In December 1913, Ezra Pound wrote to William Carlos Williams calling the London art/literary scene “The Vortex.” Wyndham Lewis in turn appropriated the term to christen his budding movement in the arts, “Vorticism.” Vorticism was baptized on June 20, 1914 in the first issue of BLAST, A Review of the Great English Vortex — Lewis’s revolutionary magazine. […] Described by Lewis as “violent pink,” but by some others as the “puce monster,” the large format magazine displays radical typography and design, features a “Vorticist Manifesto,” and bares eye-popping lists of items to be “Blessed” and “Blasted.”
The main typeface used for most of the manifesto part is Grotesque No. 9. The text typeface is similar to De Vinne Condensed as cast by Stephenson Blake, but it’s not a match. The (wood?) typefaces used for the title and some headings (“MANIFESTO.”, ”ENEMY OF THE STARS.”, not pictured) are yet unidentified, too. Both the framed and the roman numerals are in Latin Bold. Furthermore, there are several tertiary typefaces, like Caslon’s Atlas (for “THE EGOIST”, not pictured) in the ad section. Printed by Leveridge & Co. (T.U.), St. Thomas’ Road, Harlesden.
In Wyndham Lewis: A Critical Guide, Andrzej Gąsiorek and Nathan Waddell note:
The words are Lewis’s, but it is probable that some or all of the design was done by William Henry Leveridge, head of Leveridge & Co., who printed both numbers of BLAST. The structure BLAST / BLESS is not original, but is taken from Guillaume Apollinaire’s (possibly pastiche) Futurist manifesto L’Antitradition Futuriste: Manifeste=synthese, first published in French (dated ‘29 Juin 1913’, p. 3). This uses two antitheses, ‘Destruction’ against ‘Construction’ and 'Merde Aux’ against ‘Rose Aux’. Destruction is urged upon ‘l’harmonie typographique’ (p. 1), a hint that Lewis may have taken.
A facsimile edition was published by Gingko Press, but is currently out of stock. A pdf edition of both the first issue and the second (and final) one from July 1915 is available from the Modernist Journals Project, a joint project by Brown University and The University of Tulsa.
The January/February issue of ArtReview pays homage to BLAST and its radical typography. Thanks to Stéphane Darricau for the pointers!
Contributed by Nick Sherman
Contributed by Manuel Wesely