Wednesday 21 December 2011

The mysterious case of the Christie typeface

My wife likes to read books in the bath. Due to this we have a growing collection of charity shop bought Agatha Christie books on the windowsill of our bathroom, with the paper getting slowly damaged by the changing humidity therein.

Apart from worrying about the condition of the books, I haven't really paid much attention to this collection until the other day. For some reason I decided to check out the covers, and I immediately noticed the lack of cohesion in the choice of typefaces used. This is particularly striking when looking at the one consistent feature of these covers; Agatha Christie's name. To illustrate my point, below are scans of a selection of our bathroom books ranging from 1956 to 2002 .







c.1995 (American edition with no date in book—1995 noted on price tag sticker)


As an experiment, before scanning these in, I laid them out in the order I thought they were released in, based on the choice of typeface. Apart from one—the 1980 Helvetica rendering that I thought was late 1960s—I got the order spot on.

Considering the attention to detail that is lavished on TV adaptations and films of Christie's work, in terms of getting date specific references for architecture, clothing and product design correct, I find it interesting how typographic details on these books are rooted in the time of the reprint's release, rather than paying any attention to the context of the book.

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