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Ismar David – Blaise Pascal

An Exhibition

Date and Time

Mon, 2010-12-06 - Mon, 2011-04-11


Cary Collection; The Wallace Center at RIT
Plate 12: The Genius of Pascal “All sound principles are at work in the world; all that we need to do is to apply them.”–Pensée 913 Pascal, Blaise. Les Pensées. Translated by Martin Turnell. Illustrated by Ismar David. Typography by Charles E. Scaggs. Bloomfield, CT: Printed for the members of the Limited Editions Club, 1971. xix, 184 p., 30 cm.


Ismar David immediately felt Blaise Pascal’s compassion and purity of thought, reaching out from the seventeenth century to our time. “Reading Pascal, one is filled with the conviction that this man was true to himself uncompromisingly.” The twelve illustrations that David created for Les Pensées, published by the Limited Editions Club in 1971, are themselves an uncompromising testament to the art of the book. Printed in six spot colors, the camera-ready artwork comprises many color-separated pen and ink line drawings, and halftones in gouache or graphite. The final image, a portrait of Pascal, indicates the two main forces in his life: spiritual, represented by the buildings of Port-Royal behind him, and mathematical, symbolized by the spirals in the cosmos around him.

The Ismar David Archive in the Cary Collection houses the bulk of the designer’s graphic work, comprising material beginning with his time in Jerusalem in the early 1930s through his over forty years in New York City. It is an extraordinary array of correspondence, calligraphy, type design, illustration and the designs of hundreds of book jackets.