The book and type designer Frederic Warde is remembered today chiefly for his collaboration with Stanley Morison that produced the typeface Arrighi, and for being the husband of Beatrice, Monotype’s charismatic publicity manager. His life was short, dying in 1939 aged only 45, but in the previous two decades he had pursued a peripatetic, rollercoaster career that saw him come into contact with most of the leading players in his field, both in Europe and
the United States.
In some ways Warde, until now scantily documented, is the missing piece in the story of design, type and printing in the interwar years, and this book will make essential reading for anyone interested in that period. He laid many false trails about his personal history, but I found a surprisingly large body of surviving documentation to piece together a fascinating picture of his life, and of the complex, frustrating, sometimes dislikeable, often inspiring figure at its centre. The best of Warde’s extensive body of work showed a
restraint and economy linked to a striking colour sense that feels thoroughly modern in its approach. This output was maintained, sometimes erratically, against the backdrop of his mercurial and fragmented professional and personal life.
Polarising the opinions of those he met, Warde was a prolific, entertaining and informed letter writer, correspondence that provides invaluable insights into his world and those around him, a designer’s life played out against the backdrop of the
boom years of the 1920s, the struggles of
the Depression, and the obstacles and opportunities created by his own
remarkable but troubled personality.
This short film was used as the introduction to my talk, ‘Frederic Warde, New York State of Mind’, given at the Grolier Club, New York, in April 2010. It features two 1929
dry points by Martin Lewis (1880–1962), ‘Quarter of Nine, Saturday’s Children’
and ‘Shadow Dance’, used by courtesy of
the Martin Lewis estate. Thanks also to
Will Loxley for putting the film together