IV: The Demise of AMG

The magazine's peak for quality content occurred from about 1931 to 1934. In this window of four years, the magazine first displayed a flashy new cover design by A. M. Cassandre.[29] It moved to a new office and set up a graphic arts library for its patrons.[30] The magazine started an exhibition review column, and was so chock-full of articles, that the filler "Notes et Échos" section was temporarily discontinued.[31] In 1934, the publicity annual (AMG 42) was launched. That same year, Photocinégraphie tried to capture more AMG readers. By the end of 1934, the magazine had shed "Paris" from its title—as if it no longer needed to be legitimized by its French identity.

The years following the peak were less consistent in the merit of work that was published, but some excellent pieces still broke through. For example, in 1936 a novel column on "The Graphic Art of Sound" appeared. It reported on how phonograph records were made and reviewed music recordings of the period.[32] Another bright spot of the time was AMG 59, the special edition dedicated to the 1937 Paris Exposition.[33] From a historical perspective this issue is valuable for its reproductions which chronicle how the exposition was organized. In it are pictures of signage, displays, and buildings—many of which had been destroyed or dismantled after the exhibition. Also, the issue can be considered as the formal debut of the Peignot typeface as a viable text face.

Some early hints indicate that the magazine's fortune was waning. A rare publisher's note in issue 36, July 1933, declared manifesto-style:

"The 'deluxe' book is dead because one has made it luxurious and expensive, instead of first being made BEAUTIFUL; because it has become only an excuse for images . . . and admiration, instead of first being a PRINTED TEXT; because it has become a collector's object that one has bound and at which one looks only by chance; The 'deluxe book' is dead simply because it is no longer a BOOK."[34]

In the same text AMG then proposed to rescue to all of the poor bibliophiles who could no longer afford beautiful books, by forming its own bibliophile society. (And, of course, by publishing deluxe books of its own making.) The goals of this group were outlined in AMG 39.[35] After the declaration was published "The Eye of the Booklover" column disappeared for a year.[36] AMG had temporarily lost one of its key themes, most likely as a result of rising material costs in the post-U.S. depression world economy.

Another indication of trouble was in late 1936, when the magazine dropped production to five issues per year.[37] At the same time the issue price went up from 30F to 35F—a price that had not changed since the first publication in 1928. One year later, in November 1937, the price jumped again to 45F per issue.[38]

The overall quality of printing and content did not stay constant with the price hikes. Fewer and fewer tip-ins and color plates were included in the magazine. In the last year of publication, what were considered as plates were actually one-color offset-lithography halftone images that were printed on a colored paper stock. These images did not even depict subjects relevant to the articles in the issue. Instead they were just random space-filling photos from previous AMG publications.[39]

The paper stock of the magazine also reflected the pinch. Beginning in 1938, the "Notes et Échos" section was printed on an uncoated sheet.[40] Previously, the whole block of Arts et Métiers Graphiques was printed on a white semi-gloss coated paper. The newer uncoated paper must not have been highly refined because these sheets are now yellowed and brittle from acidity damage.

The last evidence of decline is seen in article content that seemed to be less brillant and daring than at the magazine's peak. Number 62, Paris 1937-New York 1939: Expositions Internationales is the best example of this tendency.[41] This issue was essentially a recap of "the good-old days" when Paris hosted the 1937 World's exposition. Publicity shots from the 1937 expo that appeared in AMG 59 were repeated in no. 62. The articles express a hope for the 1939 New York World's Fair to be as great as its Parisian counterpart—as if the fair's success would reactivate creativity in the graphic arts. A report on the happenings of the New York fair is promised at the end of the issue, but the magazine folded in early 1939—a result of the impending war.

Page Notes

29 The first cover by A. M. Cassandre appeared on Arts et Métiers Graphiques Paris, 25 (15 September 1931).
30 The new Arts et Métiers Graphiques office at 18 Rue Séguier was first announced in Arts et Métiers Graphiques Paris, 27 (15 January 1932).
31 "Notes et Échos" was discontinued in AMG 39 (15 January 1934). It was reinstated in AMG 44 (15 December 1934).
32 Roger Dévigne, "L'Impression Phonographique," Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 51 (15 February 1936), 65-67.
33 Les Arts et Techniques Graphiques Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 59 (15 September 1937).
34 "Programme A.M.G. 1933-1934," Arts et Métiers Graphiques Paris, 36 (15 July 1933), 5-9.
35 "'L'Épreuve,' Société Bibliophile de Recherches Graphiques; Programme," Arts et Métiers Graphiques Paris, 39(15 January 1934,: 2.
36 Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 44 (15 December 1934).
37 "Sommaire," Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 55 (1 November 1936), 3.
38 "Sommaire," Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 60 (1 November 1937), 3.
39 Florent Fels, "Portrait de Jean Cocteau," Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 63 (15 May 1938), 36b.
40 The uncoated stock for "Notes et Échos" was first used in Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 64 (15 September 1938).
41 Paris 1937-New York 1939: Expositions Internationales Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 62 (15 March 1938).