Carpenter, Shirley & Marie Neurath | Icebergs and Jungles
First edition, first printing of this uncommon children’s book co-authored by data-visualisation pioneer Marie Neurath (1898-1986). While most of Neurath’s children’s books were produced directly for her Isotype imprint and feature her signature style throughout, she also occasionally collaborated with other authors and publishers. This volume, on Earth’s climate and seasons, is a fascinating example of how the Isotype visual language could be incorporated into page layouts featuring traditional illustrations and complex text for older children.
Neurath, together with her husband Otto and their colleague Gerd Arntz, was one of the founders of Isotype, a simplified visual method of displaying complex information to the public. First developed in the 1920s, and originally known as the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics, the goal of Isotype was ”to cross national and social divides in a time before widespread global communication. To do that, Isotype went back to basics and stripped away all things unnecessary, illogical, or alienating—and in doing so, helped to establish some of the core principles of graphic design. Today, Isotype’s legacy can be seen everywhere from newspapers and textbooks to signage, transit maps, interfaces, and emojis” (Inglis, “Meet Marie Neurath,” September 17, 2019, AIGA Eye on Design).
Marie Neurath “was a remarkable practitioner” who “researched, calculated, and co-designed nearly every Isotype ever created, from the early days in Vienna in 1925 all the way to when she retired in 1971” (Forrest, “The Missing Legacy of Marie Neurath,” Medium, January 20, 2020). She described her role as that of the “Transformer” of data, writing that “From the data given in words and figures, a way has to be found to extract the essential facts and put them into picture form. It is the responsibility of the transformer to understand the data, to get all necessary information from the expert, to decide what is worth transmitting to the public, how to make it understandable, how to link it with general knowledge or with information already given in other charts. In this sense, the transformer is the trustee of the public” (Neurath, The Transformer, 2009).
Marie continued the work after Otto’s death in 1945, becoming best known for the series of children’s books she published over the next twenty years. “In children’s educational books Marie found an ideal place to put Isotype’s methods into practice. Young readers were more engaged by pictures than words, and this focus on the visual meant these books were easily translated and published abroad, fulfilling Isotype’s original aims of being truly international” (Inglis).
Artists: Michael Charlton, Marjorie Saynor. Garden City, New York: Hanover House, 1954.
Quarto. Original pictorial boards. Colour illustrations throughout. Pencilled inscription erased from the title. Boards rubbed with a little wear at the corners and ends of spine, some spots, small cuffs, and dulling of the binding.