Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is pleased to announce the exhibition, Ernst Reichl: Wide Awake Typographer, a display of the work of German-American book designer Ernst Reichl (1900-1980) at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s Kempner Gallery now through September 13, 2013.
Reichl, one of the top trade book designers in New York and American publishing from the 1930s to the 1970s, worked with such prominent authors as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Elie Wiesel and Joyce Carol Oates.
Along with a rich selection of Reichl’s book designs, the exhibition also includes transcriptions of Reichl’s hand-written reflections on the books. Toward the end of his long career, Reichl wrote critiques and explanations for his commissions on index cards, commenting on design, production, typography, binding, illustration, and production elements. He also documented interactions with publishers, wrote commentary on the publishing industry in New York, noted production triumphs and problems, commented on how well the book sold, and included his own opinion of the book and his explanation of the philosophy behind the book design.
Reichl’s archives, donated to CUL/IS by his widow, Miriam Reichl, contain over 500 index cards and 1,100 books.
Throughout his career, Reichl actively promoted his profession and lobbied for high standards in book publishing, by example and through his writing, teaching, and exhibitions. Seldom creating a book design without first reading the manuscript, he believed in the harmonious totality of a book and the value of one design vision for all its parts.
The exhibition was created by guest curator Martha Scotford, Professor Emeritus of Graphic Design at North Carolina State University. She created this exhibition through a Columbia University Libraries Research Award, assisted by Kezra Cornell, Master of Graphic Design candidate, NCSU. Professor Scotford’s work has also been supported by the Reese Fellowship for American Bibliography and the History of the Book in the Americas from the Bibliographical Society of America.
"It is the exciting and unusual existence of the book cards and their significant content that sustained my interest in Reichl and challenged me to devise ways to make these available to other designers and the public,” said Scotford.
The exhibition’s title is derived from a hand-written comment by Reichl on one of the notecards regarding Joyce Carol Oates’ The Wheel of Love (Vanguard, 1970): “J.C.O. enjoys using typographic devices of all sorts to express herself… and many other oddities, which require a wide-awake typographer.”
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