Harold Berliner’s Passing

Posted by on Apr 29, 2010 | No Comments

Harold Berliner died Monday. He was 86.

I met Harold when I was working in San Francisco, working every day on Monotypes. He had invited me up to his house in Nevada County, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range–I drove up Interstate 80 on that crisp day not knowing exactly why the old man wanted to meet me. Harold is known for a few things–writing the Miranda warning is one of them–the other is for his collection of Monotype casting machines and rare book faces. I remember arriving at his house, and walking through the then-dormant Type Foundry–regular operations had long since ceased–marvelling at the nearly new casting machines and matrices of beautiful faces like Bembo and Blado, its rare Italic. He was physically slow, but mentally sharp–his eyes had a piercing quality, and he never seemed to mince words–indeed, I imagine that being a lawyer and a printer would make one doubly precise about language.

I went up a few more times–always for lunch–he enjoyed being driven around those winding roads–and eventually I purchased 4 casters from his foundry. The large balance of the casting equipment and matrices went to the Offizin Parnassia in Vattis, Switzerland. It wasn’t soon after that I began to travel, and I visited him once more when I had time in California. The foundry room was bare. He was content–it was a happy visit.

I’m still not sure why he called me up there. I few images stick in my head. He was the District Attorney for Nevada County for many years–and he had this poster on the wall of a revolver whose barrel was tied in a knot–and his simple farewell when I left that first day: “peace.”

We’ll miss you.