Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Modern French

I like thinking back to a time when I did not know something that I now know. When it is something that I ended up knowing well and that I have enjoyed for most of my adult life, I can be curious about that earlier John -- the John whose wonder and desire to know were not yet transformed by the effort of learning.

An eager student in high school, I regularly paged through a textbook the very week I purchased it. Before any teacher's lesson plans or quizzes or quarterly tests could make some pages and charts and photographs more familiar than others, I liked seeing things for myself.

I knew there was a likelihood that the final chapters of a textbook would escape even the most conscientious syllabus. There is about the final fifty or a hundred pages of a textbook what I can only describe as a mood of loneliness. Some vocabulary will always remain unmastered; some laboratory experiments will never be done; some short story will survive at best as a solitary summer read.

Modern French (1964) by Dan Desberg and Lucette Rollet Kenan was selected by the American Institute of Graphic Arts for inclusion in its collection Fifty Books of the Year (1965). In the academic year 1969-1970, my freshman year in college, I used this textbook in French 101. Click on the photograph for greater detail.

You can view this page in AIGA Design Archives. Among other features described by the archives, Modern French boasts a cover "stamped in blue ink and black leaf."

When we emptied my parents' house in 2004, I uncovered my copy of the textbook. There is a stateliness to the design. I am happy these days to see on my shelves the simple Baskerville typeface, the title in blue on the tan spine of the book.

The simplicity retains its challenge.

PAUL Et vous vous êtes bien amusés?

PHILIPPE Enormément.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Alors,vous parlez le français?
Vous avez appris cette langue pendant longtemps? Was it difficult for you to learn this language?French is difficult because of the grammar,the verbs.