The Eternal Letter: the Book and the Event

I am pleased to announce the publication of The Eternal Letter: Two Millennia of the Classical Roman Capital, edited by Paul Shaw and published by The MIT Press. It is the first in an annual series called "Codex Studies in Letterforms." The books will be available wherever books are sold in the U.S. next week, a couple of weeks later in Canada, sometime in March in the U.K. and Europe, and in April in Asia and Australia. It can be ordered now on the various Amazon sites.

The series is the outcome of the late Codex magazine. As the magazine had become more ambitious and more focused on themes, turning it into a book series made the best sense; the headaches of distribution and shipping would taken up by others, freeing us to concentrate on content. We've also had generous support from Adobe/Typekit, Monotype, Mark Simonson Studio, and Courier Corporation. The terrific John Boardley signed over the keys to Paul, who's now running it with Linda Florio, the designer, and me as producer, coeditor, and general impresario. Paul and I are longtime friends and I was producer of the MIT Press edition of his Helvetica and the New York City Subway System.

What distinguishes this book from most other books about type and letterforms is that its authors—there are 24 of them—are largely master craftsmen, including many of the leading type designers, stonecarvers, and letterers of our time mixed with serious historians. The contributors include John and Nicholas Benson (in a deeply informative conversation with Richard Kindersley), Frank E. Blokland (on the transition from Classical letterforms to type), Matthew Carter (on the making of his Mantinia type), Ewan Clayton (on Eric Gill's capitals), Lance Hidy (on his Penumbra type), Jost Hochuli (on Walter Kaech), Jonathan Hoefler (on Requiem), Scott-Martin Kosofsky (on the birth of Adobe Trajan), Gerry Leonidas (on Adobe Trajan Greek), Martin Majoor (on Jan van Krimpen's capitals), Steve Matteson (on Goudy's inscriptional letters), Gregory MacNaughton (on Father Edward M. Catich), James Mosley (on the Renaissance revivals of Classical letterforms), Werner Schneider (on his Senatus type), Paul Shaw, Julian Waters (on Waters titling), Maxim Zhukov (on the Trajan letter in the Soviet Union), Yves Peters (on Trajan at the movies), and Paul Shaw on very many things. 

It's a big book, well printed and bound (hardcover), with well over 400 illustrations—full color throughout—including many things that haven't been seen in print before.

We're working on the next two volumes: Aspects of Typographic Modernism (2016) and a book about Neoclassicism, concentrating on new research about Bodoni and his circle (2017). And we've mapped out five further volumes. Our aim is to publish serious work on serious typographic and lettering subjects. We are eager to hear your opinions and ideas.

AND . . . there will be launch event at the Type Directors Club, New York City, on Thursday, February 19th, 6:00-8:30 pm. Admission is free (thanks to MIT Press), but they ask that you register in advance, so we don't run out of food and drink, especially drink.

I apologize to the moderator for using this noble forum for making such a blatantly commercial announcement, though it does come with an offer of free food and drink. I do, however, believe the book will have considerable value to many of you, and might provide fodder for future threads.



  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,537
    edited February 2015
    I have an early copy of this book (I'm proud to be one of its sponsors) and it's fantastic. Highly recommended.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    This book will be going out to those of us who ordered the Codex magazine issue way back when but never received it, correct?
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Kent, everyone who was a subscriber to what was to be Codex 4 is entitled to a copy of the book. I sent an email out to check everyone's mailing address, asking that they respond in four days, but you were not among them (the email didn't bounce back). Can you send me your address privately?

    James, thanks for noticing: here's the link:
  • Scott-Martin, I've sent you a message (over Typedrawers) regarding the same question as Kent's.

    I'm excited to finally get this in print, thanks for helping make that possible!
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,433
    My copy has just arrived.  Off to read.
  • edited February 2015
    I need to publish a clarification here: While I thank those subscribers who got in touch me, I regret that I failed to mention that, in our arrangement with John Boardley, Paul Shaw and I are responsible ONLY for subscriber copies in the U.S. and Canada. John Boardley will be fulfilling the subscriber copies for the rest of the world. He will be doing so from an address in the U.K., where we sent a sufficient number of books to satisfy all those who subscribed. 

    If you have any questions about non-U.S. or Canadian subscriptions, please contact John at [email protected]

  • It’s nice to see Mit Press’s advertisement for The Eternal Letter on Eye’s website. Also I noticed that the book got a number of positive press reviews, which is well-deserved IMHO.
  • I've got a copy. Really enjoying it a lot.
  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 474
    John Boardley will be fulfilling the subscriber copies for the rest of the world. He will be doing so from an address in the U.K., where we sent a sufficient number of books to satisfy all those who subscribed.
    Actually, no. I live in Dublin, and am still waiting for my copy. John Boardley has ignored multiple emails. I'm really not sure how to move forward. Any suggestions?

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,911
    Contact Paul Shaw and ask him to lean on John to get it together.
  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 474
    Thanks, James.
  • ... point out to all, if one does not want to bother these fine people, who may or may not be exhausted by the eternal fetter of The Eternal Letter, and which most likely will cost more than $40.00 in time and effort for each minute, one can go to Amazon and get the book in a couple days for a couple $20s with a couple of clicks.
  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 474
    Yeah, but John Boardley's already got my money—he's had it since 2013—and I'd kind of like it back.  Apparently he's stiffed a number of customers this way.

    Paul Shaw was very sympathetic, but he doesn't know how to move Boardley off the dime, either.
  • My thanks to all of you who got a copy of The Eternal Letter and enjoyed it, and my apologies to those of you who are still waiting. (And thanks to Frank, who wrote one of the most provocative articles in the book.) 

    When we made the arrangement with John Boardley, he gave us a list of what we were told were all the subscribers. We would cover the U.S. and Canada, using the mailing department of a large printing company I often work with; John would ship copies to the rest of the world from an address in England. I emailed everyone on our part of the list, asking them to respond with an affirmation or change of address within a specified number of days, so we could order from the printer the required number of copies in mailing cartons as a run-on. Most responded promptly, but some responded weeks and even months late expecting to be accommodated. Sometime after the order was shipped, we discovered that there was a group of late subscribers to Codex who were not on the list. Not only did we have to buy copies to cover them, but also buy secure mailing cartons. It's been a mess and we're still trying to catch up. David Berlow is absolutely correct--what was to be a one-time-only trouble became a seemingly eternal fetter. We're rather good at making books, but fulfillment and shipping is another thing. 

    I'm sure John will try to deliver. He's an honorable person, but it's a very costly effort. It's the reason that Codex could not continue as a magazine. The numbers are too small to take advantage of special low rates for aggregated shipments. For example, to ship a single copy of this large and heavy book from the U.S. to Ireland costs $39.

    But here's the good news: We're working on the next volume, still officially untitled but referred to by the three of us as "Timeless Typography: Aspects of Modernist Typography in the 20th Century." This isn't the usual rundown from the Bauhaus on, but rather the byways and devolutions that have long needed more attention The list of contents and participants is nothing short of incredible. It will include texts and documents, some in their entirety, from Germany, Holland, Russia, Spain, France, and Japan that have never been published (or widely published) before. The work of Kurt Schwitters, Max Burchartz, Henryk Berlewi, Solomon Telingater, Hiromu Hara, Tomás Maldonado, Fortunato Depero, and the Milanese typographers of the 1960s will be examined in detail. Modernist traces in Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic will also be discussed, as will the influence of Swiss Modernism in the USSR, particularly in the work of Maxim Zhukov. In the U.S., the groundbreaking work of Teresa Möll, Muriel Cooper, Jacqueline Casey, and Ralph Coburn at MIT and MIT Press will come under close study. A full one-third of the volume will be devoted to the work of Wolfgang Weingart and his Advanced Class in Basel. You will get to see entire teaching documents and student work as well as multiple designs for single projects.

    The authors include Lorraine Wild, Sven Fuchs, Mathieu Lommen, Manuel Sesna Prieto, Gerd Fleischmann, Gerda Breuer, Artur Frankowski & Magdalena Frankowska, Maurizio Scudiero, Maurice Meilleur, Fred Smeijers, Julia Blume, Dan Reynolds, Greg D'Onofrio and Patricia Belen, Elizabeth Resnick, Robert Wiesenberger, Alessandro Colizzi, Misha Beletsky, Kate Wolff, Hans-Ulrich Allemann, Philip Burton, Wolfgang Weingart, Susan Merritt, Christopher Pullman, Louise Paradis, Hamish Muir, Simon Johnston, Willi Kunz, Katherine McCoy, Rick Poynor, and, of course, Paul Shaw. Linda Florio is the designer, I am the producer.

    The book will be published in Fall 2016, also by The MIT Press. As with The Eternal Letter, we're counting on the support of the type community to help us make it happen. 

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,433
    Sounds like a modernist miracle ;-)
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,433
    edited May 2015
    I hope you include some work from Ken Hiebert in the book.  He was a significant educator who brought Basle to America. Weingart knows him well, they studied with Hoffmann and Ruder at the same time. You might be familiar with his books [That and he was my favorite teacher at CMU in the mid 60s before moving on to PCA.]
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,911
    I hope you include some work from Ken Hiebert in the book

    It might not be too late for you to write something, Chris. I know you’re a huge fan of modernism so I’d love to read something by you!

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,433
    That would be fine by me, James, but they may not want another cook in the soup.
  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 474
    I'm sure John will try to deliver. He's an honorable person, but it's a very costly effort. It's the reason that Codex could not continue as a magazine. The numbers are too small to take advantage of special low rates for aggregated shipments. For example, to ship a single copy of this large and heavy book from the U.S. to Ireland costs $39.
    The cost of the shipping from the US to Ireland isn't relevant if, as you say, the books are being shipped from the UK, right next door.  Besides, John isn't paying.  I am. I did, back in 2013. There's an item for $42 for shipping on my subscription receipt. Some of that went to shipping Issue 3, but surely the 66% of that figure remaining is enough to send one 250-page book across the Irish Sea.  I buy design books all the time.  They don't cost $40 a pop to ship.

    John Boardley may be honorable, but taking people's money and not giving them what they paid for—or even responding to their repeated queries over a period of months—isn't the best way to show it.

    And while the new book sounds great, why on earth would I ever trust him again?
  • expecting to be accommodated

    The transition was handled poorly. I did receive the email from Scott-Martin, but by the time I read it (surely I'm not the only one who receives such a volume of email that it often takes a few days to get caught up), the deadline for responding had passed and I was apparently out of luck.

    I'd like to thank Paul Shaw for making things right for me. I feel bad that I had to make a stink about it, but it seems there were/are quite a few of us who didn't receive our promised copy. And that's the part that annoys me the most. The experience made me feel like I was some sort of whiny troublemaker when all I was attempting to do was secure a product *I had already paid for.*
  • Please understand that this was a one-time circumstance. There will be no subscriptions sold for future volumes; they will be available through booksellers in the usual way. Our involvement (that is, Paul Shaw's, Linda Florio's, and mine) in the fulfillment of copies to U.S. and Canadian subscribers was simply a way to help John Boardley in return for the rights to publish material he had paid for. We could do so only with the information we were given, to the extent we could correct it. 

    Jesse, I think you protest too much. My email to the U.S. and Canadian subscribers was sent on January 23rd, asking for a response by January 27th. Setting such short notice was a way to get people's attention. In fact, I held the door open for another ten days, up to the moment the printer in China needed a final number. You wrote to me on February 25th, complaining that I hadn't given you enough time to reply. Really? 

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,433
    To be fair and balance the issue, I was also one of the subscribers who was promised a book for my previous payment.  I responded to the email and received the book a bit later just as promised.  There were no glitches, problems or issues.  It was all quite simple--also, I enjoyed the book. This is the first that I have heard about problems.  Thank you, Scott, for the good service.
  • Buried in my inbox, out of sight, out of mind. So, Mr Kosofsky, if I hadn't replied, you would have just kept my money? Remember, the subscribers are not the ones who changed the deal. 
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    It has become an great thick thorough volume*, congratulation. However, I do miss a good alert agile magazine about type and typography. Is there really nothing possible between Eye and online blogs? 

    * I have to say, the paper makes it very heavy and the printing colors are smelling quite intensely. Any room for improvement on those fronts?
  • @Indra
    The very first Codex magazine was beautifully designed. I took a red pen to the layout of the second issue. I haven't checked out The Eternal Letter yet, and I'm sure I will appreciate its contents, but I'm always disappointed when design books are not very well- or interestingly designed.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,433
    There is plenty of good content in The Eternal Letter.  Designers may differ on what kind of layout they prefer.  The book does function well, even if the design is not your cup. It seems suited for the content though.
  • Just wanted to mention that after months of back and forth, Boardley finally refunded my money and apologized.  I'm sure there was attempt to defraud.  Hope no one else has been left hanging.

    The book, when it arrived from MIT Press, was tremendous.  Full of terrific, useful, inspiring stuff, as Chris says.  Highly recommended.

    I agree with Elizabeth that the first Codex was elegant and the following ones less so, but I think they're perfectly competent, and I'd live with much worse layout for the sake of that content.
  • Maxim ZhukovMaxim Zhukov Posts: 74
    edited August 2015

    A slightly revised and expanded version of “The Trajan Letter in Russia [and America]”—in Russian—has been posted on the Shrift journal’s Web site.
  • I still don’t have answer about my copy
    @Scott-Martin Kosofsky
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