Learning from Niggli
Nina Paim, 2016
“Learning from Niggli” is a historiographic account investigating the publishing strategies of the Swiss publishing house Verlag Arthur Niggli, as it was established and led by its original founders and main protagonists: Ida and Arthur Niggli. The project will be concluded in a multilingual publication directed at designers, historians, book collectors and the general public. Niggli Verlag is an established publisher, recognised both in Switzerland and abroad. Its name has entered the canon of history predominantly through the fields of arts, architecture and design. Today, Niggli is mostly remembered and celebrated for its typography manuals, most of which went through several re-editions and reprints, several having been widely internationally distributed, with a few achieving a cult status or becoming collector’s items. However, in its first phase of existence, Niggli’s program was remarkably diverse, expanding far beyond the fields of architecture, arts and design. With an overall appeal for informative and pedagogical books, Niggli published books in various other areas, such as literature, the regional and the folkloric, music, sexuality and cooking – a fact which today remains largely unacknowledged. Niggli Verlag still exists, and today it is the property of its fourth consecutive owner. However, despite its long tradition and proven track record, till the present date, the history of Niggli Verlag stands largely unexplored, and thus the totality of its publishing program remains virtually unknown. At the same time, the image of Niggli Verlag stands as a homogenous, simplified one: that of a publisher which excelled and promoted modernism and international Swiss Style. Embodying Walter Benjamin’s idea of brushing history “against the grain”, the project “Learning from Niggli” aims at providing a historical account of Niggli Verlag that includes its complexities and contradictions.