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For the pleasure and edification of all
Milton Glaser Collection Box 112 Folder 23. The Push Pin Almanack September & October 1954. Illustration on left by Ed Sorel. (Enlarge)
March 30, 2014

For the pleasure and edification of all

Before Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, Ed Sorel, and Reynold Ruffins had fully hammered out the idea for Push Pin Studios, Chwast, Sorel, and Ruffins began publishing the Push Pin Almanack as a vehicle to solicit freelance work while they held day jobs elsewhere. Glaser returned from his Fulbright study in Italy a year later and joined in on the fun. Steven Heller writes in Design Literacy (Allworth Press, 1997):

In 1953 when the first Push Pin Almanack was first published it would have been impossible to predict that its four principal contributors would develop a graphic style that challenged the prevailing ethic of functionalism imported from Europe (during the Bauhaus immigration) practiced by some leading American corporate and advertising designers, and manifest in work by exponents of the Swiss International Style. Yet when that first four-by-nine-inch compilation of facts, ephemera, and trivia illustrated with woodcuts and pen-and-ink drawings was mailed out as a promotion for these freelancers, other New York designers and artists began to take serious notice. Indeed, the Push Pin Almanack brought in so much work from book, advertising, and filmstrip clients that the four Cooper Union classmates decided to leave their day jobs and start Push Pin Studios, the major proponent of illustrative design in America.

An thin narrow brow-orange booklet. In the upper middle of the booklet is a dull yellow square with "The Push Pin. Almanack" printed in the same color as the cover. In the middle of the words is an illustration of a push pin with a face. The rest of the background has small simple flower designs spread across the cover.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 112 Folder 23. The Push Pin Almanack September & October 1954.

Inspired by the old Farmer’s Almanac, the Almanack had a sweetly humble tongue-in-cheek presentation that belied its ambition. The publication signaled the studio’s complete commitment to concept above all. The Almanack featured here is their “Annual Children’s Issue” (as far as I can tell it was the only one ever published). It’s a tailor-made theme for the artists, and the charming illustrations (including the ones they did for advertisers in exchange for subsidized printing) and whimsical tone draw inspiration from Edward Lear. His “Three Receipts for Domestic Cookery” is reprinted for the intrepid home cook confident enough to attempt an Amblongus Pie:

Take 4 pounds (say 4 1/2 pounds) of fresh Amblongusses, and put them in a small pipkin. Cover them with water, and boil them for 8 hours incessantly; after which add 2 pints of new milk, and proceed to boil for 4 hours more. When you have ascertained that the Amblongusses are quite soft, take them out, and place them in a wide pan, taking care to shake them well previously. Grate some nutmeg over the surface, and cover them carefully with powdered gingerbread, curry-powder, and a sufficient quantity of Cayenne pepper. Remove the pan into the next room, and place it on the floor. Bring it back again, and let it simmer for three-quarters of an hour. Shake the pan violently till all the Amblogusses have become of a pale purple color. Then, having prepared the paste, insert the whole carefully; adding at the same time a small pigeon, 2 slices of beef, 4 cauliflowers, and any number of oysters. Watch patiently til the crust begins to rise, and add a pinch of salt from time to time. Serve up in a clean dish, and throw the whole out the window as fast as possible.

I know what I’m making this weekend.

Inside the almanack, two page spread. On the top of the left page "The pocket guide to printer's terms" in tiny capitalized letters. There is an illustration of a red devil in a gentleman's outfit accompanied by small flying devils. Underneath the Illustration is "Devil" printed in big bold lettering then "A term usually applied to the youngest employee in a typography shop." printed under with small script lettering. On the right page "Riquet with the Tuft of Hair" in printed in bold lettering and"riquet" is printed big with a fancy detailed lettering. Underneath the title is a red illustration of part of a medieval town. The rest of the page is a regular passage.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 112 Folder 23. The Push Pin Almanack September & October 1954.

A 2-page spread.  Square ink illustration of different people from didn't background border the pages. In the middle of the illustration square is " An alphabet for children" which is printed in red formal text. Underneath is the alphabet written in small regular text.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 112 Folder 23. The Push Pin Almanack September & October 1954. Illustration by Milton Glaser.

Two pages f the Almanack. The left page is print illustration of a red parrot on a small think bird stand. Near the bird's mouth there is text cluttered together, like dialogue. It says, " What happened to Argo?" three times.  On the bottom right "Argo ha been succeeded by the Weaver" followed by the address. It printed in small regular text, except "Weaver" which is printed the bigger.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 112 Folder 23. The Push Pin Almanack September & October 1954. Illustration on left by Seymour Chwast.

The Almanack was published until 1956 when it was supplanted by the Push Pin Graphic, which offered studio members the opportunity to radically vary the publication’s concept, look, and format from issue to issue. But Push Pin’s deep intelligence and light touch with abstract ideas had already been established.

This post also appears on our Picturebox blog.