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Words by Michel Wlassikoff

Spécimen des caractères bois fabriqués par Deberny Peignot, circa 1935.

This catalog of woodtype faces highlights how important Europe/Futura was in interwar graphic design, just as how enduringly significant large woodtype were for poster printing.
This catalog of woodtype faces highlights how important Europe/Futura was in interwar graphic design, just as how enduringly significant large woodtype were for poster printing.
The publication by Deberny et Peignot of an important catalog presenting its woodtype faces intended for posters takes place at a pivotal moment in the evolution of the company as well as the status of the poster in the visual communication of time. Although it is not dated, we can place the work around 1935, by referring to the faces mentioned. That is to say at a time when Europe/Futura, widely highlighted in these pages, ensures its hold on the graphics of the interwar period; and at a period when the poster is still conceived as “queen of the street”, that is to say as one of the main vectors of advertising communication. It should be remembered that “cutting” of characters in very large sizes on wood began in the 19th century, precisely to meet the needs of poster printing then in use. booming. Cast irons in classic alloys being too fragile in large dimensions, the use of wood was favored in this register, and the technique was still on the agenda in the 1930s, while the multiplication of posters in the visual landscape needed to increase their typographical potential.
So, Deberny et Peignot mainly highlights “antique” (sans-serif) faces (which we will refer to as Linéale according to the Vox classification, after the Second World War), considered as representative sensations of modernity which the posters of the 1930s were widely conveyed. In fact, these “antiques” were for the most part designed decades ago, their adaptation and generalization in very large bodies giving them a modernist character. Especially since they coexist in the specimen with a long census of “Europe“ types, presented in the three original weights, augmented by the “narrows“ which are of the original design of Deberny et Peignot. It is necessary to underline a curious initiative followed by a somewhat improvised repentance which singles out Europe in this specimen: a first “a”, drawn in the three original weights, is clearly abandoned along the way, since an insert installed on the “Europe Maigre” page indicates : “The shape of the a having undergone a modification in the casting of Europe, our wood fonts are delivered with the new shape.” Instead of the “a” printed first, the classic “a” of Futura, in three weights, replaces the singular and atypical form probably due to Cassandre and which has little to do with the cannons of Europe/Futura, but which was solemnly cut and printed for the specimen, then definitively abandoned.
We will also note the presence of faces dating from the beginning of the 20th century, Polyphème and Robur, which the foundry persists in promoting as titling faces in its Spécimen général, while all the other creations of Auriol or of the field of Art Nouveau have disappeared.
Document: Michel Wlassikoff archives.

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