25 Aug 2011

Signpainters Don’t Read Signs

Signpainters Don't Read Signs by Syl Ehr
Signpainters Don’t Read Signs by Syl Ehr

Via their Facebook page, The Sign Painter Movie project alerted me to this rare, out of print book by Syl Ehr. Signpainters Don’t Read Signs is a great read and recounts umpteen anecdotes from Syl’s life as a jobbing signpainter in the USA (signwriter to those in the UK).

These include incidents directly relating to his work, and those observed from afar given his presence on the street. It also contains some mini-tutorials for budding signpainters and notes on the diversity of characters involved in the trade, including the ‘wall dogs’ whose only work were the large scale signs painted on walls.

Perhaps most peculiar section in the book is chapter 16 where readers are offered a critique of the Roman alphabet from the point of view of both a signpainter and a type setter (the book was published in 1957). This critique extends to the proposing of a new set of letter forms (both upper and lower case) giving greater balance and stability to the alphabet and the words that are made from it. This proposal is described as a ‘sweeping progressive action’ and named as ‘New Era Roman’. To date it clearly hasn’t taken off but you have to admire his endeavour in attempting to change forms which have been around for many centuries.

Sadly the book is very difficult to come by and I was lucky to find one on Amazon marketplace after a few attempts. Check here and do pick up a copy. Entertaining, educational and a very easy read.

For more books check the reading list.

For the start of something similar in the UK, check Chris’ site.

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