February 1, 2013

When Russian broadsheets go abroad


Book design may be an essentially creative enterprise, but my job is often more like that of a librarian or researcher than a painter or printmaker. When you trade in images all day, you have to have a lot of source material to work with, and the better your input, the better your output will be. For recent projects, subjects I’ve investigated include WPA prints, nineteenth-century wood type, matchbooks from colonial India, interwar travel posters, the Parisian Metro, and FBI files, to name a few.

From Steven Heller comes word that the Russian-bred, Paris-based designer Fiodor Sumkin has been engaged in his own research project of late, and thankfully for the rest of us, he’s decided to share the fruits of his labor on a new site called Russians Without Russia. The site collects high-resolution scans of long-forgotten magazines and newspapers published by Soviet exiles in Paris, Berlin, Harbin, and Constantinople throughout the 1920s and ’30s. Though most are written in Russian, they’re all beautifully designed, illustrated, and printed, and they provide a sense of the prodigious talent of a generation of writers and artists forced to flee the young Soviet Union after the revolution.

I especially love the gorgeous one- and two-color illustrations for satirical publications with titles like Satyricon, Oukwat, and Bitche (!), and if any modern magazine were as beautifully produced as these issues of The Firebird, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat. Check out a slideshow of my favorite pages below, or go straight to the site to explore them all.

Christopher King is the Art Director of Melville House.