A visual treat this week!
Our header image (above) depicts a pair of manicules as drawn by celebrity pilcrow-user, type designer, and all-round reprehensible human being Mr. Eric Gill. The picture here was taken by Molly Woodward (aka @VernacularType) at a lecture given by Dan Rhatigan of Monotype. There’s little more to say, except look at those manicules! Gill Sans has its idiosyncracies, certainly, but to the casual observer it remains an exercise in geometric forms and yet these expressive manicules are cut from a quite different cloth.
Sadly, Monotype’s digital version of Gill Sans lacks manicules entirely, much as Linotype’s digital incarnation of Americana lacks its signature interrobang. Plus ça change! Perhaps one day some type designer with an affinity for shady characters will reunite Gill’s manicules and Richard Isbell’s interrobang with their estranged digital families.
Thanks to Molly and Dan for providing the image!
Eric Gill’s 1920s-era manicules reminded me of the Flickr ☞ Manicule Pool, a collaborative collection of manicules snapped in myriad settings and across different times. There are digital manicules; analogue manicules; relief manicules; intaglio manicules; sculptural manicules; type specimens; signposts; advertising hoardings; and much more. The pool is a great place to browse, and it drives home just how indispensible this simple sign was to signwriters, advertisers, and businesses — and how sharply it fell from favour. The arrows that have replaced it (← →) just lack the same degree of panache, do they not?
This was to be a longer entry, but unfortunately my tardiness has got in the way. Twitter user @dheadshot pointed me in the direction of a BBC radio programme presented by Simon Armitage, a poet and writer, entitled Marginalia, which purported to look at the history of writing in the margins in books — including the not inconsiderable role of the manicule. It was, by all accounts, a fascinating examination of these hinterlands of books, where readers intrude on writers’ territory, and I was very much looking forward to listening to it. And to passing it on to Shady Characters’ readers, of course.
Unfortunately, I am too late. The programme has expired on the BBC’s iPlayer platform, so we’ll have to wait for it to be rebroadcast another time. I’ll be sure to post it here when it reappears.
And with that anticlimax, thanks for reading!