The world in pictures : books and charts made with Isotype

Booklet on the Beveridge reportThis exhibition showcases a selection of interesting books and charts made with Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education).

Isotype was developed from 1925 at a pioneering Museum of Society & Economy funded by the socialist municipality of Vienna. A method of visualizing statistics was collaboratively refined over several years in order to inform ordinary citizens about their place in society. An early high point of Isotype work was the collection of one hundred loose-leaf charts, Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft (Society & Economy), of which two are on display in the exhibition. They represent 'Merchant navies of the earth' and the exponential growth of New York.

Fleeing Nazism, the Isotype team finally established itself in England. In 1942 they formed a working partnership with the book packaging firm of Adprint, through which they provided charts for several book series, including 'Two democracies', 'New democracy' and 'The Soviets and ourselves'. The first of these (published during wartime) functioned as war propaganda to some extent, and was subsidized by the Ministry of Information, which explains the lavish printing in colour. Colour was considered a vital means of articulation in Isotype.

One of the exhibits from the display, a booklet of 1943 was a popular account of the Beveridge report [shown above], with charts by the Isotype Institute. The directors of the Institute, Otto & Marie Neurath, were entrusted with confidential information for the publication, despite being 'enemy aliens' who had only been released from internment in early 1941. Editions of this text were published in a number of languages, including Italian, Dutch and French, but always including the same charts. It was one of the virtues of Isotype that it enabled such international communication.

This is an exhibition of material used in the 'Isotype revisited' project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

All of the books shown in the display date from the 1940s, and are taken from the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading. The Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft portfolio set of charts is held in the  Printing Collection at the Special Collections Service.

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