A complete overview of the work of Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945). Surely this must be the ultimate commission, the sort that every designer dreams of? Or is it precisely jobs of this kind whose complexity means that they are doomed to fail, if only on account of the numbers of institutions and individuals involved in such projects? Be that as it may, designer Joost Grootens has acquitted himself excellently. Because work on the book’s production was held up for a year, Grootens had an opportunity to read not only Werkman’s biography but also his letters. Although every designer is deemed to know something about the contents of a book for which he has been contracted, in a case like this one would expect to make some kind of connection between this additional work and the careful selection of a number of different typefaces which, in their own way, say something about Werkman and his work.
Thus for the main matter we see Grotesque Bold Extended (also known as ‘the Sandberg face’), alongside which Peter Matthias Noordzij’s Caecilia is used for the italics. Wim Crouwel’s Foundry Gridnik has been used for the coding of the individual works and Univers for facts and dates.
Not just the choice of Grotesque, the whole type area can be seen as homage to Sandberg, whose 1975 monograph was designed in almost identical fashion by Pieter Brattinga and Ad Petersen. Justly so: Sandberg was tremendously important as the discoverer of and preparer of the way for Werkman.
There are several levels to this book. From the photobiography that begins on the inside cover to the list of works at the back, the multifarious ingredients come together to form a magnificent coherent whole with Werkman’s own poetic and mysterious work. If there is a critical note to be sounded, it is perhaps that in the list of works the application of the same reduction factor makes some of them very small indeed and difficult to recognize. Even so, as the ‘printer of Paradise’ Werkman could hardly wish for a better designer.