The Crystal Goblet

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"The Crystal Goblet" is an essay on typography by Beatrice Warde. The essay was first delivered as a speech, called "Printing Should Be Invisible," given to the British Typographers' Guild at the St Bride Institute in London, on October 7, 1930.

The essay is notable historically as a call for increased clarity in printing and typography. It is now significant as a common reading in the study of typography and graphic design. The essay has been reprinted many times and is a touchstone for the concept of "clear" typography and the straightforward presentation of content.

Days after her 1930 address, the lecture appeared in a newsletter called the British & Colonial Printer & Stationer. It was printed again as a pamphlet in 1932 and 1937. Thenceforward, it appeared as either "The Crystal Goblet" or "The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible." In 1955 it was published again and reached its widest audience yet in a book called The Crystal Goblet: Sixteen Essays on Typography.

"The Crystal Goblet" is rich with metaphors. The title itself is a reference to a clear vessel holding wine, where the vessel, the printed word, gives no obstruction to the presentation of its content, the text. Warde poses a choice between two wine glasses: one of "solid gold, wrought in the most exquisite patterns" and one of "crystal-clear glass."

Throughout the essay, Warde argues for the discipline and humility required to create quietly set, "transparent" book pages.


• Jacob, H. ed., Beatrice Warde, The Crystal Goblet: Sixteen Essays on Typography, Sylvan Press, London, 1955.