Blackletter in Mexico

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Cristina Paoli's picture
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For what I have seen… Most of the blackletters that first came to Mexico were Rotunda, since this was the most popular blackletter in Spain at the time. This is a heavy but rounder letterform than Textura.

“Rotunda was created at the beginning of the 14th century in Italy. It became very popular as a round gothic type, and its use extended for centuries. It is believed to be a transitional letterform from blackletter to roman.
The top and bottom ends of the stems no longer have the diamond shape that is present in Textura. The character a is double-storied with the lower part kept very small; the o is curved on the top right and bottom left, but remains broken on the bottom right and top left. In general, the shape of the letters is rounder and therefore more legible than in its predecessor.”
(From my book too.)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> America was discovered in 1492

Well, not really.

> Giovanni Paoli

!
:-)

hhp

Noah Aronsson-Brown's picture
Joined: 16 Aug 2005 - 9:50am
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I'm late to the party I know, but I simply must give props to Cristina, and also state for the record that I would love to buy her book if it gets published.
Well done!
{n.a–b}
est.1971

Cristina Paoli's picture
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>> America was discovered in 1492

>Well, not really.

What do you mean?

paul d hunt's picture
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>> America was discovered in 1492

>Well, not really.

What do you mean?

well, the "native" americans "discovered" it long before that, and the vikings had visited North America before Columbus came to America in 1492, so that statement is not really accurate.

Thierry Blancpain's picture
Joined: 15 May 2005 - 4:30am
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well, but the natives didnt have any sophisticated system of moveable type for print, right? neither did the vikings.. :)

Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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They only had sophisticated astronomic, architectural, medical, calendaric and mathematical knowledge.

Héctor

Thierry Blancpain's picture
Joined: 15 May 2005 - 4:30am
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i didnt say they were dumb people sitting in the jungle, i said they didnt have any system for printing type to my knowledge. and if this is right, there's no point in discussing this "who discovered america"-question in this thread.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> system of moveable type

Quite appropriately, the validity of the "discovery" of
America by Columbus is closely parallel to that of the
"invention" of printing by Gutenberg!

Thierry, when a pivotal and often-repeated fallacy
comes up, I think it's a good thing to try to correct it.

--

Even the Vikings probably came later. There are theories that involve the Arabs (think of the astrolabe), the Polynesians, the Chinese, and even the Ancient Egpytians (thanks to certain grains that only occur in Egypt and the New World). But really, in the end, claiming to have "discovered" a land that was already inhabited is pretty sick. Although thinking in those terms certainly makes the subsequent genocide easier to cope with for the oppressor...

hhp

Cristina Paoli's picture
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I agree with you on the importance of been clear and fair with the facts… I know that there are many theories (and some facts) about this encounters that you are pointing out; one of which is the ‘Bering Strait Theory’, that supports the idea that tribes from north-eastern Asia came to America between 12,000 and 60,000 years ago. I know there are many others from then.

It is delightful to run into people that are keen on accuracy and clarity… but I’m not surprised: After all we are in a typographers/philes forum!

So allow me to refrace:
In 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived to America and by 1521, Hernan Cortes, on behalf of the Spanish crown, conquered Mexico, establishing the Colony of New Spain.

Now is clear that the 'discovery' that I’m referring to is the one of Columbus, which is directly linked to the Conquest and the Colony of New Spain.
(is funny… I decided to put the discovery of 1492 just to make clear to the reader that the Colony wasn’t immediate. It took many years, and many battles)

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Oh! Yes I was trilled to find out that I have the same surname that the first printer of America! (and this is not a common surname in Mexico) Unfortunately we are not related!

Thierry Blancpain's picture
Joined: 15 May 2005 - 4:30am
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hrant, yes, sure. but i hate it when good threads go bad just because of such discussions, in my opinion they would be better located in their own threads. that was the only reason for my posts.

lets get back to topic.

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Here are some examples of Mexican Blackletters

Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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A couple of nice samples from extinted Matiz magazine:

Héctor

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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Hey, Cristina,

I don't mean to hijack this thread, but seeing these storefront photos you posted reminded me of the buses in Buenos Aires... Many of them sport hand-painted signs and decorations (done by artisans known as fileteadores), and if my memory is correct some of those buses use blackletter, too.

The only good image I could find online is here... it is not blackletter and does not come from a bus, but it is a good example of what fileteado looks like.

Alya Karame's picture
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Cristina, do you have any historical info on how the blackletter came to be such a famous vernacular element in Mexico?

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Hi Ricardo,
Sorry for taking so long to post something… Great sign! Beautiful letters!.. actually in Mexico we also have some like that… but I have absolutely no idea of how those letters are called, but the ‘fileteado’ sounds appropriate because it literally means something with ‘filetes’, which are long and narrow ornaments attached to something else.
interesting…

By the way in Mexico we have professional hand letterers as well. They are called ‘rotulistas’.

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Dear Alia,

The reason why blackletter is used in Mexico is not entirely clear, although I have some theories on the matter. One possible explanation could come from the Spanish background of the country. The overwhelming Colonial history is still present, not only in the collective unconscious but also in buildings, plazas and entire cities some of which use this letterform in their signage as a way of communicating their abounding Colonial background to tourists and visitors. But this can’t be the only reason why Mexicans use blackletter, simply because many are not aware of this connotation, and others have something else in mind when there are exposed to this letterform.
My belief is that the use of blackletter in folk functional graphics out of the Colonial contexts comes from the very essence of Mexican culture. Mexicans are fond of ornaments, colour and contrast; humour and fantasy; rituals and festivities. One needs only to visit the nearest market available to experience all this at once; the viewer would be welcomed by the sound of local music, which rhythms mix with the ongoing voices of merchants offering magical or paradisiacal products that range from fruits and vegetables to plants or objects, one more astounding that the other. Walking along, this imaginary spectator would be overwhelm by the smells in the environment; at every step a new odour would invade his nostrils, going from the smell of flowers been sold at his right, to the seductive aroma of food been prepared on his left, to the indefinable fragrance of raw fruit that is just in front of him. In parallel, his eyes would be bombarded by an army of colours and shapes, which are as seductive and overwhelming as the elements arousing his other senses.
This is every day life in Mexico, and this is the context in which blackletter is embraced and used. The letterform in its self is full of ornaments and contrast, playful and mysterious at the same time; the conjunction of characters overpowers the background, just as the elements of the market overtake the environment and therefore the viewer.

tom christensen's picture
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Beautiful work. I too would buy a copy.

On the subject of the "discovery" of the Americas I would like to mention that I recently discovered an excellent Mexican restaurant on 24th Street. (You can discover things that were already known to others.)

Of course, it would be a long time after the initial encounter between Europeans and Americans before anyone had any concept of "America."

tom christensen's picture
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Cristina,

When did blackletter become so much a part of Mexican folk graphics?

I'm wondering if it has any connection to the period of the emperor Maximillian, archduke of Austria, and his wife Carlota of Belgium (in other words, the 1860s).

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Xensen,

On the subject of the Discovery of America… actually my original line of thought was the same as you, but I understand is a delicate matter and of course is always better to be as accurate as possible when one is writing about something.
I appreciate your willingness to understand what I was trying to communicate.

On the matter of when blackletter became so popular in Mexican folk functional graphics… well that’s trickier, first of all because for what I know no one has dig into that! So I’ve had to do my bit of research, but for now I have concentrated more on analyzing the ‘live’ design matter on the streets of Mexico today, than tracing down a philology of Mexican blackletters (which would be fascinating! And I don’t discard doing it one day).
I know the date when blackletter movable type arrived to Mexico: 1538, and I know it was used on printed matter, but when it jumped to hand letter signage? It remains to be discovered. I also know that today ‘rotulistas’ (professional hand letterers in Mexico) take inspiration from the internet —I know this because I asked a few to draw me an specimen: one said he didn’t knew all letters so he would try to find them out (he never did) and the other told me that he would search on the web and print them out for me! … Of course that wasn’t what I wanted so I encourage him to draw them (and he did).

Is important to bear in mind that most folk functional graphics in Mexico are set in roman type in its serif or sans serif versions.

James Montalbano's picture
Joined: 18 Jun 2003 - 11:00am
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I wonder if the blackletter connection in Mexico has anything to do with the Austrian influence via Maximillian. There are a number of traditional Austrian styles of beer that now only exist in Mexico. You can hear the Austrian musical influence on Ranchero, all those 3/4 waltzes and polkas that dominate the Mariachi repertoire.

Just a thought.

James

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Quenepa1,

Hope you can read Spanish!!!!

I have loads of bibliography. But many books are really hard to find…

Medina, José Toribio. La imprenta en México. México, UNAM. 1991

Torre Rovello, José. El libro, la imprenta y el periodismo en América durante la dominación española. México. UNAM. 1991

Carreño, Alberto María. Estudios bibliográficos. México. Ediciones Victoria. 1962.

Yhmoff Cabrera, Jesús. Los Cromnerger, la historia de una imprenta del siglo XVI en Sevilla y México. Madrid. Ediciones de cultura hispánica. 1991.

Stols Alexandre, A.M. Antonio Espinosa, el Segundo impresor mexicano. UNAM. 1989.

Zulaica Gárate, Roman. Los franciscanos y la imprenta en México. UNAM. 1991.

Lafaye, Jacques. Albores de la imprenta. El libro en España y Portugal y sus posesiones de ultramar (siglos XV y XVI). México. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 2004.

Henestrosa, Cristóbal. Espinosa. Rescate de una tipografía novohispana. México. 2005.

Bermúdez, Jorge R. Gráfica e identidad nacional. México. UAM Xochimilco. 1994.

And there are MANY more… but I don’t have the bibliography with me just now. (Anyhow this should be a good start).

Also check out this site it might contain articles relevant to your research
http://www.adabi.org.mx/adabi.htm

Some useful names of people that work this topic:
Juan Pascoe
Mariana Garone
Cristóbal Henestrosa
Ignacio (Nacho) Peón
Gonzalo García Bercha

Mary Sefranek's picture
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Cristina, thank you so much for all these resources. I am printing them out now and we'll see where they take me. Y, si, leo en espanol :)

As I mentioned I am new to the site and almost forgot how I got here in the first place, but it is really a great resource and a wealth of information. I would really like to see your work one day...when my travels take me to Mexico, I'll definitely be checking out the Guadalupe Posada museum and old printing press sites, and hopefully will be able to track you down too. Intriguingly, my master's work (I'm in education) was in graffiti as a literacy (which is unfortunately not considered as such in most schools), and that was where I was first introduced to blackletters (AKA calo, no?) Pues, writing and writing for now to finish up the dissertation, but mil gracias again for your detailed list above.

Mary Sefranek
Programs in English and Bilingual/Bicultural Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Quenepa1,

Hope you find them and that they be useful to your research.
Best wishes.

Felix von Bomhard's picture
Joined: 3 Apr 2006 - 10:19am
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Hola Christina,

First of all, congratulations! The work you did is really amazing.
When I went to Mexico I was always impressed and fascinated by the way Mexicans use
colours and graphics. As I'm from "grey" Germany this was so refreshing!

I'm working at the moment on a similar theme. For my final Project in my graphic design studies I try to research the modern day usage of Blackletter.
I'm especially interested in the way how people outside Germany and Europe percieve
Blackletter fonts and for what purposes they are used.
I feel this differs a lot from how people see it in central Europe.
Maybe I can contact you and you could help me with my research?
I am preparing a kind of question sheet with different examples of Blackletter.
In my synthesis in a second ste I want to see how Blackletter could be used in a modern way, far from the beer-nationalist-punk-skateboard-kind of way.

Ademas si lo prefieres podemos comunicar en español!

Muchisimas gracias en adelante

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> http://www.adabi.org.mx/adabi.htm

Funny, "adabi" means "literary" in Arabic!

hhp

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Terminaldesign,

Maybe so… But blackletter first came to Mexico with the Spanish, and during that time blackletter, especially Rotunda, was very popular in Spain.
I don’t know much about printing press (or for that matter typographical culture) during the Maximilian emperorship in Mexico. But it is absolutely worth dig into that, because maybe some interesting facts could come out of it. Thanks!

Cristina Paoli's picture
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hrant,
Fantastic! Beautiful coincidences of life (or language)
adabi stands for: Apoyo al Desarrollo de Archivos y Bibliotecas de México, A.C.
Which means: Support for the development of archivals and libraries of Mexico.

Vassilis Mitsiopoulos's picture
Joined: 27 Feb 2006 - 8:40pm
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Hi
Christina I'm new in this forum. I just wanted to say that I found your book idea very interesting. By the way I have just started my MA course in LCC. Are you still going around there but maybe you don't leave in England anymore. I would be very glad to meet you and maybe have a chat.

Take care

Nic Vanderschantz's picture
Joined: 9 Feb 2006 - 10:08pm
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Christina, this work is incredibly inspirational. Well done! As someone in the early stages of thrashing out a direction for a Masters of Computer Graphic Design in New Zealand I thank you for your post. I can only but hope that as I pursue my dissertation my outcomes are half as interesting as yours. All the best with publication potential, I too hope to read your work in the future. Definitely a work that I will purchase for myself and the university I work for.

-nic

Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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I think that we like blackletter in México is not for any specific historical reason but because we simply like profussion and a kind of visual brutality, note that you won't find delicate blackletters in hand lettering.

Héctor

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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This "we just like it" view was in fact presented
by Gabriel Martinez Meave during the Q&A session
of the blackletter panel discussion at ATypI-Leipzig.

hhp

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Vassilis,
I’m back in Mexico now, so unfortunately I’m not going to be able to meet you (but if you ever come to Mexico let me know!)
I wish you the very best in you MA at LCC and encourage you to get your hands dirty in the great letterpress workshop!

devisionbell,
Thank you for your comments and support! I’m sure you’ll do great in your dissertation if you choose a topic you are passionate about.

nick cottrell's picture
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[accidental post]

nick cottrell's picture
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or (even better yet) perhaps we will be able to purchase one in the near future…

Dennis Hill's picture
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Wonderful idea. I hope to do a phototrip through Mexico someday, documenting some of the great stonework, and stone fences I saw while driving through the parts of the country I have visited.

If by chance you should be near Guadalajara, Make sure you see their Ballet Folklorico. It is an auditory and visual feast you will never forget. And it is very distinct from the Mexico City presentation, which is more traditional. And the stately Teatro Degollado is a wonderful venue for it.

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Dear Ross McClain,

Nop (sorry), I haven’t posted the PDF. I’m currently working on a final version of this book: writing new stuff, getting exiting new pictures of tattoos and grafitti…
Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to post a PDF of the book… but as Istitch said… You are going to be able to buy it very soon!!! (before the end of the year)

And Ross… well thanks for the cheers.

Geoff Riding's picture
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> but as Istitch said… You are going to be able to buy it very soon!!

Great! I just finished reading "Blackletter: Type and National Idenity", an excellent book. I can't wait for another book on blackletter, perhaps with somewhat different perspective on the matter. :^)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> “Blackletter: Type and National Idenity”

That is indeed a superb book (it's one of the two things that triggered my own interest
in blackletter), and not least because it doesn't shy away from the reality that national
identity exists, and it matters (although like anything else, it can be abused).

hhp

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Hola Saidlechat,

Well I’ll be happy to help you in anything I can. Write me an email thru this forum.

I don’t know if it might be of use to you… Last August I performed a questionnaire in Mexico City about the use and perceptions of blackletter in Mexico to about 65 or more people.
I did it my self, so I’m not sure if the questions I asked were the best ones… but is done and translated to English. If you want I can share it with you, no problem.
Curiously… most people haven’t really noticed the letterform around the City!

Tu proyecto suena muy interesante. Te deseo mucha suerte!

Felix von Bomhard's picture
Joined: 3 Apr 2006 - 10:19am
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Hola Christina,

I'm glad you replied, I already feared the topic was dead.
Actually the questionnaire is exactly the kind of thing I need.
I prepared one myself.
I didn't ask many questions as for my work I won't be able to make a profound investigation, It is more of getting a basic idea. Also, as we all do I can't wait to get to the design part of the project...

As the project progresses I took the decision to show the results in the format of a magazine, only or in the major part using different blackletter fonts. Well we'll see.
As for now it would be a great help if you could send me the results of your questionaire.
I will also send you mine to give you an idea.

Muchas gracias y hasta prontito,

Cristina Paoli's picture
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Blackletter: Type and National Idenity By Peter Bain and Paul Shaw

Fabulous book! It was of great help to me. (is one of my cherished books). Maybe the best one to get into the subject. And also refreshing… since is a contemporary work.

Dennis Hill's picture
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I am in Ensenada and have a few nice samples that I will upload when I get back. (can't do it from this internet cafe)

Dennis Hill's picture
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The best ones are still in my camera. The little yellow and white buses that run around Ensenada BC have some great lettering. I will post those later tonight. Here's some that are ready. The first two were found in two different Catholic churces.

Dennis Hill's picture
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These two were on a shop window near la casa de mi suegra.

Dennis Hill's picture
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The bus painter seems to have it down.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Love the tittles.

hhp

Thomas Landsgesell's picture
Joined: 4 May 2006 - 11:57am
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Hi Christina,

very interesting thread!
Did you found the use of long-s »ſ« during your work. Till what time, if you found the character. In Germany is it in use in blackletter till today (not always).

Thomas

Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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I have never seen the long s in signs in México, only in very old texts.

Héctor