Typefaces

Black and White—and Red All Over

Don't look for it at the corner news stand or in the promotionals from Publisher's Clearing House. Except for professional Soviet watchers, few Americans even know of the existence of Culture and Life, an "illustrated monthly magazine of the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries," published in English, Russian, French, Spanish, and German at the Izvestia Printing Works. Founded in 1957, C&L promotes international appreciation for the strength and vitality of Russian culture. Or at least tries to. If Soviet weaponry were on a par with their publishing, we could forget all about star wars.

Technically, the magazine is primitive. While most American presses long ago converted to offset technology, C&L is still stuck with the same letterpress techniques they began with 37 years ago. The type is dirty, uneven, and often broken. Photos—mostly black and white, with a few color—are cloudy, with no better than newspaper resolution. Screens are ill-aligned, and the proofreaders deserve (and may get) 10 years in Siberia. The text abounds with hilarious violations of English diction, syntax, and idiom. "The bright gifts of Yuri Tynyanov were a display of his entity and lively interest in the culture of the new Soviet society," we are told, while "transferring the arms race into outer space is something between a Sword of Damocles...

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