September 20

On this day in 1900 was born the charming lady who made her reputation as a man. Well! Who ever heard of a woman who knew anything about type? So it was quite natural that when Beatrice Warde completed her research which proved that Garamond type was not originally designed by Claude Garamond, she could not possibly publish the brilliant paper under her own name. Thus “Paul Beaujon” became its author, and when the English Monotype firm invited M. Beaujon to London to offer him a position, she showed up, overwhelmed the officers of the company, accepted the job, and is still there, fortunately having proved during the last forty years that a lady very definitely can be a most knowledgeable typographer.

When Mrs. Warde left Columbia University as a young librarian she was most fortunate in securing a post as assistant to Henry Lewis Bullen, librarian of the American Type Founders Library. The world’s printers may also consider themselves fortunate that BW entered a typographic library for that first job, as her great enthusiasm for the production of the printed word has brought her international recognition as an outstanding authority of the printer’s craft.

Mrs. Warde has made herself a spokesman for first-rate typography and has never lowered her standards. During visits to most of the English speaking countries, she has been primarily interested in talking to printing students, holding before them the finest examples of the typographer’s art and demanding that they seek out the best. She has fearlessly faced modern art students and has told them how important it is to attempt to understand the viewpoint of the practical printer. Appearing before the annual meeting of the National Society for Art Education, BW said, in part, “Do not confuse him (the student) by the modern phrase ‘closed trade’: use the technical term our ancestors used and call composition an Art and Mystery (sometimes requiring arduous initiation): show him why it is the most responsible manual art known to civilization. . . . Use, exploit that pang of envy to build in him a profound respect for compositors, a habit of respect which will be invaluable to him when the time comes for him to command their respect as the coordinator of the whole job.”

BW’s inscription, “This Is a Printing Office,” is unquestionably the most widely distributed tribute of its kind ever to be written. Along with several pieces and her many reasoned essays on typography, it has been the means of stimulating countless imaginations concerning the art of the printer. A tireless saleswoman for what she believes, BW is no stranger to America, although she has lived in England since the Twenties. No matter how frequently she returns to these shores, she is sure to be feted by all the groups devoted to typography. She is just as sure to renew her personal testimonial to all that is the best in her field.

Leave a Reply