Het boek van PTT

     My initial visual impressions of the book were that the drawings looked very basic and unsophisticated.  The figures of the people holding out their hands and attempting to touch appeared to be very basic sketches, like those drawn by kids.  However, the second aspect that caught my eye was the black bird.  The black bird appeared to be a photographed image with artistic shading.  The bird in comparison to the people had a much more detail and looked very artistic.  This contradiction caused me to wonder why so much details were added to the bird and what other techniques would be used throughout this book.  Also, I noticed the writing on the book was Dutch.  Knowing a little of the Dutch language due to my heritage, the books title read “The book of PTT”.  When taking a closer look at the book, I noticed the size of the book. The book was smaller than a piece of paper and like that of a magazine.  The weight of the book was minimal and weighing approximately the weight of a pencil. The binding of the book was very neat with no spirals, staples or anything else on the binding. The absence of this type of binding allowed for better access to the pages when opening the book and helped with the flow from one page to another. The binding also allowed for images to be placed close to page’s edges.  The construction like paper used for the book was a great technique for adding the illustrations.  The use of this type of paper made the book feel more than just a simple magazine.  The smell of the pages could not be ignored either.  The book was written in 1938 in the Netherlands.  The book had a musty smell that you would expect from a book that was 80 years old. The texture of the pages was rough and had no smooth areas.  The color of the cover page was faded and some obvious deterioration of the pages was found, however the book was of pretty good quality.  I found it amazing how this book was about 80 years old and was in this good of a condition.  The bright colors in the book interested me the most.  The bright colors brought to life the act of making a dull action of mailing a letter into an entertaining event that was interesting to follow.  I found it interesting how the author chose to use the white background paper and the black pen outline to draw the people.  The people were not shaded and were basically just stick figures on the front cover.  The size of the book was also very interesting to me because the book was not very large and was very similar to that of a magazine.  Initially I thought it was just an old magazine from long ago.  Initially, that is one of the reasons why the book first caught my attention. The images inside the book are also very interesting.   The cover may not look sophisticated or very detailed but on the inside you really get a chance to see a lot of detail that goes into the illustrations.  The authors use of photomontage, drawings, color illustrations, and collage mixtures are used brilliantly.  The layout of the pages was very well planned out and made the book interesting for children.  The pages were separated so that they could have a good separation of words and pictures.  Most of the pictures that were included were illustrations that provided information about the what was being described in the text.  The font type was very well thought out and was very accessible for reading.  The illustrations allowed the reader to visualize what is taking place in the text.  For example, there was a picture showing how long the mail would take from Amsterdam to Paris, Berlin, and Geneva.

     This book encompasses blended aspects of typography and photography to provide an entertaining description of how to use the mail.  I believe the extensive use of these two aspects by the illustrator Piet Zwart makes this a collectable.  This book was designed over 80 years ago and provides a descriptive example through words and illustrations of how to use the mail.  The book enlightens this dull process into something that is enjoyable.  The book is valued for its use of photomontage skills that required extensive work to piece together.  The images and illustrations used are an accurate representation of what European avant-garde design of the time.  The typography and photography skills are a good representation of this time period (1).  The illustrator Zwart was mostly known for his graphic design work.   Zwart had many different jobs including:  working for Dutch Cable Manufactures in Delft as an advertisement and working for the Bruynzeel Wood Company designing packaging and office interiors.  Zwart began his training at the School of Applied Arts in Amsterdam where he learned and improved his artistic skills.  In 1926, he began using photomontage in his works and these examples can be seen throughout the pages of this book. This book was not his typical book that he usually designed.  Zwart usually designed kitchen interiors.  Zwart most important design book was also released the same year as the children’s book.   This very important design was for modular kitchen constructed from prefabricated units (2).  The “Het boek van PTT” is a completely different type of book.   Zwart does not really have all of his previous design aspects in the children’s book.  He wanted every page to tell a story and have bright colors to explore the imagination of the children.  This book is not the development of something as he was use to doing.  This children’s book was created by Piet Zwart to help explain the mail in a new and interesting way.  Piet Zwart had help from Dick Elffers when designing this book.  Dick Elffers helped with the illustrations of the book, and later became his own designer (1). I believe that because this book is not similar to anything else every designed by him adds to the importance of the book.  This children’s book is special because never again did he create a book for children. (3).    

Interesting use of shading and photomontage in Het boek van PTT. Photo by Matt Prakke

Illustration to show the time it takes to ship mail to different cities in Het boek van PTT. Photo by Matt Prakke

Works Cited:

1-      http://www.marthascotford.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Zwart_HetBoekvanPTT.final_.pdf

2-      https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/people/18044821/bio

3-      http://www.iconofgraphics.com/piet-zwart/