5.1.1: 1910 - heden - Introduction

In the twentieth century, books have come to look less and less alike, a trend which began in the nineteenth century with the possibilities offered by the so-called publisher's binding. Besides hard or flexible bindings and elongated, square or oblong formats, we also see colourful or plain books and illustrated or almost blank books, whilst after the Second World War, in particular, plastic has been used for the covers as well. Books and newspapers published in the late forties and early fifties can be recognised by the thin, poor-quality paper as a result of the paper shortage in those years. In the nineties, the use of acid-free paper, which could withstand the ravages of time, became general practice. The end of the twentieth century saw experiments in e-books and printing on demand. The arrival of professional designers and their influence, particularly in the post-war years, meant more variation and experimentation in the appearance of books. The private press typographers of around 1910 can be said to be the first 'designers'. Until the 1950s books were valuable possessions which was reflected in their appearance, voluminous books printed on thick paper being commonplace. The preference for long titles had all but disappeared by 1910, but serial publication still continued abundantly in the first few decades of the century, particularly in the cheaper segment. Thanks to new reproduction techniques, magazines with photographic illustrations boomed in the first half of the century; in the nineties colour photographs appeared in newspapers.

The first successful paperback series was Prisma which began in 1951 and also included non-fiction. The paperback formula (reprints, high print runs per edition, low prices) changed books into consumer items, which after having been read could even be thrown or given away. It is remarkable that despite the new techniques and cheap substitutes, a market remained for beautiful, well-made books and in this respect Stichting Drukwerk in de Marge, established in 1974, must be mentioned. This organisation unites contemporary private presses, which produce excellent results with often old-fashioned techniques. However, even in the regular books, the attention for design has not diminished. The award for Best Book Design has remained an annual tradition since 1925-1926, albeit with a few interruptions.

author: L. Kuitert