The Biblioteca Nacional José Martí (BNJM) is Cuba’s national
library in Havana, founded 1901 by military order after the United States
hijacked Cuba’s war of independence against Spain and turned it into the
Spanish-American War. It’s not the first library in Cuba; that distinction goes
to the Biblioteca de la Sociedad Económica de Amigos del Pais, or Library of
the Economic Society of the Friends of the Country, founded in 1793. After the
revolution in 1959, BNJM’s shelves swelled with books from private libraries
nationalized by those fleeing the new society. It’s a crucial public
repository. Interestingly, the United States—unlike most countries in the
world—does not have a national library. Most people assume that that’s what the
Library of Congress is, but that’s not true. “The first priority of the Library
of Congress is to make knowledge and creativity available to the United States
Congress,” reads its mission statement.
February 1999 I visited the BNJM as part of a research project with the
Cuba Poster Project to determine the best way to digitize their enormous
collection of posters. Besides the actual posters themselves, another archival
attraction was the fact that all of their posters had been cataloged, revealing
crucial details such as artist, publisher and year of publication. My original
idea was to scan the cards from the BNJM catalog and convert the data to
machine-readable type through an optical character recognition program. After
dragging a laptop and scanner from the United States to the library in Havana,
it quickly became apparent that the type on the cards was too inconsistent and
uneven to be readily understood by any machine, so I ended up scrapping that
plan. But I had a scanner and some time on my hands. After a long conversation
with Eliades Acosta, then-director of the BNJM, he told me about a special
collection of bookplates, or “ex libris” (“from the library of”) ownership
markers. The BNJM was able to supply some of the catalog data; others remain
a mystery awaiting further research.
Gathered from books in the library’s possession, the range
of bookplates is amazing. Some of them were hand-painted parchment from two centuries ago;
others were whimsical artists’ works from the mid-1960s. And they included
locations and names unexpected for Havana—George Washington, Ralph Radcliffe
Whitehead and Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. All are little jewels of literary
art, and the director felt that they merited more attention. Rightly so.
Who today profits from the creative works of the WPA era? Cushing calls for putting the “public” back in this public art.
Section: Inspiration -
Before we judged books by their covers, title pages were the place where design made a splash. Patton wonders what will become of print’s curtain raiser.
Section: Inspiration -
history, Voice, book design, print design
Digital devices are creating new possibilities for reading, but don’t write off books just yet. Heller argues for the mutability and adaptability of print.
Puerto Rican artist Lorenzo Homar was a pivotal figure of the
fields of design and
plastic arts during the second part of the 20th century. While he produced a large number of works of various media, he is best known for his posters and printed engravings.
Section: Inspiration -
Design Journeys, graphic design, print design, posters, culture, diversity, design educators, students
In 2015, AIGA Arizona issued a call for the year's best work. Read our interview with the agency leader whose submission garnered 1st Place, and find out which submissions took the other nine spots.
For 24 hours, ten designers from various communities and backgrounds brainstormed, strategized and designed approaches to the #Ferguson unrest, the recognizable racial divide in the St. Louis community and the nationwide issue of police brutality.
Section: Why Design
Pentagram’s Emily Oberman brands Snoop Dogg’s new line of weed products
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