Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Egdon Margo: Calligrapher, Printer, Wit

When I was in high school my family and I had the good fortune to meet a printer whose work we’d enjoyed for a number of years: APA printer Egdon Margo of Sherman Oaks, California. Known as Don to his friends, Margo was a professional calligrapher and private press printer with a quick wit, a love of letters, and a soft spot for helping budding printers and calligraphers get started.

Don Margo told us he first got interested in calligraphy as a serviceman during the blitz in World War II. During the bombing he took refuge in a London bookstore with a calligraphy display in the window. Afterwards he returned to study the beautiful hand lettering closer and decided to try it himself.

When I met Don Margo, he was well known in the calligraphic world, had won several awards, and made his living writing calligraphic titles and credits for the movies. He never mentioned much about that though. He was one of those people who was on fire with being creative: enthusiastic, animated, and full of fun. He loved calligraphy, he loved printing, and he loved talking with people. My father Gary Hantke called him, “Herr Schoenscriber”, or “Mr. Beautiful Writer” in German.

A Hollywood studio offered its stars calligraphic stationary. Don Margo did this sketch for the studio, and several were produced.

When I studied italic handwriting a few years later in school, Don Margo mailed me a large envelope full of samples of his work. Included was an article about him written in the 1950s, through which I learned more about how he got started with hand lettering. I loved how, tongue-in-cheek, he apologized for the picture of himself, “A thousand pardons for inflicting this ancient screen upon thee.”

Envelope full of calligraphic goodies sent to me by Don Margo.
Biographical article on Margo published in 1958.

Don Margo was a talented writer with a great sense of humor. His humorous bookmarks, and parodies on poems such as Jabberwocky and The Raven were the talk of the APA bundles. Among his favorite typefaces was Paul Hayden Duensing’s Sixteenth Century Roman. Below are several examples (click on any image to enlarge) of his printing and wit, courtesy of John Horn. Thank you, Don Margo, for being such an inspiration to me, as well as an absolute delight to know!

The humorous credo of Margo's press. On top of a great sense of humor, Don Margo had an amazing vocabulary.

Don Margo's original version of Typowocky, a parody of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.

John Horn's 2010 reprint of Margo's Typowocky, with all typeface names printed in the type mentioned.


  1. I love calligraphy! It was the only thing I could do half way decent in art class in high school. What a talented man.

  2. Carole, I enjoyed reading this gentle tribute.