A full stop (or period in American English) is a punctuation mark that denotes the end of a sentence. The symbol itself derives from Aristophanes of Byzantium who invented a system of punctuation where the height of dot placement determined meaning of a thought or sentence. Until quite recently full stops were commonly used after initials or titles, but punctuation fashions change, and A. A. Milne is now AA Milne, and Mr. and Mrs. are plain old Mr and Mrs (or Ms, more likely). As for a full stop after a single word, I have no explanation, but there is enough of it around on buildings of the late 1800s, especially banks, hotels and civic buildings, that I can only surmise that it was the style of the times.
Butchers are proving to be quite, um, fruitful with their signage. In general they are such a happy lot, always ready with a sharp knife to dice that juicy piece of rump steak for your casserole. Perhaps all that cleaver wielding puts them in a good frame of mind to beautify their establishments. This building no longer houses a butcher, but there is no doubt it still has a lot going for it, with its richly stained and cracked render, decorative brickwork, and simple, no-nonsense sign, which despite its age and missing letter remains surprisingly modern.
In 1911 Ludwig Sutterlin was commissioned by the Prussian Ministry for Culture to create a modern handwriting script, to be used in offices and schools, and Sutterlinschrift was the result. From around 1920 it began to replace Kurrent, the old German blackletter handwriting, and in 1935 it officially became the style taught in schools. For most non-Germans, Sutterlin is illegible, but in the world of publishing the lower case d lives on. In proofreading it is the symbol for delete and stands for the Latin deleatur – let it be deleted.
Blue and green
Blue and green should never be seen unless they’re in the washing machine. Or so my mother used to recite on washing days when I was young. Years later I heard that ‘blue and green should never be seen unless there’s a colour in between’ and I realised my mother had made up her very own version of the old saying to entertain me. Either way, what a ridiculous notion that certain colours should not go together—although I doubt the painters of this facade chose green because it would look fabulous against a cloudless blue sky, nor that painting it one bright colour would make the gothic sans letter forms stand out so well.
What optimism, what confidence in the permanence of books, to set ‘book store’ in stone! This book store did in fact trade for almost a century, but times are tough, publishing times even tougher, and the building was auctioned last month with talk of it becoming a restaurant, or a nightclub, or something or other which will most definitely not include books. At least the art supply shop next door is still open for business, so there is hope for us yet.
I love everything about this: the shades of grey and silver in abstract shapes on the metal capping; the wood of the telegraph pole, dirty and textured and streaked with creosote; and most importantly, the bold sans serif blue B, startlingly clear and bright, attached with rusty rivets. The typeface looks like a cross between Gill Sans Bold (with its slightly smaller upper bowl) and Akzidenz Grotesk but is more likely a generic gothic sans concoction.
Swiss hotelier César Ritz started it all in the early twentieth century with his luxury hotels. To live in elegance and luxury, especially in an ostentatious manner, or to dress fashionably, is to put on the ritz. Irving Berlin wrote a song about it: Fred Astaire danced it, Ella Fitzgerald swinged it, Mel Brooks parodied it, Bertie Wooster made a hash of it (until Jeeves set him right), the Leningrad Cowboys speed-metalled it. The swanky Ritz Hotel in London serves a very nice traditional afternoon tea — more, I think, than you could hope for at the Ritz Holiday Flats, despite the quite lovely script lettering of its name and the evocative palm tree.
Memphis is an Egyptian, or slab serif, typeface designed by Rudolf Wolf in 1929 for Stempel, the Frankfurt type foundry opened by David Stempel in 1895. Slab serif typefaces were popular in the early 1800s but Memphis was the first twentieth-century slab serif design. The letter shapes are geometric and the stems and serifs have the same optical weight. Noticeable features of Memphis are the apex serif on the uppercase A and the angle of the tail on the uppercase Q. Memphis is an excellent display face for posters and headlines but also works well for short blocks of text.
The bas relief is what initially caught my attention. It’s too high for me to clearly distinguish what it says but it reminds me of a table setting – decorative plate, napkin, and some sort of modern geometric-inspired knife and fork. The building houses a corner food mart, but that’s just coincidence. The side benefit of looking up from street level at one thing is that your field of vision encompasses other things, like the grid pattern of wires and cross-bracing on the telegraph pole, wires appearing to go every which way when they are in fact quite ordered.
I was amused by this footpath message. There was no obvious sign of ingress to the reputed confined space, so a permit would have made no difference at all. As for danger, well really, how dangerous could it be? They didn’t even spring for red paint! As it turned out, the same stencilled words appeared along the road at regular intervals, and I was just lucky enough to find the hatchless one first, posing as a piece of street art.