Beatrice Warde made a substantial impact on the world of typography. What she did, like everything she did, was stamped with her own personality. Beatrice Warde’s work was very much entwined with her life and the many of the themes evident in her writings, especially the ‘Crystal Goblet’, can be traced back to her childhood and youth while in New York City.
Warde’s mother, May Lamberton Becker, began working at the New York Herald Tribune as an advice columnist and quickly expanded her job to encompass nearly every facet of children’s literature. She started one of the first weekly children’s newspaper pages and became extremely active in writing and reviewing children’s books and organizing anthologies of children’s stories. The majority of the books that she wrote were about encouraging people and their children to read.
During this time, May met Gustave Becker, a multi-faceted musician, who had recently moved to New York in order to further his music career. Becker was born in 1861 in Texas to a family of German immigrants. He made his European debut in Berlin at the age of 28, knew Brahms, and studied under pupils of Beethoven. Throughout his career, he pursued many different aspects of music: composing for orchestra, piano, and voice, inventing a ‘chromatic alphabet’, and directing two piano schools.
On September 20, 1900, May Lamberton Becker gave birth to her only child, Beatrice Lamberton Becker. Around Beatrice’s fourth birthday, her grandmother, a former schoolteacher, moved in with the family to educate her. Beatrice’s education continued at home until she was 12, when she began attending school. Gustave and May’s marriage ended in divorce sometime between 1905 and 1911.
May Lamberton Becker’s association with literature was to have an enormous effect on her daughter’s life. May often mentioned Beatrice in her books and her newspaper columns. Throughout her childhood, Beatrice read widely and was encouraged to write.
The early years of Beatrice Warde’s life, with her family as well as her education, were significant ones. Her unusual schooling helped Beatrice to become intelligent, inventive, and independent, all of which became even more evident in the next decade of her life, where her writing ability became the basis for her future career.
Beatrice’s first school was the progressive Horace Mann School, New York city. The foundations for the curriculum were the classics: Greek and Latin, but also included everyday skills and public service. Most of the female students entered at 13 and, after five years of study, graduated at 18; but, Beatrice entered at 12, skipped her first and fifth year, and graduated at 16. She was an extremely active student, a member of numerous clubs, literary editor of the school newspaper, and editor of the school yearbook. Her reputation was that of a writer, poet, and playwright and throughout this time, she consistently received high marks, and encouraging comments, for her writing.
In 1916, Beatrice entered Barnard College, the women’s division of Columbia University in New York City. She viewed these years as some of the most enjoyable and enriching of her life. This experience had an enormous impact on Beatrice and I believe that it was very influential on her future writing career. The majority of her classes at Barnard were English, French, Latin and philosophy, with other classes in German, history, and science.
In the autumn of her third year at Barnard, Beatrice Becker met Frederic Warde and they married on 30 December 1922. Frederic was a reserved person who avoided social interaction and had few friends. His personal style and meticulous approach were expressed in his numerous hobbies, such as winemaking, chronometers, and perfumery.
Frederic Warde had been in the Air Service when they met and once he was discharged from the Army three months later in January 1919, he moved back to New York City. That summer, May arranged a job for Frederic at the book publisher Macmillan. After a few months, he changed jobs to become a supervisor of Monotype composition at the William Edwin Rudge printing house.
Throughout this period, Frederic Warde was establishing himself as a technical perfectionist with extremely high standards. Over the next few years, Frederic’s career expanded dramatically. In 1922 he became the director of printing at Princeton University Press. In 1923, three of the books that he had designed were chosen for the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Fifty Books of the Year, and in 1924, four more were chosen. During these three years, he published several essays and articles concerning quality printing and layout, one of which was published in the New York Times Book Review, perhaps a result of his mother-in-law’s connections.
In 1908, the American Type Founders’ Association (ATF) opened an archive and library near New York City. Henry Lewis Bullen, an established printer with scholarly interests who was working in high-level management positions within the ATF, became the head librarian and worked toward the goal of having it known as ‘the professional printers’ library’. It came to have over 17,000 holdings, including one of the most complete collections of type specimen books.
Beatrice began working at the ATF Library shortly after she graduated. She became the acting head librarian at the ATF Library in 1923 and essentially its publicist, creating promotional material and preparing tours, talks, and exhibitions for visiting groups. She had an open and informal method of management that was quite different from the previous librarian’s traditional approach.
In the autumn of 1924, encouraged by Stanley Morison, who was then associated with the Monotype Corporation, Frederic was considering going abroad to pursue further opportunities in the printing and typographic field. When Morison had visited the United States earlier that year, he had offered Frederic work in England. Within a few months, Frederic had decided to pursue his career in Europe and resigned from Princeton University Press.
To join Frederic overseas, Beatrice risked her career and resigned from the ATF library in mid-December 1924. She was to continue with her mentor Henry Lewis Bullen’s approach in encouraging new people to learn about the dignity and historical significance of printing, and the result of it can be seen in her successful career in England. Beatrice and Frederic Warde sailed for England in late December 1924.
When the Wardes arrived in England in January, it was Frederic who officially had employment. Beatrice gradually gained writing jobs that were more research-based than practical. She began writing under the assumed name of Paul Beaujon, a name that she created to avoid confusion with her husband. Frederic Warde was becoming known as a printer and book designer, neither of which Beatrice had much interest in herself.
Within a few months, Warde published an article on calligraphy in the Monotype Recorder, the advertising journal for the Monotype Corporation. The following year, under her pseudonym Paul Beaujon, she wrote an extensive article on Fournier and eighteenth century French typography.
Frederic immediately began work on an extensive article on his friend Bruce Rogers that was originally published in The Fleuron and later appeared as a book from Harvard University Press. He shared an office with Stanley Morison at his newly formed Fanfare Press, and became Morison’s assistant, designing for The Fleuron and the Monotype Recorder.
Frederic also became Morison’s partner with the Arrighi types project, an undertaking that would cause Frederic to travel to Paris for about ten days each month for the rest of the year. Eventually, these extended trips began to affect the Warde’s marriage. He also became increasingly involved with Hans Mardersteig at his press in Montagnola, where his trips were measured by weeks and months, rather than days.
Frederic had never intended to stay in England, as his primary interest had always been the continental European printing scene. He also had no intention of working with Morison for long, as he had made clear to several of his colleagues back in the United States. Beatrice and Frederic Warde separated in November 1926, nearly two years after they had sailed from New York.
Following the Warde’s separation and subsequent divorce, Frederic lived in France and Italy and, in 1928, due to financial problems, he returned to the United States permanently. Frederic and Beatrice remained amicable: he designed and printed publicity items for her mother, and Beatrice often proofread or even wrote Frederic’s texts. Throughout and after the depression, Frederic Warde bounced between various printing and publishing clients in the New York area until his death in July 1939.
After the separation, Beatrice had serious money problems and had to borrow heavily from her mother to make ends meet. She asked Morison to give her freelance writing or editing jobs, which resulted in her assisting him with the Monotype Recorder. The journal had a traditional feel and she successfully slanted it towards a magazine format that was predominantly reliant on feature articles and themes. Her achievements were noticed and she was appointed as the official editor of the Recorder in 1927 or 1928.
The Fleuron, as well as the Recorder, provided a venue for Beatrice to exhibit her research. Her best known piece was her work on the Garamond types which appeared in 1926. She credits Henry Lewis Bullen with the idea for the detailed article, but the suggestion was probably Stanley Morison’s, who himself had been questioning the type’s true origin. Frederic Warde had accompanied her to Paris for research purposes, but his involvement has not been indicated.
Due to her success with the both the Recorder and the Fleuron, Beatrice Warde was promoted to publicity manager for the Monotype Corporation in around 1929. Warde viewed her role as perpetuating Morison’s ideas, spending time dealing with people and educating amateurs, neither of which he cared for.
As publicity manager, Warde is credited with the successful publicity campaigns that accompanied the release of Gill Sans and Perpetua. Her job also involved publicising the Monotype machines, as well as the types. Warde did not change the way in which type specimens were marketed, but she did change the way that they were conceived. She viewed the type specimen as a work of art to be displayed. Her ‘This is a printing office’ poster is perhaps her best-known publicity piece. It was later cast in bronze and mounted in the lobby of the United States Government Printing Office in Washington, DC.
As her publicity duties increased, so did her nationwide lecturing commitments. She began to be concerned with teaching some of the less experienced or educated printers and compositors about the benefits of Monotype types. In many of her articles in the Recorder, Warde encouraged simplicity and clarity, and her most famous work on this topic was the ‘Crystal Goblet’.
On 7 October 1930, Beatrice Warde gave a speech entitled ‘Printing Should Be Invisible’ to the British Typographers’ Guild at the St Bride Institute in London. Six days after she presented it, the lecture appeared in print again in The British & Colonial Printer & Stationer, a weekly newsletter dealing with the printing trade.
In 1932 and 1937, it was republished as a pamphlet for the Marchbanks Press. Warde’s essay was published from then on under both its new essay title ‘The Crystal Goblet’ and its original lecture title ‘The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible’.
The essay gained an even wider audience in 1955 when it came out in a book entitled The Crystal Goblet: Sixteen Essays on Typography. Her essay argued the need for clarity in typography and was centred on a metaphor of wine in a crystal goblet. The metaphor proved to be so effective and convincing that the concept itself became known as ‘The Crystal Goblet’, and is still so known today.
Around this time, Beatrice Warde gained many followers, including most prominently the artist Eric Gill. They grew to be quite close in the late 1920s and had an intense relationship for several years. She was the model for several of his drawings and engravings, the most well known being the printers’ mark for the publishing house Cassell in 1929. Through his professional typographic associations, Gill also assisted Warde in gaining writing jobs. In 1931, under the guise of ‘An American in London’, she wrote a travel guide for the LNER railway, entitled Enjoying England.
It was during the war years, while living in a London that was constantly being bombed from the air, that Beatrice Warde seemed to find herself. However much the war impacted on her life, during these years she seemed to thrive. The Monotype offices in Fetter Lane were bombed in 1941 and its Salford branch was turned into an ammunitions manufacturing plant. Warde turned to projects that focused less on typography and more on literature, and in particular her own literary connections. As her work for Monotype declined, her efforts for war relief grew to equal or even surpass what she had achieved as a publicity manager.
Bombed but Unbeaten, published in 1941, was a collection of war writings, including Warde’s letters to her mother, some other personal letters, and some under the guise of the ‘Americans in Britain Outpost of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies’. Beatrice found it more direct to include letters to her mother, which expressed her honest and immediate reactions, rather than write for an unknown general audience.
Her primary project, through which most of her war ventures were based and funded, was called Books Across the Sea, a society organised for the exchange of books between the United States and Britain to promote better cultural and literary understanding. The project was well connected: TS Eliot was its spokesman. Some of the books can still be found in Columbia University Library, but the British ones have been dispersed.
One of Warde’s favourite aspects of her Books Across the Sea programme was distribution of a book entitled The Token of Freedom. This book was given to the British children that were relocated to the United States during the War and included work by Dante, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Ruskin, and Abraham Lincoln. Both Warde and her mother felt strongly and very positively about the book, seeing it as the project where they touched the most people and made the biggest impact.
Beatrice’s mother also edited and assisted with publishing of another title: Youth Replies, I Can - this was described as ‘stories of resistance’. Warde’s brief entry was titled ‘The Last Penny’ and centred on the generosity of British children during the war. It had previously been printed as a letter from Beatrice’s ‘Letters from the Outpost’ section in the New York Herald Tribune.
After the war, typography changed and Beatrice Warde was forced to change with it. She found herself redefining her role at Monotype, since the Monotype machines that she had been promoting were no longer the mainstay of the printing industry, and neither were their types.
Building on her wartime successes, she began to do a great deal of lecturing and turned her attention towards the educational aspect of typography. Instead of promoting typography and printing, Warde began promoting the learning of typography and printing. Education, rather than Monotype publicity, became the primary focus. Warde began to establish direct connections with printing schools across the country. By lecturing and presenting awards, she was able to create alliances with almost every art, design, and printing school in Britain.
After the war, Beatrice Warde continued her publicity campaigns for Monotype. She was prolific with her ideas and publications and created a valuable resource that was free to anyone, professional or novice printers. Her lecturing became a publicity campaign and she nearly always published her lectures as publicity pamphlets for Monotype.
In September 1960, on her 60th birthday, Beatrice Warde retired from Monotype. She continued to lecture and travel, although on a much-diminished schedule.
But after Stanley Morison’s death, Beatrice’s health rapidly deteriorated. The death of her parents had deeply saddened her, but Morison’s death devastated her. On September 14, after a quiet day at home, Beatrice Warde unexpectedly collapsed and died, six days before her 69th birthday. She was buried in Epsom and in the following month her memorial service was held at St Bride’s Church, London.
Beatrice Warde was much more than a typography expert. She was an intellectual who wrote and lectured on a huge variety of topics, from women Renaissance printers to methods of typesetting bibles. She labelled herself as a communicator, but she was perhaps even more an educator.
She appealed to both professionals and students alike, constantly encouraging them to aim for the highest standards in printing and typography. Beatrice loved what she did and it was evident in every essay that she wrote and every lecture that she gave. She knew that as an American, she never quite fitted into the British professional and social world, but rather than bemoaning this she constantly turned it to her advantage. Beatrice Warde considered her outsider status an asset, giving her courage and strength. With her many gifts, and her ability to commit herself completely, she left her own individual mark, and her own special legacy to the world of typography and printing.
Shelley Gruendler is a designer and typographer working in the US and UK. She is completing a doctorate at the University of Reading and writing a biography of Beatrice Warde