Giambattista Bodoni

No art has more warrant to look towards future centuries than typography. For what it produces today is for the good of the world to come no less than for that of living generations.

Translated from the German (c) by Marc Hiatt. (12.01.07)

This quotation from Bodoni (1740-1813) is given as a typographical example by Jan Tschichold in his Meisterbuch der Schrift (1952) (known in English as Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering):

Keine Kunst hat mehr Berechtigung, ihren Blick auf die künftigen Jahrhunderte zu richten als die Typographie. Denn was sie heute schafft, kommt der Nachwelt nicht weniger zugute als den lebenden Geschlechtern.

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Writers still object that because the typewriter does not obey the innervations of the hand it is supposedly incapable of producing a bodily sort of contact between thought and writing; writers for whom such contact is paramount should, it is said, keep with the fountain-pen. O romantic and inexperienced objection, that even maintains the mistrust of technology there where the thought long ago came to the rescue of technology! Nowhere is the contact between word and thought closer than on the typewriter. Not, admittedly, that between writing and thought. The hand that strikes into the material of the keys doesn’t bother itself with the written result that hovers way up there on the horizon of the machine. Rather it chisels word-bodies out of the keys, so clearly that it is as if they were held in the fingers under whose pressure they are sculpted out of the keyboard. On the machine, writing has been transformed back from a two-dimensional into a three-dimensional process. Words, across so many centuries merely read, can once again be felt; perhaps in this way we are getting them back within our grasp, whereas for so long we had been under the sway of their foreign power.

Translated from the German (c) by Marc Hiatt. (Last revised 5.08.2006.)

Written 1931. Collected in Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 20.2 (2003) Frankfurt a. M..