Mikołaj Rey: Z żywota człowieka poczciwego (With the kind hearted man)
A small book, beautifully typeset by noted designer Leon Urbański (1926–98) in various sizes of Plantin — or News Plantin. I asked my type-loving Polish friend Adam Twardoch about Urbański and this book.
Leon was quite possibly the best typographic designer that Poland ever had. He designed some 250 books and thousands of small prints, including many official documents for the government. He was awarded many times at the Internationale Buchkunst-Ausstellung in Leipzig. One could say Leon Urbański was the East Bloc’s Tschichold. I’ve never met him but I’m good friends with his student Andrzej Tomaszewski. One brief story is that Leon had his own typographic unit: “a pussy hair”. “One pussy hair to the left,” he used to tell Andrzej when they were working on a layout.
The bottom line of each column repeats the next column’s first two words. I’ve never seen that before, (though admittedly I am not well-versed in traditional bookmaking).
This is actually a common practice in old prints, certainly in continental Europe. In Latin, it was called a “custos” (in Polish, kustosz). I’m not sure of the English name (something like keeper, custodian). It was primarily done as an aid to sort the sheets before binding. Sometimes it was the sheet number but sometimes this method or repeating the same word or two was used.
Leon Urbański was masterful in studying Renaissance printing methods and then adapting the best ideas to contemporary (1960s–70s) layouts, not slavishly but always with some creative “updating”. Of course in this book, Leon used these custodians for aesthetic reasons and as a nod to history.
Urbański loved Plantin and used the typeface greatly. I think his works are the reason why I like Plantin so much.
I have seen this practice of repeating words at the foot at least twice, both in contemporary settings that clearly nod to historical use: in Emigre’s catalogue for Tribute (available for download on their site), and in the most recent Pentagram papers (covered on the Fonts in Use blog, and with more images on Jessica Svendsen’s site).
Svendsen indicates (and Wikipedia verifies) that the English term for this is a catchword.
I did not know it was called catchword but I have seen it many times in older books. It must have stopped being common practice some time in the 19th century.