The Triumphant Return of Manutius!

By Steve Delahoyde Comment


We’re seeing the benefit of being “had” now, with that Chalet/House thing the other day. It led us to celebrate 510 (or maybe more) years of Aldus Manutius yesterday, and then to learn that the brilliant Michael Bierut (and team) at Pentagram just put the finishing touches on the whole package for the Morgan Library and Museum, which, yes, has a very close connection to Aldus. Here’s the scoop:

A team led by Michael Bierut, partner in the New York office of the international design consultancy Pentagram, has designed the identity, exhibition graphics and signage for the renamed Morgan Library & Museum, the New York institution that will reopen on April 29 with a dramatic expansion by celebrated architect Renzo Piano.

The new identity utilizes a single font called Dante, which was chosen in consultation with John Bidwell, the Morgan’s Astor Curator and Department Head for Printed Books and Bindings. The font appears with unusual consistency on everything from the logo on The Morgan’s letterhead to the labels in the exhibits. Dante, designed in 1954 by the legendary Mardersteig Foundry, is a twentieth-century revival of an Aldine type that was designed by Aldus Manutius for the 1495 publication of Pietro Bembo’s De Aetna, a copy of which is in The Morgan’s holdings.

0428morgan.gifThe formal name of the buildings remains The Pierpont Morgan Library; the new name is used to define the activities that happen within. The institutional name change – from “The Pierpont Morgan Library” to “The Morgan Library & Museum” – reflects the institution’s renewed commitment to exhibitions, education, and public programs. The expectation is the name will shift to “The Morgan,” and in applications of the signature, “Morgan” is customarily highlighted in a contrasting color.

“This level of obsession about typography is unusual even by our standards,” admitted Bierut, “but The Morgan deserved nothing less. By using a serif typeface like Dante that’s customarily used for books, we intend to reinforce the institution’s commitment to literature, conservation, and scholarship.”

Pentagram’s signage and environmental graphics for the library also use the same typeface. Letters appear pin-mounted in gold, bronze and bright red, as well as on glass and in a steel bas-relief at the main entrance.