Public Lettering

Script, Power, and Culture

Armando Petrucci

Public Lettering
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Armando Petrucci

Translated by Linda Lappin
256 pages | 134 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1993
Cloth $62.50 ISBN: 9780226663869 Published November 1993
Public lettering in all its forms—official inscriptions on
buildings, commercial graphics, signs, epitaphs on tombstones,
graffiti—is a fixture of urban life. In Public
Lettering, Armando Petrucci reconstructs the history of
public writing in the West and traces its social functions
from the eleventh century through the modern period.

Taking the city of Rome as a case study, Petrucci begins
with a consideration of the first civic inscriptions after
ancient times. Substantial chapters on the uses of public
writing in the industrial revolution and the early twentieth
century prepare the way for his provocative discussions of
public lettering in the the contexts of fascism, post-war
radicalism, and the student revolutions of 1968 and 1977.

Throughout, Petrucci is concerned with the relations
between the functions and styles of letters and the places
where they appear. Writing, he argues, is one of the
instruments of public power; display lettering is often the
image and mirror of power itself, making the social use of
written forms a type of conquest. Because of Rome's role as
a “World-City,” Petrucci's interdisciplinary study has
wide-ranging implications for our understanding of the social
function of graphic design.
Geoffrey Nunberg | Lingua Franca

“The Italian historian Armando Petrucci has done more than anyone else to revive interest in public writing. His groundbreaking <I>Public Lettering: Script, Power, and Culture<I> surveys the forms and uses of epigraphic writing from classical antiquity to the twentieth century.”

1. Writing and the City
2. Imitation, Emulation, Cipher
3. Search for a Standard and the Negation of Writing
4. Urban Epigraphy in the Monumental City
5. Paper, Copper, Bronze, and Marble
6. Mourning, Dissimulation, Celebration
7. Ephemeral Monumental and Paper Monumental
8. The Return to Order
9. Deviant Phenomena
10. The Breaking of the Norm
11. The New Order and the Signs of the Regime
12. The Red Sign
13. The Signs of No
14. Writing Against
Bibliography Essay
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