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Monday, May 27


These pages are from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Poliphilo's Strife of Love in a Dream).  Published in 1499, it is a remarkable example of early printing, featuring refined woodcuts, innovative layout and a surprisingly clear and modern looking font.  Most printed books from this time used a Blackletter typeface to imitate handwritten calligraphy.  Look at the difference here.   This book was created by humanists, looking to ancient Roman writing, and in doing so launching future traditions in typography.  First created by Francesco Griffo for the De Aetna by Pietro Bembo in 1496, the font was perfected for the Hypnerotomachia.  In 1929 Stanley Morison re-released the typeface as Bembo, which is still used today.  

One of the great mysteries surrounding the Hypnerotomachia is why such a legible font should be used for such an intentionally confounding book.  Written in many languages and dialects,  there is conjecture that the romantic story about the quest for love in a dream is simply a scaffold for an elaborate series of codes and riddles.  Popular culture has taken up this baton, the book appearing in Polanski's 1999 film The Nineth Gate and more recently in the novel The Rule of Four.  Dan Brown acolytes aside, Carl Jung saw great value in this book as it successfully illustrated human archetypes translated into the dream state.  See for yourself the surreal journey that Poliphilo takes here

Images from Wolfenb√ľtteler Digitale Bibliothek

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