Saturday, February 4, 2017


Constantijn Huygens  - Koren-bloemen (1672) direct link
Open Library main page

A recent piece in the New York Times about an experimental book designer had her choose this as one of her favorite books.  "Every typographic experiment — what you think now is new — has already been done."  Which sounds fantastic - a kind of Tristram Shandy of book design.  The actual book, though, doesn't live up to that.  Yes, there are parallel columns and marginal text and footnotes and so on but not in profusion or any particularly imaginative way.  And 1672 seems pretty late to claim originality for any of this (though maybe I'm wrong about that).

Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) was a Dutch diplomat, poet and composer, probably better known now as the father of scientist Christiaan Huygens (the Huygens Principle, the centripetal force formula and many many others).  Very little of the elder Huygens' work has been translated into English (his early poetry was apparently French and Latin but when working in England he wrote in Dutch).  He wrote an early description of a Rembrandt painting and was close friends with Descartes.