22 November 2018

Artistic Bankruptcy and Cultural Chaos

T. M. Cleland, "Harsh Words; An Address Delivered to a Meeting of The American Institute of Graphic Arts in New York City, February 5th, 1940," Books and Printing, ed. Paul A. Bennett (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1951), pp. 321-336 (at 322-323):
I can bring you no message of hope or light of inspiration. Much as I am filled with admiration and respect for many individual talents and accomplishments that still contrive to exist, they seem to me to stand unhappily isolated in what I can’t help viewing as artistic bankruptcy and cultural chaos. Among them are printers making beautiful books and other things about as well as these things have ever been made. But as to the general volume of printing, no one has asked me, to be sure, what I thought was the lowest point of artistic taste in the five hundred years of its existence which we are celebrating this year, but if anyone should ask me, I would be bound to say that we have reached that point just about now. Things may get worse, but it’s hard to see how they can. To paraphrase a remark in the concluding chapter of Updike’s classic work on printing types, it has taken printers and publishers five hundred years to find out how wretchedly books and other things can be made and still sell.
T. M. Cleland, image from Princeton University, via Mark D. Ruffner

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