“Decorations by W Aylward” is honest. “Decoration” is a term rarely used today given the serious emphasis attributed to DESIGN and the puffed-chest academic shamanism it takes to wield it. Honesty is refreshing. It’s only a poem, with illustrations and fancier titles than normal. Scribner’s Magazine dealt high definition entertainment in 1913, it was America’s first mass market rag to include COLOR illustrations (1887). Leading talent was commissioned to dazzle audiences. Lettered decorations along The Way to Inde pass through heat distortion, fluttering romances, shimmering confusion, and other trespasses. So, which South Asian script is this lettering approximating? Probably all of them, pulled from Aylward’s recollections of people in overheated environments with wavy flags and symbols which looped in and out of themselves breaking Latin logic. The horizontal stroke topping the “W” is a little Lombardic and excusably close for a seafaring Wisconsonian referencing linear connections in Devanagari or Bengali, but has little relation to the other typographic conventions on his page. The Way to Inde is mapless, adrift, and beset with guesswork. It picked up a backswooping “d” from some colony using early engraved French type. This confusion, or playfulness, is why I love it. Freed and odd. The strange beast has interesting contrasts, strong verticals in stems with rigidly bored (drilled) counters, like they’ve been tunneled into. Antfarm negative space? A lot of the action here is in the small shapes. The minimal counters, small gestures amplified by so much surrounding black, movement implied by inky little feet kicking out exit strokes (“h” up, “e” down), while partnering stems suction tight to the baseline. The lumpiness of the brush and ink curdles where multiple overlapping strokes define a curve. Inked with oatmeal. I stopped while debating how much bump and melt to apply to the “h” ascender serif-blob, questioning whether or not this could be approached as an eastern cousin to Cooper Black, and it seemed like a terrible idea.
Creative commons, etc…
©1913 and ™ W. J. Aylward and Scribner’s Magazine?