Beatrice Warde was a communicator on typography. She was the only daughter of May Lamberton Becker, a journalist on the staff of the New York Herald Tribune, and Gustave Becker, composer and teacher.
Beatrice was educated at Barnard College at Columbia University. At the age of eleven she had developed a love of calligraphy, and this grew in her college years to an interest in the history of letter forms. She became acquainted with Bruce Rogers, the typographer, and, on his recommendation, on graduation was appointed to the post, under Henry Lewis Bullen of assistant librarian to the American Type Founders Company, in Jersey City, where she concentrated on self-education and research. While there she became acquainted with eminent typographers including Daniel Berkeley Updike and Stanley Morison, who later played a highly influential part in her professional life.
She remained there from 1921–1925, and in 1922 married Frederic Warde, printer to Princeton University, a gifted typographic designer, and fully familiar with the possibilities of mechanical typesetting. The Wardes moved to Europe in 1925, but their marriage ended in separation in November 1926, soon followed by an amicable divorce.
Beatrice Warde spent time investigating the origins of the Garamond design of type, and published the results in The Fleuron under the pen-name Paul Beaujon. Beatrice Warde recalled she had given 'Paul Beaujon' persona 'a man of long grey beard, four grandchildren, a great interest in antique furniture and a rather vague address in Montparesse.'
After publishing her discovery of Garamond's origin, "Paul Beaujon" was in 1927 offered the part-time post of editor of the Monotype Recorder, and Warde accepted—to the astonishment of Lanston Monotype Corporation executives in London, who were expecting a man. She was promoted to publicity manager in about 1929, a post she retained until her retirement in 1960 on her 60th birthday. She thought of herself as an outsider, working in a man's world, but she gained respect for her work and her personal qualities.
The Monotype years
This period saw the Anglo-American "Typographic Renaissance", since type-casting machines such as the Monotype and the Linotype permitted the revival of historic type faces, and the design of new ones. The Monotype was particularly suited to this work since the types were cast individually, permitting letter fit on par with hand-set type.
The Monotype Corporation had appointed Stanley Morison as typographic advisor in 1923, and he used the Monotype Recorder and Monotype Newsletter—the firm's main advertising mediums—as a vehicle for publicising new designs. Morison instigated the production of Monotype broadsides displaying the full range of a new design in multiple sizes, which could serve as sales literature for printers to show their customers, or be framed for display in their reception rooms. Among the designers whose work the corporation adopted were Eric Gill. His Gill Sans of 1928 was widely acclaimed and was followed in 1932 by Perpetua titling capitals, modelled on the lettering on Trajan's Column in Rome. Beatrice Warde penned her famous broadside This is a Printing Office, to show this typeface off. It has since been found on the walls of numerous printing offices, has been cast in bronze and is mounted at the entrance to the United States Government Printing Office in Washington, D. C., has been translated into numerous languages and has been parodied.
In addition to her work with the Monotype Corporation, Warde devoted much time after her retirement to the education of apprentices, tirelessly lecturing at schools of printing, inspiring them to become design-conscious craftsmen.