book 2

In Notes on Modern Printing, Armitage offers eleven ideas for designing a book; of these ideas, number six is a good summary of his aesthetic: “Understand the text…know your primary aims…let form follow function.”