Are Critics Necessary?
By Harold Ellis
ALTHOUGH they are not four-letter words, I think two of the dirtiest words in our language are “constructive criticism.” The criticism is always clear to the one being criticized, but the constructive part too often dwells only in the mind of the critic.
Can the world get along without critics and criticism? I certainly think it can, though it seems contrary to human nature. I remember reading somewhere that nowhere in the world has a statue ever been erected to a critic. Generals, poets, musicians, statesmen, even (in Salt Lake City) birds – but critics, nyet!
I also believe that more talent has been stifled or destroyed by criticism than has been developed by it. This is true because most often the possession of true talent has been the sensitive type easily hurt by criticism dashed off hurriedly and thoughtlessly by some smart aleck. Strong individuals, of course, will either ignore criticism or forget it, and I maintain they will succeed in spite of and because of it.
OK then, if we are not to criticize, or be criticized, how will we or others learn to correct our faults? We will learn as we learn most things from capable teachers by persuasion and example.
In attending the Dale Carnegie classes in public speaking, I noted that criticism was not a part of their method, at least as practiced by the two instructors I had. Instead, they used a method of pointing out the good qualities of each speaker. “Did you notice how effective gestures can be as used by Mr. Brown?” “Isn’t it easy to hear Mabel even at the back of the room because she speaks so clearly?” “You have seen that even though Mr. Caparelli speaks with an accent, his sincerity comes through and makes us remember what he said, instead of how he said it.”
After sixteen weeks of this, if you don’t get the point and try to apply it to your own efforts (and some don’t), then you have wasted your time and your money. The Dale Carnegie people are there to help people who have the intelligence to learn as well as the money to spend. There is no cure for stupidity.
Amateur journalism is writing, editing, publishing or printing as a hobby – for fun, not for profit. Most of us can be put in either of two classes. We are mainly writers or publishers of amateur journals, which usually includes writing, editing and printing (or some other reproduction method).
Now the strange thing is that if we write steadily, or print often, and throw it all in the waste basket when we have finished we will become better writers or printers because of the repeated effort. Most professional writers, who sell stories or articles for “good money,” have written many that wouldn’t be suitable to wrap fish. And many noted artists have painted pictures that would be at home only in an incinerator. So don’t feel bad if everything you do isn’t a masterpiece, because you know this just could not be. But the more we do, the closer we may come.
The advantage of being in the National Amateur Press Association is that every month we receive several papers in the bundle. Each of them, first of all, is an example of printing by one method or another. It doesn’t take a genius to quickly sort out the three or four best papers. Now, then, go get your latest paper and put it alongside these and make a comparison. What do you like about theirs that seems to be an improvement over yours? Can you use some of these ideas in your next paper?
If you are a writer of stories, poems, articles, essays or whatever, you can do the same thing. It is in the nature of excellence to shine, and even a poor writer can usually recognize good writing when he sees it. So set aside these examples of good writing and think about them in relation to your own. Why do you like them? Good choice of words, poetry that sings as well as scans, stories that entertain, articles that can enlighten, and a personality that comes through to you? Go thou and do likewise.
CRITICISM at its best means no more than intelligent discussion of our aims and achievements. At its worst it means the arbitrary imposition of some standards which we may not care to accept. – Jame Guinane, Campane, December ‘59.
Mr. Carroll Deserves a Reply
by Richard L. Hopkins
In these pages recently, John Carroll rather unsympathetically lambasted amateur printers for their apparent lack of appreciation of the intricacies of fine typography.
Resting on the experience of over fifteen years of “tinkering with type,” I read, understood and agree with all John set forth. Yet I felt the urge to lash out against him. Meditation on the subject has given me a reason for this feeling.
He has suggested an interruption of the natural order of things by his article – he proposes to “save” us from such discoveries as “the invisible beauty of a page done in Baskerville” by starting us out on an early diet of Baskerville.
John states that good taste in typography is not inborn, but is developed over years of trial and error. It is my suggestion that “taste” which doesn’t follow this natural sequence ends up shallow and lifeless.
In my association with amateur printers, I already have encountered two such cases. One person, blessed with the gift (disgusting, isn’t it!) of a full stand of Garamond in all sizes and weights, had tinkered in his shop for over two years without producing a single item for distribution. “I’m still experimenting with page design and presswork. I want my first production to be perfect,” he said.
Poppycock! I’m sure I’ve not come near perfection and never will. And I wager I learned more setting up and mashing impressions from plain-Jane Century Expanded than he ever will gain from seeking perfection before producing anything.
Another, an artist by trade, also started out right at the top with a series of an excellent European face. He produced numerous noteworthy bits of ephemera. Then he disappeared. A letter from him says, “I never could quite achieve the perfection I wanted. This was frustrating to me, so I gave up printing!”
I am saying we all need the conditioning that work with lesser letter designs and poorer equipment gives us.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to review the evolution of this publication, Campane, over its 25-plus year history. The review exemplifies what I’m saying. Harold Segal didn’t start with Baskerville. He started with Kennerley. I didn’t start with Baskerville – or even Garamond. I started with Century Expanded.
Learning to use what we had was the first step toward learning what was “wrong” with it and what other faces were better.
Yet I will not go as far as John has, in saying such faces are “dogs” and should be discarded. I still use my Century Expanded. It has its place (and it’s a very popular face in professional typography too, John). But I have learned to be selective in my use of the face.
Thus, John, I would ask that you allow all of us the freedom to experiment with the dogs we have. Even Kabel has its place! Don’t condemn us because we’re not all Baskerville devotees. If there is any place for undisciplined typography, it’s in amateur publications. Who knows, perhaps that guy who is using Kennerley along with Bodoni Bold and Stymie Bold might turn out to be another Harold Segal! (I still have my Stymie Bold. Do you, Harold?)
I just ask that “you guys” who’ve been the full route keep publishing so to provide us “duffers” with some admirable goals to aim for. (Anybody want to buy some Stymie, Copperplate, Century, Clearface, AuthorsRoman, Bernhard Gothic? Seems my “dogs” had pups!)
[Editor’s note: John Carroll’s article in Campane 61 discussed some of Frederic Goudy’s type designs. It is of topical interest to note some of Richard Hopkins’ remarks on some of Goudy’s work as published in his Typographical Curiosities, December ‘64.]
Persons even remotely familiar with printing know Frederic Goudy to be a designer of type. Those more familiar with the trade know him as the designer of such popular faces as Goudy Oldstyle, Goudy Text, Kennerley and Deepdene, and that he produced over one hundred faces.
However, few can name more than half a dozen of his faces, even though many are often used today. For example, among his popular faces are Pabst, Hadriano Stonecut, Italian Oldstyle, Copperplate Gothic, Garamont and the Lombardic Initials – all of these are known, but not as Goudy faces.
On the other hand, Goudy Bold and Bold Italic are faces often related to him. Even though they were based on his Goudy Oldstyle, the faces were actually designed by American Type Founders’ craftsmen.
Such information is not commonly known for a complete list of Goudy’s lifetime production is not readily available. Probably the most complete listing was one compiled by Goudy and published by the Typophiles as a limited edition in 1946.
Even this book, A Half Century of Type Design and Typography, 1895-1945, fails to list specimens for a few Goudy designs, both because some were never forged into type and because many of them perserved in Goudy’s workshop were destroyed by fire late in his life.
Several of these faces enjoyed long use, but were not widely known because they were designed for exclusive use by a particular publication or organization. One such face was Record Title, which had fallen from use by the time A Half Century of Type Design was written. A specimen of this face was not included in this volume along with Goudy’s discussion of the face’s creation, probably because such was not immediately available.
It was designed at the request of Charles DeVinne (said to be the grandson of Theodore L. DeVinne), art director of the Architectural Record. On introducing the face in January 1928, Record Editor M. A. Mikkelsen noted that original types had come from inscriptions on ancient buildings and therefore, there was a natural relationship between typography and architecture. He continued, saying that Goudy’s “epigramatic studies” had exercised a noteworthy influence on architectural lettering, and therefore, “it was quite natural for an architectural magazine… to turn to Mr. Goudy for collaboration….”
A treatise on classic lettering done by Damianus Moyllus about 1480 at Parma, Italy, was used as the basis for the new face. Of the Moyllus designs, Goudy said, “Many modifications were imperative… even changes in form to fit them to modern eyes and uses; certain features had to be exaggerated or they would disappear in cutting, curves strengthened, stems and hairlines thickened or brought into greater harmony with each other.”
The relative merits of Record Title were never fully determined. Such was the case with many of his faces, a fact which lead one typographer to say many of Goudy’s faces should never have been made into type at all.
Amend: Change For The Better?
By Harold Segal
“Chairman Sheldon Wesson reported that nineteen proposed amendments had been submitted, some during the course of the year, others at the convention. Two of these were rejected in committee. The remaining seventeen were discussed on the floor in a race with the clock.” [italics ours] – from the minutes of the 94th annual NAPA convention in Columbus, Ohio, 1969, as printed in the National Amateur.
Very important business was crowded into the waning minutes of the Columbus convention. Time was running out and scads of assorted proposals were under serious consideration for the purpose of deciding whether they merited amendment status. More as a matter of expediency than necessity, thirteen proposals were quickly approved which ended up along the line as ten amendments. My arithmetic is not bad, I’m just relaying information from the official minutes.
It was truly unfortunate that this important business had to be rushed, discussion had to be aborted because the hour of the banquet was rapidly nearing. A cursory glance at the amendments on the absentee ballot would probably give the voter the impression that they were properly discussed, given ample thought and after serious consideration were deemed valid enough for approval by the membership. Such was not the instance.
There may be some worthiness to some of the current amendments, but if there is then certainly there has been a lack of support in the amateur press. For this reason we suggest a “No” vote on all the proposals.
If they merit our support, let’s discuss them again at the Denver convention without the pressure of a time limitation so we can hear all sides. Then, perhaps, we can weed out the needless and frivolous proposals and center our attention on amendments that might constructively benefit the membership.
Also, next year, let’s propose an amendment to limit the number of amendments.
The amendment committee, or more properly, the committee to consider amendments, is a nebulous thing. It is appointed by the president (or presiding officer) of a number of ex-presidents and incumbent executive judges in attendance at the convention. They are to hold open hearings where the sponsor and others discuss the pros and cons, urging or dissuading consideration. Elizabeth Butt discusses this concisely and clearly in the December 1969 issue of Ding Dong. Mrs. Butt, a former officer and now an ardent watch-dog of our interests, was secretary at the time the NAPA adopted the amendment committee process. She knows how the procedure was intended to work, and yells – in her soft-spoken way – when the intent is breached. The amendment committee process was devised to eliminate ill-considered amendments – the cost of printing them and the waste of time voting on them. If the amendment committee fails to do this, it fails the association.
Apparently there are differing opinions on just how the amendments committee should function. One line of opinion would have the committee hear the presentations, then retire to a star chamber to decide which ones should be allowed to stand. The feeling is that this committee of elder statesmen has divine knowledge of what our priority needs might be. They will decide which proposals the convention could accept or reject for next year’s balloting.
The other camp suggests that all proposals be aired thoroughly at the hearing, the committee merely checking for conflicting areas within the constitution. Then the attendance at the hearing would decide – a “committee of the whole,” you might say – by majority which of the proposals should be considered by the convention.
This, apparently, was what happened at Columbus. While it might be the more democratic method, it is not the plan that was in the minds of the originators of the present amending procedure. It also means that if this latter method is the one desired, then a committee is not necessary at all; merely a chairman to keep order, while the members make decisions on next year’s amendments.
Basically, the proposition of selectivity in amending our constitution: changing or setting up new offices or bureaus, changing operating procedures one way or another, is a very good one. One that was necessitated by years of frivolous, expensive and time-consuming proposals that were the pet aberrations of not-thoroughly-indoctrinated members or partially-active veterans who were not 100% cognizant of the current situation. One year we had 63 amendments on the ballot! This year we have ten – probably nine too many.
Another excellent feature of the year’s waiting period before an amendment can be approved or thumbed down, is that it is supposed to give us ample time for discussion in the amateur press. We are supposed to have a year’s debate in the hope that an intelligent ballot can be cast.
Tony Moitoret, Mrs. Butt, George Trainer and one or two others have touched on the procedure, otherwise comment on the amendments have been nil. Where are these people who suggested the amendments in the first place? Did they terminate their efforts now that their proposal was rushed through the convention? Is that the end of their responsibility? If the changes they propose are so beneficial, where is their assurance that it will be so? Why have they not explained in detail the reasons we should approve their proposals?
Again, we urge you to vote against all the amendments. If they are worthy let’s discuss them again in convention, with ample time for thought and opinions from all who are sincerely concerned. If they are good constructive solutions they can be re-submitted next year. A year’s time won’t break us, but a poor amendment approved by an apathetic vote can cause untold damage.
CAMPANE is published in the interest of organized amateur journalism and the National Amateur Press Association by co-editors Hazel and Harold Segal, Margo Gardens, Bristol, Pa. 19007.