I was exploring the listings on eBay recently and stumbled onto a listing for a book of sample type designs from the Ukraine, published in 1930. The images on eBay were not that informative, but I was intrigued, so I ordered it.
It took quite a while for the book to get here from the Ukraine, but when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a treasure trove of the lost legacy of contructivist font design.
During the Bolshevik revolution that overthrew the Tsar and led to the creation of the Soviet Union, there was also a revolution in the Ukraine. For a few years freedom and independence flourished before the Soviet’s cracked down.
The town of Kharkov was the center of a cultural renaissance and a key element of that movement was the art of Constructivism, which was reflected in unique architecture and various practical applications including book publishing. The legacy of this period survives in the city’s architecture, but the artistic renaissance came to an abrupt end in 1935 when most of the artists and intellectuals were killed in a Bolshevik pogrom.
Much of the art of that era was lost, but to my joy and surprise another survivor was the selection of Constructivist font designs found in this collection, just waiting to form the basis of a new font collection for the Scriptorium. As you can see in the video to the left there are some great fonts in the collection, just waiting to be digitized for modern users.