Rubrication Design Examples

A gallery of typographic and graphics design examples of rubrication, a classic pattern of using red versus black for emphasis.
bibliography⁠, technology⁠, design⁠, NGE
2019-05-302021-03-30 finished certainty: certain importance: 2 backlinks

Dating back to medieval manuscripts, text has often been highlighted using a particular distinct bright red. The contrast of black and red on a white background is highly visible and striking, and this has been reused many times, in a way which I have not noticed for other colors. I call these uses rubrication and collate examples I have noticed from many time periods. This design pattern does not seem to have a widely-accepted name or be commonly discussed, so I propose extending the term “rubrication” to all instances of this pattern, not merely religious texts.

Why this rubrication design pattern? Why red, specifically, and not, say, orange or purple? Is it just a historical accident? Cross-cultural research suggests that for humans, red may be intrinsically more noticeable & has a higher contrast with black, explaining its perennial appeal as a design pattern.

Regardless, it is a beautiful design pattern which has been used in many interesting ways over the millennia, and perhaps may inspire the reader.

Red is among the most arresting and classiest of colors, as a glance through fine book editions reveals. What is snazzier than a good which has been (sometimes called “printer’s red”)? And yes, rubrication is usually red—hardly ever orange, or green, or purple, or any of the other possible choices.

Rubrication is not merely coloring everything red, but a careful use of some red against mostly black in order to emphasize important elements. We have for holidays, Christians will subconsciously associate red text with in typesetting the New Testament, some editions of the Qur’an put Arabic diacritics in red, and maps or charts may highlight key destinations in red while every other location is printed in black.

Further, I noticed that these all seem to use not just red, but almost the same shade of red: a certain bright but medium red, never another shade like a pink or a deep scarlet. That might be an artifact of traditionally using (eventually upgrading to ) and then everyone imitating it, but once I began paying attention to red/black combinations, like the famous “law of fives”, I began noticing it everywhere—as Bringhurst remarks, red is “the typographer’s habitual second color”.1 (One place I haven’t seen rubrication used well is in predominantly black settings, such as the increasingly popular ⁠.2)

Why Red?

“This [red bicycle] is than the usual bicycle!”


I could imagine that being true in medieval times when rubrication started (iron gall-based rust/oxide pigments are surely extremely cheap compared to many things), but that seems like it should have stopped being a problem at least by the 1800s when synthetic dyes & inks were invented. It also wouldn’t explain the prestige of not merely as a red in general, but as a vermilion ink reserved for imperial use in calligraphy & documents in both the Byzantine & Chinese empires.

⁠, who highlights many examples like in his data visualization books and is a skillful user of rubrication himself3⁠, notes in Envisioning Information 1990 (chapter 5, “Color and Information”, pg83–86), apropos of unique color-diagram book interpretation of Euclid’s Elements4:

Byrne’s colors keep in mind the knowledge to be communicated, color for information. Use of the primary colors and black provides maximum differentiation (no four colors differ more).5 This yellow, broken with orange, is darkened in value, sharpening the definition of its edge against white paper; and the blue is relatively light (on a value scale of blues), reinforcing its distance from black. In the diagrams, the least-used color is black, and it is carefully avoided for large, solid elements—adding to the overall coherence of the proofs by muting unnecessary contrasts.6

One possible answer comes from anthropology, investigating cross-cultural perceptions of colors. ⁠, as summarized by Wikipedia7:

…in languages with fewer than the maximum eleven color categories, the colors followed a specific evolutionary pattern. This pattern is as follows:

  1. All languages contain terms for black and white.
  2. If a language contains 3 terms, then it contains a term for red.
  3. If a language contains 4 terms, then it contains a term for either green or yellow (but not both).
  4. If a language contains 5 terms, then it contains terms for both green and yellow.
  5. If a language contains 6 terms, then it contains a term for blue.
  6. If a language contains 7 terms, then it contains a term for brown.
  7. If a language contains 8 or more terms, then it contains terms for purple, pink, orange or gray.

In addition to following this evolutionary pattern absolutely, each of the languages studied also selected virtually identical focal hues for each color category present. For example, the term for “red” in each of the languages corresponded to roughly the same shade in the ⁠. Consequently, they posited that the cognition, or perception, of each color category is also universal.4

Are there deep evolutionary reasons for red being so important to human color vision, perhaps because red is overrepresented in nature in important things like blood or berries?8 I have to wonder why a color like green is not more psychologically important, though, as green is surely even more common than berries (which often aren’t red)—thanks to the inefficiency of chlorophyll in absorbing those particular wavelengths of visible light from our sun9—and human eyes are in fact physically most sensitive to green light in ⁠. Why aren’t humans most attuned to green, the better to navigate jungles etc? (Is involved somehow?) So this is a little puzzling.


“Many years ago—but not that many!—one of our printing & typesetting instructors said with great gravitas that ‘there are only two colors: red and black.’”

MyFonts⁠, 2020-03-8

Below is a gallery of rubrication typographic or diagrammatic examples, which I’ve selected for their appearance or subject; they sorted in reverse chronological order, from roughly post-WWII, post-Renaissance, and Renaissance/medieval.


“Red has to be in every poster.”

⁠, (cf )

The iconic Braun T3 pocket transistor radio, designed by Dieter Rams (1958; MoMA photo); though somewhat faded, the red (one of only 3 colors on the device) numerals still clearly denote longwave radio frequencies (black for medium wave length). It strikingly resembles the Apple iPod, which, however, is all-white.
Japanese calligraphy with rubrication commentary, Uboku Nishitani 1972 (“The First Seed of Koyagiri”, v17 Techniques in Calligraphy); from pg54 of chapter 3, “Layering and Separation” of Envisioning Information, Tufte 1990
 parts diagram from a 1976 manual for photocopiers; pg52–53 of chapter 3, “Layering and Separation” of Envisioning Information, Tufte 1990; rubrication links hundreds of parts to their IDs
Photograph of a Cambridge  Concord Reference Bible (1999?), showing ‘red letter verses’; by Randy A. Brown, 2011
Data-visualization artist Mark Lombardi often used red to highlight key details of the conspiracies he documented, such as the Miami drug-smuggling ring World Finance Corporation
Mark Lombardi, close up of section of “Oliver North, Lake Resources of Panama, and the Iran-Contra Operation, ca. 1984–86”, fourth version (zoom to see red highlights)
Bringhurst 2004 (The Elements of Typographic Style) uses primarily grayscale but—true to his comments on red—turns to it for the occasional inside-cover text or for diagrams of letters (starting pg12).
Cover, A Little History of the World, Ernst Gombrich 2005 (English publication)
German design studio Catalogtree’s “ 001-009” project: “March 2005—A series of nine screen-printed posters commenting on the growth of Arnhem and nearby Nijmegen. The series focuses on the A325 highway which connects the two cities. … A325-005 [#6 out of 9 posters]: All accidents on A325—location, speed, time of day and day of week—between December 16, 1998 and January 1, 2003.” Like the  photocopier diagram, this uses rubricated lines to call out details on a schematic, but the rubrication is deliberately overdone, blotting out the original road in favor of painting a bloody spine out of the implied
Angela Acevedo, 2007 school assignment: mock book cover about Claude Garamond
Specimen by Joe Newton for P22’s Civilite (full specimen) historic font revival of Dutch versions of Granjon’s “Civilité”
Edition #13 of “The Beauty of Letterpress: The Art of Making an Impression”, Earl Gee 2006 (background; image via Type Worship)
Rubricated drop cap (custom variant by Sam Weber likely based on Petit Fleur) on pg101, chapter 13 of The Claw of the Conciliator, Gene Wolfe, 2019 Folio Society limited edition
Hand-drawn sign advertising Northfield Farm’s bacon, photo Twitter 2019


The anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion is iconic for its graphic design, featuring striking use of color, distorted fonts , title cards, and character design.  is associated with the main character Asuka Langley Soryu, but two other examples employ red-on-black to iconic effect: the  logo, and the  “monoliths” (video conferencing UI design).
Fan-made rendering of a  monolith
The common red-black tree data structure invites rubrication in diagrams explaining its function; ironically, the name is typographic in origin: “The color ‘red’ was chosen because it was the best-looking color produced by the color laser printer available to the authors while working at Xerox  Another response from Guibas states that it was because of the red and black pens available to them to draw the trees.[9]” Example by Madz in TikZ 2012.
Rubrication used in labeled equations, akin to Byrne; “TikZ &  Manual for Version 3.1.5b”, Till Tantau 2013
The World Psychiatry journal of the World Psychiatric Association uses rubrication for its logo, and section headers in its table of contents (example: October 2012 issue)
Tufte 1997 (Visual Explanations pg110–111) introduces sparklines (Tufte website compilation), and uses red to emphasize various things: the final datapoint, the numerical form of a graph, or a specific time-series in an overlapping set, among others. One representative example comes from Johnson et al 2015 (“  F1 (all pairs, part 1 of 11)”), graphing heart data.
The Annual Reviews  such as Gianola & Rosa 2015, use rubrication for sections (as does Cell & New England Journal of Medicine to a limited extent, eg Peterson et al 2019 or Xu et al 2019).
First page of Tractate Pesahim from the Babylonian Talmud; rubrication annotations by Thomas Shoemaker (2015?); a similar annotation appears on Tufte’s website (redrawn by Tufte?)
“Figure 9: Highlighted in red are black-figure artists (solid circles for signed artists; open circles for attributed artists) whose pots were excavated in the Athenian Agora. A selection of them are labeled.” Harris & Hasaki 2019
The Spectator, crops of 3 pages from the 2019-09-14 issue; use of rubrication for pull quotes, The Spectator name & favicon (a rubricated ‘S’), and a somewhat confusing use in some but not all
Columbia Journalism Review, November 2019 article, “Bad Romance: What happened to the National Enquirer after it went all in for Trump?”, demonstrating elements of their design using rubrication for emphasis.
Naval Gazing (military navy group blog), “The Falklands War Part 19”, 2019-11-24; demonstrates side design’s rubrication for links & sidebar sectioning
New York Magazine, “In the 2010s, White America Was Finally Shown Itself: Ta-Nehisi Coates on”Obama’s decade," reparations, and Kaepernick": similar to  or Spectator but offering a nifty use of rubrication in implementing the rarely-seen sidenote mockup for a rubricated site design.
Visualization of a neural net transcription (red) of old Japanese text written in “Kuzushiji” cursive script (black); NN & visualization by Tarin Clanuwat, 2020-01-14.



Cover of Le pitture antiche d’Ercolano e contorni incise con qualche spiegazione. Tomo primo, 1757, documenting the Herculaneum Villa of the Papyri excavations; alternating rubrication of title lines for emphasis.
pg658187 of Chemical Atlas, Or, The Chemistry Of Familiar Objects, demonstrating consistent use of rubrication for denoting carbonic acid; from an 1856 chemistry textbook by American science popularizer (& co-founder of Popular Science magazine) Edward L. Youmans who took pains to defend his systematic use of illustration.
The Story Of A Dildoe: A Tale In Five Tableaux, 1891 (from a discussion of Victorian erotica)
“Grasset poster for 1893 French premiere of Werther”
Rubricated title page of the “profusely illustrated”  manual, Woman in girlhood, wifehood, motherhood; her responsibilities and her duties at all periods of life; a guide in the maintenance of her health and that of her children, Solis-Cohen 1906
Plate 48, pg441 of Herculaneum, Past, Present & Future, Waldstein & Shoobridge 1908: Villa of the Papyri ground plan; rubrication denotes   and artifact locations (numbered circles).
Cover of the first edition of Richard Francis Burton’s infamous 1885 translation of The Thousand And One Arabian Nights (cf Lady Burton’s Edition).
Dog olfactory bulb, neuron stain by Camillo Golgi (Sulla fina anatomia degli organi centrali del sistema nervoso 1885)
“Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge”, 1919 Communist propaganda poster by Lazar Markovich Lissitzky (see also Henryk Berlewi’s 1924 Mechano-faktura bialo-czerwono-czarna (“White, red and black mechano-factura”))
The Nazi swastika ( flag), 1920 (see also: Nazi symbolism, Occultism in Nazism, Art of the Third Reich, Triumph of the Will)
Futura typographic samples often showed it off using rubrication; in this sample from the Bauer Type Foundry, newly-for-sale geometric ornaments are used to make amusing advertisements.
A parody of “cultural documents of Bolshevism” (ie. “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge”) by Nazi designer Hans Vitus Vierthaler (1910–1942); poster apparently designed in 1936 for the Nazi’s 1937 “Degenerate Art Exhibition” condemning Entartete Kunst“degenerate art”
An unfortunately-faded Nazi form using rubrication to maintain legibility of blackletter text on a black background; pg99 of the 1937 Organisationsbuch der  yearbook, ed Robert Ley
“Four Billy Goats”, Lissitzky 1922
Rubricated blackletter font; in “Stempel foundry catalog from the 1920s”, photo by Matthew Butterick, slide from “Rebuilding the Typographic Society” 2012
More rubrication examples from Stempel foundry catalogue, Butterick 2012
Fabre’s Book of Insects, Jean-Henri Fabre 1921
Title & table of contents of issue #1 (1919) of Les Feuillets d’Art (The Pages of Art), a prominent Parisian fashion magazine (1919–1922); scanned by Princeton University Library
Drop caps in a Gabriel Mourey essay; pg31, issue #1 (1919) of Les Feuillets d’Art
Rubrication denotes odd vs even electron orbitals in this schematic atom diagram, “Principal Features of Atomic Structure in Some of the Elements—Atomic Structure of Radium”; color plate #2, pg217, The atom and the Bohr theory of its structure: an elementary presentation, Holst & Kramers 1922
Rubricated ‘Edomoji’ (“calligraphic letterforms used for advertising”), pg51, volume 15, The Complete Commercial Artist, Hamada et al 1929
“Italian Schools of Painting: The Renaissance in Italy” phylogenetic timeline, printed in the brochure Italian Schools of Painting: History of Art Charts for the Uffizi-Pitti Gallery in 1930 (Museum of Modern Art scan)
Cover of catalogue for the 1936 MoMA exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art designed by Alfred H. Barr Jr. (source). Edward Tufte has a redrawn version based on a 1941 Barr manuscript. Red distinguishes internal from external influences on art movements.
2 examples of Isotype, Otto Neurath, International picture language, 1936 (source)
“Iron gall ink for fountain pens, refill bottle, 0.5 liter (500 ml), Pelikan, Günther Wagner, ca 1950s with storage container”; 2008 photo, Richard Huber


As expensive and restricted as materials were, and labor-intensive the process of manuscript copying, medieval and later scribes nevertheless accomplished great things, including effective use of rubrication, drop caps, and diagrams (some of which put most contemporary web designers to shame):

VadSlg Ms. 296 (1100s manuscript of Boethius’s De arithmeticaDe institutione musica): “The polychrome schematic illustrations in this 12th century manuscript are particularly carefully made.” Indeed. This image combines pages 79899399, which show off the diagrams, tables, drop caps, and rubricated text employed in the discussion of music theory & multiplication.
Pg13 of Mellon MS 1 manuscript of Ars notoria, sive Flores aurei (“The Art of Magic or Golden Flowers”), alchemical text ascribed to Apollonius of Tyana
W.73 Cosmography manuscript (Walters Library), late 1200s (via The Public Domain Review); from left to right: the phases of the moon, planetary paths through the Zodiac, and solstices & equinoxes.
“Add MS 35254: the hymn Ave Maria Gratia Plena incorporating a large red initial with contrasting blue penwork.”, Freeman 2014; from cuttings of a 1375 gradual choirbook, illustrated by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci of the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence.
“Trinitarian Circles enclosing the Tetragrammaton (from the Liber Figurarum). Corpus Christi College, Oxford MS. 255A, f.7v” (Ziolo 2001), illustrating beliefs of the Joachimites (unknown date; 1100s–1200s?)
MS. Ashmole 370, c.1424: a lunar volvelle for calculating phases of the moon, folios 24v–25r. Nicholas of Lynn, Kalendarium, composed 1386; copied 1425, courtesy Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
The first edition of the Gutenberg Bible (~1454) used two printing passes, with the second for rubrication, but switched to a single pass & hand rubrication. (Rubrication was often used on ‘caput’pilcrow symbols to denote paragraphs and other separations inline; a fun homage is Dowling & Duncan’s exhibit on the Charter of the Forest.)
“‘A copy made around the third quarter of the 15th century of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1390s); at the division between’The Tale of Sir Thopas’ and ‘The Tale of Melibee’, the initial, border, running head and title help the reader to navigate the text.’ (MS. Rawlinson poet. 223, fol. 183r., courtesy Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)”; rubrication marks ‘the end’.
Genealogy of the god Jupiter, 1400s? (Vatican manuscript)
Plate 43, 14th century Lombardic alphabet, The Art of Illuminating As Practised in Europe from the Earliest Times, Tymms 1860, modeled after earlier Lombardic capitals
Plate 67, Tymms 1860
De viris illustribus page, printed 1474 by Nicolas Jenson; rubricated Lombardic capitals (initials), both red & blue
“Fig. 1—Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 331, f.172r.”, 1480; on the Landshut Wedding
Italian monastic music manuscript explaining the Guidonian hand musical mnemonic, using rubrication for emphasis against the musical scales, falling back to blue for additional material; pg121–122 of Liturgical Manuscript (Ms. Codex 1248) dated
1500s Spanish prayer book in Cambridge University Library, provided to Atlas Obscura for article on dirty books (note wax drippings on page).
Ambraser Heldenbuch (fol. 75v), c.1516; rubricated Lombardic capitals, both red & blue
4 pages (pg49, 131, 151, & 188) from  Folger V.b.26, the anonymous Book of Magic, with Instructions for Invoking Spirits (1577–1583?; )
Cover of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1666); fairly conventional book example, but interesting for its relatively systematic use of rubrication on cover to emphasize key nouns.
Title page of Tibetan manuscript of the Mahāvyutpatti (bilingual Buddhist dictionary), unknown date, scanned 2001 by Chris Fynn
“Ink corrosion: iron gall ink has oxidized the cellulose, causing the paper to disintegrate. The manuscript is exhibited behind glass in a church in Evora, Portugal.” Photo taken 2007 by Ceinturion, unknown manuscript date (possibly a gradual?)

  1. pg63, (third edition), 2004:

    …if the text, or a new section of text, begins at the top of a page with no heading to mark it, a little fanfare will probably be required. The same is true if the opening page is busy. If there is a chapter title, an epigraph, a sidenote, and a photograph and caption, the opening of the text will need a banner, a ten-gallon hat or a bright red dress to draw the eye.

    (typographic ornaments) are often used to flag text openings, and are often printed in red, the typographer’s habitual second color. The opening phrase, or entire first line, can also be set in small caps or in bold u&lc. Another excellent method of marking the start of the text, inherited from ancient scribal practice, is a large : a versal or lettrine. Versals can be treated in many ways. Indented or centered, they can stick up from the text. Flush left, they can be nested into the text (typographers call these drop caps, as opposed to elevated or stick-up caps). If there is room, they can hang in the left margin. They can be set in the same face as the text or in something outlandishly different. In scribal and typographic tradition alike, where the budget permits, versals too are generally red or another color in preference to black.

  2. When using white-on-black, what is the functional equivalent of red? A green? A blue? For all the traditional popularity among programmers of the classic green-on-black phosphor color scheme exemplified by the —what I myself use—most dark mode designs I see currently seem to opt for a blue…↩︎

  3. Tufte routinely uses rubrication in his graphs & sparklines to emphasize key numbers or points: his 2006 Beautiful Evidence, for example, uses red on practically every other page, and his 2020 Seeing With Fresh Eyes appears to use even more. The use of proprietary Bembo fonts and rubrication mean that even Tufte ads are recognizably by Tufte. (This does pose some challenges for the family of Tufte CSS packages for various formats: there are now open-source Bembo fonts, but do red links really work online? Some Tufte CSS implementations like Eric J. Wang’s go for it, and others do not.) The sheer number of Tufte uses makes it difficult to select any examples for this gallery.↩︎

  4. Byrne’s edition is beautiful and unusual enough that there are at least two attempts at recreating it worth looking at: Slyusarev Sergey’s for PDFs; and Nicholas Rougeux’s on how he created a beautiful interactive HTML version⁠.↩︎

  5. Is saying that rubrication works because it ‘maximizes contrast’ question-begging?↩︎

  6. Use of primary colors like Byrne (yellow/red/blue) highlights an additional advantage of rubrication for emphasis: it avoids problems with the most common forms of —pretty much everyone can see red or at least see the contrast with red.↩︎

  7. While exceptions have been found to this flowchart and the Berlin & Kay results questioned, the red results (that it follows black/white darkness terms, and precedes all other colors, and red is consistently red cross-culture) appear to be supported by the subsequent data.↩︎

  8. “Why Red Means Red in Almost Every Language: The confounding consistency of color categories”⁠, Nautilus:

    It’s unclear, though, why our infant brains chunk colors at all. In a 2011 study, a team led by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, found a mathematical formula that describes how inputs from the retina could result in the separation of colors into warm (white) and cool (black) tones, suggesting that the physical properties of our vision system may create natural “fault lines” in color space. Other researchers speculate that colors in our environments may cluster around certain shades, such as the bright red of blood and berries, or the solid green of fields and foliage. As babies, we may be primed to pick up on these statistical regularities.

  9. Given how wasteful that seems, one might wonder about alternatives; there might have been earlier ones, leading to the ⁠. Are there better chlorophylls which could absorb more light? Possibly, the absorb light that plants cannot, and are ⁠.↩︎

  10. Curiously, although Apple did make heavy use of rubrication at some times, like its 1995 Apple 600 Series User Manual, appears devoid of that technique. Did Steve Jobs not like red?↩︎

  11. This is likely from Mark Lombardi: Global Networks⁠, ed Hobbs 2003, which demonstrates rubrication on its cover, and in an homage to the artist, uses rubrication in the accompanying textual biography/discussion of Lombardi; it also uses sidenotes⁠. Lombardi, incidentally, read Tufte’s Envisioning Information⁠, and Richards et al 2003 speculates he was influenced by the Uboku Nishitani calligraphy example (also reproduced on this page)—personally, I suspect the typewriter & other rubricated diagrams were more influential. His use of yellow backgrounds is also Tufte-like.↩︎

  12. The TikZ community uses rubrication heavily, as can be seen in the TikZ example gallery⁠. Examples which use red:

  13. Another computer-generated work, Liza Daly’s Seraphs parody, makes elegant use of a faded red font on sepia background with (usually) black illustrations, but because it uses it for all text rather than emphasis, I exclude it.↩︎

  14. Tufte notes (pg142, 1997) that Youmans’s diagrams are “accompanied by a hesitant and apologetic text that carries on about the possibility of unduly literal readings, as if diagrams are chronically threatened by misinterpretations”. However, Youmans’s textbook was aimed at schoolchildren, and appears to have been something of an innovation: he defends his “novel” “system of illustrating Chemistry” in his preface “To Students and Teachers”, and takes pains to include 2 pages of “Opinions of Distinguished Chemists and Educators”, testimonials that his “new Chemical Diagrams” are clear, correct, and conducive to childrens’ chemical education. When we consider the contemporary hostility of many educators to any kind of acceleration like SMPY or towards ‘young adult literature’, which might strain or damage fragile young minds, and reflect on how much greater such hostility may’ve been in 1856, we cannot fault Youmans for attempting to preempt such criticism.↩︎

  15. For a good discussion of the various translations’ virtues & vices and what Burton was trying to achieve, see ⁠.↩︎

  16. Like most technologies, rubrication can be used for evil (Nazi/Communist propaganda) as well as for good… Speaking of famous flags, why not ? Because the Red Cross organizations’ emblem is based on figure-ground inversions of the ⁠, which uses only red/white, with no black ever employed, and this inversion approach has carried through to its alternatives like the Red Crescent symbol.

    Similarly for the Japanese or current —there do not appear to be any employing black, aside from, unsurprisingly, the protocol (aside from variants involving South Korea or the 1936 ).↩︎

  17. Hitler, in Mein Kampf, discusses the design of flags in detail⁠, and notes of the Nazi flag:

    And so, up to 1920, Marxism was actually confronted by no flag which philosophically would have represented its polar opposite. For even if the best parties of the German bourgeoisie after 1918 would no longer consent to take over the suddenly discovered black, red, and gold flag as their own symbol, they themselves had no program of their own for the future to oppose to the new development; at best they had the idea of a reconstruction of the past Reich. And it is to this idea that black, white, and red banner of the old Reich owes its resurrection as the flag of our so-called national bourgeois parties…The present-day Reich, which sells itself and its citizens, must never be permitted to fly the black, white, and red flag of honor and heroes. As long as the November disgrace endures, let it bear its own outer covering and not try to steal this like everything else from a more honorable past. Let our bourgeois politicians remind their conscience that anyone who desires the black, white, and red flag for this state is burglarizing our past….The question of the new flag—that is, its appearance—occupied us intensely in those days…

    …For this reason we had to reject all suggestions of identifying our movement through a white flag with the old state, or, more correctly, with those feeble parties whose sole political aim was the restoration of past conditions, as was proposed by many quarters. Besides, white is not a stirring color. It is suitable for chaste virgins’ clubs, but not for world-changing movements in a revolutionary epoch. Black was also suggested: in itself suitable for the present period, it contained nothing, however, that could in any way be interpreted as a picture of the will of our movement. Finally, this color has not a stirring enough effect either. White and blue were out of the question despite their wonderful esthetic effect, for these were the colors of an individual German state, and of an orientation toward particularistic narrow-mindedness which unfortunately did not enjoy the best reputation. Here, too, moreover, it would have been hard to find any reference to our movement. The same applied to black and white. Black, red, and gold were in themselves out of the question. So were black, white, and red, for reasons already mentioned, at least in their previous composition. In effect, to be sure, this color combination stands high above all others. It is the most brilliant harmony in existence.

    …I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika. And this remained final.

    …In midsummer of 1920 the new flag came before the public for the first time. It was excellently suited to our new movement. It was young and new, like the movement itself. No one had seen it before; it had the effect of a burning torch. We ourselves experienced an almost childlike joy when a faithful woman party comrade for the first time executed the design and delivered the flag. Only a few months later we had half a dozen of them in Munich, and the monitor troop, which was growing bigger and bigger, especially contributed to spreading the new symbol of the movement. And a symbol it really is! Not only that the unique colors, which all of us so passionately love and which once won so much honor for the German people, attest our veneration for the past; they were also the best embodiment of the movement’s will. As National Socialists, we see our program in our flag. In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic.

  18. & typography are associated with both blackletter & also with sans ⁠. This is because the Nazis themselves were divided about what to use, although the “” ultimately came down on the side of more conventional Latin/Roman scripts & the Nazis banned blackletter from government use.↩︎

  19. I was amused to discover Fabre’s cover while skimming Public Domain Review essays, as the name Fabre rang a bell—not long before, I had read “The Sphex story: How the cognitive sciences kept repeating an old and questionable anecdote”⁠, Keijzer 2013, criticizing which Hofstadter & Dennett so enjoy. And imagine what phrase I ran into within the first screens of reading Fabre’s cat essay⁠, but “red-letter day”! The Baader-Meinhof effect‽↩︎

  20. 1923 translation of Bohrs Atomteori, al-menfatteligt fremstillet by Lindsay & Lindsay, color plates apparently in original; note that several of the scans/e-books are incomplete & omit diagrams.↩︎

  21. Isotype made heavy use of red as its default second color; see pg41–50⁠, where the justification is primarily that many printers may only do black & red. Incidentally, I use the WP photo here instead of the online scans because they are low-resolution and the original copies may have been faded, so they do not convey the sharpness of the printing & the brightness of the red ink.↩︎

  22. MS 35254 also offers some extraordinarily elaborate —so much so I didn’t realize until reading the captions!↩︎

  23. Tymms 1860 includes many interesting color plates which use red starting on pg104⁠, but most I wouldn’t consider as examples of rubrication, specifically.↩︎