Alfa-Beta by Aldo Novarese
A facsimile edition of Aldo Novarese's landmark 1964 in-depth historical study of letterforms and type design
Alfa-Beta, graphic designer Aldo Novarese's history of writing systems and the evolution of type showcases a very specific point of view: it is one of very few works on the history of type originally written in Italian, and one of the few books about the subject to have been written by a type designer rather than a historian or academic.
Novarese became director of Nebiolo's in-house design studio in 1952, and oversaw the development of several of the type foundry's typefaces during his more than twenty years with the company. Inspired by his teaching experience at Turin’s Vigliardi Paravia school, as well as annual gatherings in Lure, his introduction expressly describes Alfa-Beta as an educational work—essentially a textbook—and in the text he conveys the rich complexity of type design as an ever-changing discipline.
The chapters proceed in chronological order, with contents gradually evolving from a spare outline of historical facts to a more vibrant narrative, increasingly accompanied by plates and illustrations presenting a vast variety of visuals. The book's span encompasses the earliest forms of writing to the most contemporary character sets, culminating with the most recent and innovative type designs—including Eurostile, released by Nebiolo just two years prior. The entire book is dotted with intriguing tables charting the development of calligraphic styles and typographical characters, often selected from Novarese’s own designs.
This reissue, produced on the centenary of Novarese's birth, is produced to the specifications of the original: same trim size, length, and contents. The original introduction, endnotes and index, along with illustrations for 17 complete series of alphabets, 40 full-page examples, 92 alphabets and 194 documentations, have all been retained. The volume is printed using the same three-color separation as the original Progresso Grafico edition.
The slip-cased edition comes with a softcover Reader's Guide which offers a full English translation of Novarese's original text; an introduction by the editorial and production teams describing the development of the reissue; and a preface by master printer and publisher Enrico Tallone on the historical context within which Novarese wrote Alfa-Beta.
Published by Edizione Archivio Tipografico, 2021
In Italian, with English translation
Cloth-bound hardcover (in slipcover case with softcover Reader's Guide), 314 pages, 3-color printing, 6.7 × 9.3 inches