Yale University Press was delighted when the Pevsner Architectural Guides series recently won the Longman – History Today Trustees’ Award, which is given for ‘a major contribution to history’ and represents an acknowledgement of the dedication of those working on the series and the impeccably high standards that they maintain. Upon receiving the prestigious prize, the publisher of the Pevsner Architectural Guides series, Sally Salvesen, spotted an intriguing link between the designer of the very first edition of the architectural guide to Nottinghamshire and the History Today Trustee’s Award Prize Bowl.
Between 1950 and 1962, Berthold Wolpe, one of the masters of twentieth century design and typography, drew twenty-three roundels to illustrate the front covers of early volumes of the Buildings of England. Each is based on a photograph in the book and they range from evocative outlines of familiar buildings to lively renderings of robust medieval subjects such as the Durham door knocker, a windmill on a Somerset bench end, or a sturdy manikin at the base of a Yorkshire font. In the Pevsner office at Yale we still have some of the original drawings.
Quite unexpectedly we have had the happiest reminder of these lovely designs. At the recent History Today party the Pevsner Architectural Guides and Yale University Press were delighted to receive the Longman–History Today Trustees’ Award for an outstanding contribution to history. We were presented with an elegant stoneware bowl with the prize name inscribed in unusually beautiful lettering around the rim.
The bowl was made by the potter Deborah Hopson-Wolpe, and a quick search confirmed that she is indeed Berthold and Margaret Wolpe’s daughter. She uses her father’s Albertus typeface for her inscriptions and she has the same feel for the space and rhythm of lettering. Wolpe was Faber’s head of design for more than forty years and he is best remembered for his striking calligraphic paperback covers for them.
In addition to the Buildings of England roundels, Wolpe drew the handsome Pelican that adorns the first editions of the Pelican History of Art and designed jackets for some of the King Penguin series of which Pevsner was editor. There’s a pleasing symmetry in the knowledge that Pevsner must have valued and enjoyed Wolpe’s work just as the Pevsner team appreciate his daughter’s sixty years later.
Article by Sally Salvesen