Setting Schopenhauer

Linda Cunningham's picture


I'm currently working on a small square flexagon book that uses a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher from the early 1800s. He's kind of a neat guy: his parents named him "Arthur" because it was a name that was the same in English, French, and German, and I'd sort of like to reflect that in the type I'm setting the book in.

Any suggestions?


Chris Keegan's picture

What is a flexagon book?

david h's picture

edit: heck.... a flexagon is a hexagon....

brampitoyo's picture

Maybe a book which page proportion is based on a hexagon?

In any case, my recent curiosity has been to look into how typefaces from different geographical regions differ from each other, so I'll definitely look into that again – this time, to find their similarities :)

Linda Cunningham's picture

A flexagon is an interesting book structure that you can see at

It doesn't necessariy have to be a hexagon -- in fact, the one I'm working on is based on a square.

Nick Shinn's picture

I had a look at my typeface names, and Eunoia may fit the bill. It means "beautiful thinking". You'd have to check in some big dictionaries to find it, though, but as a Greek/Latin-derived word it could well be the same in all three languages. I've also made a text version, which hasn't been released, but is available on request.
Close is Paradigm - Paradigme - Paradigma.
What you could also do is go through a font name list, and translate promising names at Babelfish.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Well, "Eunoia" as a name fits, but as a face, it doesn't really work with either the text being set or relate to the author or his time, which is what the book artist wants.

What we had discussed is something that is more reflective of the early/mid 1800s, and that would be at home in all three countries...

Nick Shinn's picture

In that case Justus Erich Walbaum, a contemporary of Schopenhauer, provides the answer.
Unusual for a German face of that era, his type was not a blackletter, but a Modern Roman face, similar to Didot (France) or Scotch (Britain). An international sentiment.
Monotype Walbaum and Berthold's Walbaum Standard are fine and elegant.
Storm's is funky.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Yeah, that's what I thought when I set the dummy as Monotype Walbaum: it just doesn't look quite right on the lightweight creamy kozo paper the artist has chosen in keeping with Schopenhauer's Buddist sensibilities.

Maybe I'm trying too hard here: perhaps I should run dummies in Doric Bold and Hiroshige.

Nick Shinn's picture

That would be rather cyncial, but if you're dealing with a "book artist"...

Anyhow, Storm Type's Walbaum would probably be comfortable on that stock.

Linda Cunningham's picture

That's a pretty cynical comment about book artists: you've obviously not had a good experience in the past.

I'll have a look at Storm's: thanks!

Nick Shinn's picture

cynical comment about book artists

What is the difference between a book artist and a graphic designer?

John Nolan's picture

Book artists are visual artists who produce art works in the form of a book: "Artist's Books". The resulting objects are usually one of a kinds, like paintings or sculptures.

Google has many links, here's one:

and an example:

Nick Shinn's picture

Right. No bad experience, just can't take Book Art seriously.

William Berkson's picture

>can’t take Book Art seriously

I find Matisse's Art Book Jazz pretty awesome.

Nick Shinn's picture

OK, a major painter made a lovely art book in 1947.

This is alright now: ... Illuminated manuscript.

brampitoyo's picture

So, I'm just curious, how was that Hiroshige-Doric Bold combo working for you, Linda? It's a rather interesting combination -- both of them, in my opinion, seems to be one of those faces that you can't mix with anything until you've actually seen them in action.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Nick: if there's one thing I've learned in this process, it's not to diss anyone else's definition of "art" -- and given my artistic life and experience, your comments are enough to get me to put you on my permanent "ignore" list. Given your remarks, I doubt we could agree on much, given that your first solution to almost everyone's typo "problem" is Eunoia. And comparing it to Helvetica and Univers is supposed to make me want to use it? I don't think so....

brampitoyo: They're kinda interesting, actually: Doric Bold is the sans serif equivalent of Walbaum in a way -- same era, just not with serifs. And Hiroshige has just that extra stroke width that the paper wants to be comfortable with -- kozo is funny that way.

Both have the sort of interesting take that I was looking for in a font, instead of the obvious choice of Walbaum. And I'd use one exclusively for the specific "book", although mixing the two in the collection has certainly crossed my mind.

Given that it's being run off as a square flexagon structure, there is the opportunity to run two other proportionatly smaller "books" (check out Alisa Golden's latest book), which will bear quotes from other German philosophers, and using more "cross-temporal" faces is be an interesting mix.

One of the reasons I posted this poser was to see if anyone else could come up with a more creative solution -- I guess I figured out what the answer is. I must be a better typographer than I thought. (amazed grin)

The best part that that they both look pretty interesting on the paper and print relatively well on my Epson R300, which will be used to do the editions (there will be one unique handlettered one with handcrafted covers, and an as-yet undetermined number of inkjet editions for general release).

This has been an interesting experience.


P.S. And John -- thanks for the links. I'm not a Cabbager (which is what they call themselves), but I work with a bunch of them. (smile)

Nick Shinn's picture

Sorry Linda, I was bothered by the line of reasoning that went Schopenhauer ... Buddhism ... Japanese paper ... Hiroshige typeface. The final step seemed trite. But on reflection, and taking a look at Hiroshige (rather than relying on expectations prompted by the name), I see that there's nothing pseudo-Japanese about the face. So once again, my apologies -- and good choice!

brampitoyo's picture

Often times, the best solutions tend to be closer to home than one might think, Linda.

My apologies, too, for not coming out with any solution to your problem. Apparently, my recent interest had only brought me to examine (and thus, respect) the individual and geographic charm of a typeface, not the similarities between them.

Anyways, this has been am interesting discussion on type selection, art book appreciation -- and Cabbager :)

Linda Cunningham's picture

Nick: you need some experience. I started in typography in the late 80s and never assumed that I knew everything either.

brampitoyo: It's a fascinating path we all take in learning about lettering. My first Mac was an SE20 bought in 1987 -- I thought life was amazing because I had a 20MB drive and could run PageMaker -- and I'm now running OSX, CS2, and a reasonable digital camera. I guess we define ourselves by how we move along, through, and with, technology.

Every typeface has redeeming features, assuming we know what to do with it, and as others have noted, everything old is new again. This afternoon, I finished Simon Loxley's "Type" book, and found it most fascinating: I highly recommend it.


Linda Cunningham's picture

An update on this project: the square flexagon is a really neat structure to work with, and I have managed to get three progressively smaller ones out of an 8" square of paper. The biggest one is the Schopenhauer quote, which ends up being a "book" 4" square, and is set in 30 pt Hiroshige Medium Italic, centred, with the author name set right at 18 pt.

Inside this one (you cut a hole in the centre of the paper to construct the big one), is a smaller quote from Simon Loxley about art, set in 18 pt Oblique Regular, and makes a book 2" square.

And inside *that*, is a little 1" book with a quote consisting of eight words pulled from playing with a magnetic poetry kit, set in 10 pt Herculaneum.

The dummies look great, and we hope to be editioning them on the kozo paper sometime next week. I'll try and get some pictures up.


brampitoyo's picture

Whoa, diagrams, die cuts and a magnetic poetry kit! It's about time :)

I'm dying to see the pictures. By to by, I'm still not entirely clear on that flexagon construction. Penta and hexagon construction I know. Is that any different?

Linda Cunningham's picture

Have a look at the flexagon link I posted up earlier, particularly his Mexican one. It's a little hard to just try to describe it with words, but I'll try. You might also want to Google "square flexagon" and see if there's a Java page somewhere that shows how it works.

Think of a very small book with eight "pages" in four spreads, and each spread has a horizontal break (kind of the anti-gutter!).

OK, to "read" the book, you fold it backwards, give it a quarter-turn counter-clockwise, and "open" the next spread. Repeat around.

The niftiest thing is you can keep doing it endlessly, because of the way the "pages" are imposed on the original sheet, the hole you cut in the middle, and the four spots you glue together.


brampitoyo's picture

Oops, apparently I missed on checking that link before asking you about the book layout. Anyways, I will scrutinize 'em over the weekends and see what I got.

Bram P.

Linda Cunningham's picture

I've got an "oops" too: the second "book" is set in Optima Regular, not "Oblique" -- not quite sure where that came from.... ;-)


Stefan H's picture

”This afternoon, I finished Simon Loxley’s “Type” book, and found it most fascinating: I highly recommend it.”

A bit off topic;

I just love the fact that people think so differnet. I thought I heard of this book somewhere before and remembered it was a review from Eye...

Now this contrast makes actually makes me wanna read the book :-)

Linda Cunningham's picture

As promised, a photo of the dummies...

Got a kick out of the Eye review: perhaps for an "expert" it's a terrible book, but as a light summer read for someone who isn't perfect either, I liked it. Did I learn something I didn't know before? Sure. Was a disappointed there wasn't more/better type examples? You bet! Doesn't mean it wan't worth my time...

brampitoyo's picture

That is just way cool.

Out of curiosity, I wonder if you could actually fit a lot of content without sacrificing readability using that format, and if you could make the reading process flow seamlessly.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Yeah, it is, isn't it? (heehee)

Depending on the size you start with, I don't see why not. Keep in mind I got all of these out of one 8 x 8 in sheet. If you started out with paper considerably larger, and ran the type in 10 or 12 pt in columns, there's no reason why you couldn't do something substantial.

Granted, I'd want a fair number of illustrations to break up the blocks, but that's not exactly a "type" issue.... :-)

It's actually pretty seamless in the reading, once you get the hang of it: you get to the end and turn the page --- it's just that "turn the page" isn't what we traditionally think of.


Stefan H's picture


I like it too. Just like an herbarium with letters nailed down with pins. I remember I've done that myself some years ago, just to see how it would look...

Linda Cunningham's picture

I really like the image of "herbarium with letters nailed down with pins" except that one needs to be careful that it doesn't end up looking like a ransom note or terrorist threat.

Especially in this day and age of airline travel.... ;-P

Stefan H's picture


I have my Herbarium at work (probably with a pile of dust on top). I'll try to take a picture of it and post it here ASAP...

Yeah you're right about the "terrosist hysteria" these days. I bet the will exclude the toothpick in the lunch/dinner pack any day now!

brampitoyo's picture

More Flexagonic goodness!

By to by, has there been any type specimen, famous for its exploratory format, set in something like this? It's underlying grid structure, I think, is perfect for setting text in various faces and sizes.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Stephan: I look forward to seeing it! (The way things are going, we won't be able to take a chicken salad sandwich on board because we can remove the mayo and make a bomb.)

Bram: That's a neat idea: in flexing the book and reading it aloud, it sets up a rather interesting rhythm. It's got to be that grid structure.... :-)

Linda Cunningham's picture


What you really want for type specimens is a volvelles -- you know those artist colour wheels, where you point the outside arrow at the colour, and various cutouts contain what you get when you add the complement, or white, or black, or whatever?

Google "volvelles" and see what you get!

KenBessie's picture

Recently, I discovered I live in the same city as Linda. So I arranged to view her flexagon. Thought I'd give you an update:

I never really understood the mechanics of the flexagon until Linda [1] showed me how it was built, [2] showed me a finished dummy and turned the 'pages' (still no comprehension on my part), and finally [3] let me hold the book and work it out (with careful explanation and encouragement from Linda). Then I got it!!!

It's very cool.

It requires considerable hand-work to assemble (I'm thinking of commercial applications here) and needs the reader to be flexagon-savvy, but it offers a unique and interesting way of presenting information. It imparts to the reader a sense of 'discovery' in that, by manipulating the book, the reader reveals a new, hidden, 'page'.

Thank you, Linda, for sharing this technique with us.

Cheers, Ken

brampitoyo's picture

I think the flexagon construction deserves a place of its own. Unfortunately, because it's so intricate, one has to see it for oneself to make a truly good judgement on it.

This, of course, opens up the possibility of having the flexagon as a topic on next year's TypeCon!

Linda Cunningham's picture

There are exceptionally interesting forms, aren't they? ;-) If someone wants to pay my airfare, I'll be there!

What I find fascinating about non-traditional "book" forms is how they force designers into looking at different ways of presenting information. It's not enough to simply go "oh, ho hum, I've got this text to set so I'm just going to fire up Palatino, or Times, or Arial."

Which is a good thing, I think. Whatever it takes to get those creative juices fired up....

Ken makes a good point about it being somewhat impractical for "commercial" use, though. I can remember a time when I saw several books with volvelles on the cover (does anyone else have a dog-eared copy of "The Star Trek Compendium"?) but you hardly do anymore because of cost.


brampitoyo's picture

I totally agree with you, although traditional book design certainly goes far beyond the matter of choosing a face. In fact, I think we typographers need to dip into information design. Studying spaces and how they are organized can give us some great inspiration in book and layout design.

By to by, Star Trek was just having its 40th anniversary :)

mondoB's picture

Linda, I have two perfect solutions:
--early 1800s, Storm Foundry Walbaum, which is the most historically accurate and stylish of all of Walbaums
--mid-1800s, ITC Bodoni Twelve, very mid-Victorian yet works perfectly and very legibly.

Monotype Fournier, FF Acanthus, FF Reminga, Dwiggins' El Dorado from FontShop, Kennerley by Richard Beatty, and FF Maiola are also very stylish.

Linda Cunningham's picture

By to by, Star Trek was just having its 40th anniversary :)

Yeah, I know. ;-) (Gasp, I remember the original series in its inaugural run!)

I really like Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, although it's getting dated, but I think it does an interesting job in looking at how to put together things in the non-linear world -- books like flexagons have a linearity (is that a word?) about them, but not all of them do.

Plus it's important to think about other incarnations one's work might take -- yesterday's print newsletter is today's PDF/web page is tomorrow's who-knows-what....

Back when I did my thesis, I looked at making hockey arenas more accessible to folks with hearing and visual-perception problems. Besides fonts and colours, and speaker systems and carpets, it was important to look at how these things interacted: you could have a great sign in a useless combo of colours and still not get the point across (whatever the "point" was!) to the user, for example.

In that regard, I recently picked up the revised (second) edition of Inquiry by Design: Enviromental/Behavior/Neuroscience in Architecture, Interiors, Landscape, and Planning by John Zeisel (ISBN 0-393-73184-7, paperback), that others might find interesting. I found the original useful in my research, and am looking forward to sitting down with the new one.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Ahem. It is Dwiggins's Eldorado from Font Bureau. ;^)

Linda Cunningham's picture

Ahem. That presumes that I looked at alternatives after I set the text a month ago....


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