Fortune Magazine, November 1934
Walking around Los Angeles is an entirely different experience than driving. Yesterday we schlepped up to a friend’s restaurant, saw his new baby, tooled over and down Melrose, and wound up wandering into a stellar used bookstore we’ve driven past thousands of times without ever noticing. I would call it a typical used bookstore – stacked floor-to-ceiling with books, interrupted only by inexplicable knicknacks, with that perfect odor of dust and slowly rotting paper – except that the older man behind the counter was actually personable, friendly, and helpful, rather than your typical filthy conspiracy-theorist-used-bookmonger-crank.
Anyway, just as I was checking out (an old collection of Lippman – tonic for immersion in today’s press – and a weird book on Arp) I found a stack of Fortunes from the ’30’s. Anyone who’s ever seen one will understand the excitement and the total lack of caring what they cost that led me to buy every one of ’em, plus the five others the assistant dug up.
In these posts I’ll be more interested in the typography and illustration than the content, though there is a real stunner in one issue on whether and how capitalism itself can survive the crash. Unfortunately, the scans just don’t do it justice, and it’s not entirely the fault of my crappy scanner. The size, the color, the craftsmanship and detail is just something we’ll never see again, and it’s such a stark difference to today’s generically glossy rags that paging through them is simply astonishing. My guess is that in the age before television, magazines were your main source of timely visual media. Also, it was a magazine for rich people, and back then I think the rich were perhaps better at discerning quality than they are today, so it would’ve made sense to pour money into the production.
This is (obviously) the cover. All of them are uncoated, textured paper, so they look and feel like art posters, which is already something special. What I particularly love about this cover, though, is the knowledgeable simplicity of the illustration: foreground and background delineated with minimal forms, and excellent shading getting just enough difference to separate the textures. And check out the ‘e’ in Fortune – such lush curves on the dimensional logotype looking like signage in front of a window onto the contents.