Les mots en Futuristes


Les mots en liberté futuristes, F.T. Marinetti

      Experiencing old books in person is quite a transformative experience. I didn’t realize how much of an impact actually handling Les mots en liberté futuristes would have on my interpretation of it but it was truly crucial to my understanding of the book and its role in graphic design history. During the book viewing at D.H. Hill Library, I sat down first at the station with Les mots en liberté futuristes and I thought it was really incredible. Even though it wasn’t the oldest book in the special collections viewing, it was definitely the most fragile. My first visual impression of the book was that it seemed incredibly old. The book was published in 1919 and it showed its age by its browning coloration and deterioration of the binding. It was hardly held together by the strings in its binding and we were advised to handle the book extremely cautiously when looking through it. The Marinetti book is very small, paperback, and quite short. It is made out of thin paper that was probably once an off-white but has turned brown and discolored over time. I felt as if I had to touch it very delicately or else it would fall apart in my hands, and I could even sense its age by that typical old-used-book-smell. Another clue as to its placement into print history was the fact that it was printed with a press, this was evident because not all of the ink was fully transferred onto the page during pressing. I could see on the larger fonts little areas where the paper showed through which helped me understand what the transformation from primitive printing presses to digital printing was like. It was so interesting to experience an artifact of design history first-hand and it really impacted the way I now understand print design. Les mots en liberté futuristes is a very interestingly designed book. It was a huge stepping stone for the Futurism movement and it showcases that time period in graphic design history through whimsical images made out of letters, numbers, and symbols. These textual components are laid out at varying sizes, boldness, and angles to create feeling and imagery through the use of plain text. The use of  mainly black ink with dramatic red accents creates excitement and intrigue for the reader. The book is filled with writing and poetry by Filippo Marinetti and the expressive qualities of these pieces of text are magnified by his manipulation of the text. This book was a major contribution to the Futurism movement and to graphic design history as a whole.

Spread displaying text representative of the Futurism movement, photo by Tess Wiegmann

      Les mots en liberté futuristes which translates in English to Futurist Words in Freedom was written by Filippo Marinetti and is a part of the collection at D.H Hill Library because it is an important artifact of history that exemplifies the Futurism movement. Filippo Marinetti was the founder of the Futurism movement in the early 20th Century in Italy. The movement was sparked by Filippo Marinetti’s Manifesto del Futurismo, a manifesto which described the social values of Futurism. This manifesto acted as a precursor for the other poetry Marinetti would publish including Les mots en liberté futuristes. Futurism was a movement that was pertinent to literature, art, design, and politics. The movement began in Italy and eventually spread to Russia, England, and the rest of Europe. The Futurism movement idolized efficiency, speed, and energy by focusing on ‘the machine’ in various forms such as paintings, poetry, manifestos, and print design. Ideas such as rejection of the past, celebration of youth, industry, and violence were common amongst the Futurists. The book Les mots en liberté futuristes is valued for its author, the founder of the Futurism movement, and its exemplification of how print design dramatically changed according to the movement. Futurism brought new ideas to published print design. Designers such as Marinetti began to break the boundaries that were established by years and years of print history before them. Layouts, alignment, and rules of consistency were thrown out the window in order to convey the feelings and movement described in the writing. This book is a fantastic example of this kind of print design. Letters and words are arranged in large fold-out spreads at varying angles and sizes. This creates chaos among the words and helps to depict the ideas of speed and industry. The graphics associated with the Futurism movement were very experimental and broke traditional norms, but some of the elements contributed to future design movements such as Dadaism and Modernism. In fact, Les mots en liberté futuristes is very similar to another book in the Special Collection at the library called Die Scheuche : Märchen, a children’s book from the Dada movement. Both books feature emerging modern ideas in the way the text has been composed into expressive images and onomatopoeia. Dada and Futurist ideas were very similar and both movements happened around the same time in different parts of Europe. Futurism was impactful to the history of graphic design because it broadened the limits for print designers. Les mots en liberté futuristes is a perfect example of Futurism in the form of print design. D.H. Hill Library has collected and protected it so that people can use it to learn about Marinetti, the Futurists of Italy, and where modern print design has come from. It is important to study artifacts like this book to learn how print has changed and learn from the designers that took a risk and created movements of history-changing ideas.

A fold out page of text being manipulated to create expressive imagery, photo by Tess Wiegmann

      Though small and frail, the book Les mots en liberté futuristes had a huge impact on history. It is an important representation of the Futurism movement and an artifact of historical designer, Filippo Marinetti. My experience with the book was significant to my understanding of print design. It allowed me to realize how far graphic designers, typographers, and publishers have come in terms of advancement in print. From Gutenberg’s movable metal type, to printing presses, to Marinetti’s chaotic compositions, to modern digital print, graphic designers have something to learn from every stage in history.



“Les mots en liberté futuristes.” Art Object Page, www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.134222.html.

“Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes.” Cary Graphic Arts Collection, library.rit.edu/cary/les-mots-en-libert%C3%A9-           futuristes-futurist-words-freedom.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia  Britannica, inc., 3 Aug. 2017, www.britannica.com/biography/Filippo-Tommaso-Marinetti.

White, John James. “Futurism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 30 Nov. 2016,  www.britannica.com/art/Futurism.