Abstract

Printing with movable type was officially introduced in Brazil in 1808, following the transfer of the Portuguese Court to Rio de Janeiro, opening an important chapter in the story of Brazilian ‘design-before-design’. Little is known, however, about the graphic artifacts produced in the first century of official printing in Brazil, or about earliest printing practices in this country. In particular, almost nothing is known about type founders, type distributors and printing shops active in the country before the twentieth century. In cataloguing and publicizing typefaces (and sometimes also other printing material), type specimens provide a rich source of information about the kinds of letterforms, symbols and vignettes that were considered worthy of being made available for customers, revealing assumptions about public taste and expectations. They also show the kinds of technology available to printers and editors. Nineteenth century Brazilian almanacs, in their turn, were a form of publication in which the main professions and trades were systematically listed, and therefore also provide a rich source of information about the type and printing trade. Through systematic research on primary sources found in libraries and historical archives, in particular almanacs published in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, it was possible to map the leading figures of the nineteenth century Brazilian typographic trade. Further research on archives revealed the presence of type specimens, which were then described in terms of their content and informational organization, resulting in a better comprehension of Brazilian typographic taste as a peculiar mix of European and North American influences. This paper presents the research methods and the main findings of this in-progress research. Although the subject of the investigation reported here is geographically and chronologically restricted, the research methods developed should be of relevance to research teams working with early design history in other non-hegemonic countries.

Keywords

graphic design, aesthetics, design and society, typography

COinS
 
Jul 1st, 12:00 AM

Unraveling Aspects of Brazilian design History through the Study of 19th Century Almanacs and Type Specimens

Printing with movable type was officially introduced in Brazil in 1808, following the transfer of the Portuguese Court to Rio de Janeiro, opening an important chapter in the story of Brazilian ‘design-before-design’. Little is known, however, about the graphic artifacts produced in the first century of official printing in Brazil, or about earliest printing practices in this country. In particular, almost nothing is known about type founders, type distributors and printing shops active in the country before the twentieth century. In cataloguing and publicizing typefaces (and sometimes also other printing material), type specimens provide a rich source of information about the kinds of letterforms, symbols and vignettes that were considered worthy of being made available for customers, revealing assumptions about public taste and expectations. They also show the kinds of technology available to printers and editors. Nineteenth century Brazilian almanacs, in their turn, were a form of publication in which the main professions and trades were systematically listed, and therefore also provide a rich source of information about the type and printing trade. Through systematic research on primary sources found in libraries and historical archives, in particular almanacs published in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, it was possible to map the leading figures of the nineteenth century Brazilian typographic trade. Further research on archives revealed the presence of type specimens, which were then described in terms of their content and informational organization, resulting in a better comprehension of Brazilian typographic taste as a peculiar mix of European and North American influences. This paper presents the research methods and the main findings of this in-progress research. Although the subject of the investigation reported here is geographically and chronologically restricted, the research methods developed should be of relevance to research teams working with early design history in other non-hegemonic countries.

 

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