Abstract

This article offers a historical analysis of 21st-century American engagements with 19th-century ornamented typography, demonstrating how this form of historicist practice constructs purposeful continuities between past and present by aligning 19th- and 21st-century modes of production. These alignments, balanced on fraught cultural divisions between handmade/machine-made and authentic/artificial, are resolutely ahistorical yet speak volumes about the dynamics of information capitalism, deindustrialization, and recession in recent US history. The analysis focuses upon two genres of neo-19th-century typographic revivals: heritage letterpress fetishism, which invokes an imagined return to authentic handcraft, and revivalist authentications of digital design practice, in which designers use the old to confer legitimacy upon the new.

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