Personal fonts-in-use projects hold a special place in our hearts, especially when they're made so beautifully and imbued with such love. It's also pleasant--something like a breath of fresh air, followed by a deep sigh--because a book project like this lives outside the bounds of our commercial world, lending a particular purity to the fonts on its pages: layers of meaning condense, and the eyes can gaze upon the work within a simpler, richer context.
We recently came across the work of Sarah Bourge, a designer based in Paris, who hand-made this recipe book for her mother's 60th birthday. Carta Nueva, designed by My-Lan Thuong, is the primary display font used throughout the book. "I started this project because I wanted to create something special for my mom. She is an excellent cook and has tons of recipe books, some torn and stained, and dozens of printed recipes that don’t have a home. I wanted her to have a book of our family favorites."
Carta Nueva is a typeface that rewards sustained attention. Its forms reflect My-Lan's precise and detail-oriented eye. "I hadn't planned on using a script font for the titles since I don’t usually have specific typefaces in mind when I start projects. I did, however, want to use a font with a vintage feel to it, but not too old-fashioned. I thought Carta Nueva had that special look to it, majestic without being too traditional. I fell in love with how thin it is. The other fonts I used are Gill Sans and Baskerville. I wanted simple fonts, very legible that wouldn’t take away from the main typeface. I use a lot of serif fonts so usually I try to pair them with more simple sans serifs to have several levels of hierarchy. "
As a studio that collectively loves all forms of quality printed matter, we were further endeared to this project because Sarah handmade the book, including its clothbound cover. "I work a lot on my computer, so I always welcome an opportunity to make things by hand. I've always loved editorial design, and I’m always excited to hold new books in my hands: seeing and feeling the physical objects is always a satisfying experience. (That’s why I try to take pictures of my projects and not use mockups because the slightest difference in a shade of white paper can change the whole feel of a book.) I chose to have a special fabric for the cover and assembled it by hand."
(That fabric, Liberty, is connotative of a general floral or paisley pattern cotton, but in fact speaks to a specific soft, silken, plain-weave cotton manufactured by a century-old London brand. The hand-drawn patterns give Liberty fabrics the unmistakable quality of the human touch, much like the typefaces that we love most.)
It makes sense that Carta Nueva features so prominently in this project. A recipe book requires the reader to return to it, time and time again, to pore over its pages. This sustained attention turns reading into an act of devotion. It's a reminder that one of the many functions of letterforms is to hold, and to also share, our rituals and memories.