Reintroducing: Hella Basu

Picked up a 1980 design annual today put out by the venerable (but soon after to fold) U.K printing house Penrose. In it I found many amusing bits about then state-of-the-art computer graphics technology, articles of interest to the design dork with a historical bent, purty pictures, etc. The most striking bit by far, however, was a feature on a calligrapher by the name of Hella Basu. Beautiful work which put me in mind of everyone’s current fave Marian Bantjes, except Basu was born in 1924. A subsequent internet search for information on her work came up empty. Judging by the samples in the feature that’s a real shame. It’s my pleasure then to reintroduce her here, on the web, with the following 10 pieces culled from the Penrose annual.

First, from the accompanying essay by Geoffrey Bensusan:

“Hella Basu’s calligraphy shows itself apt, varied and assured; its fitness for purpose unquestionable, its deployment as one might say most inventive, the execution impeccable; it has a lineage clearly honorable but not trad and while accessible, as communication should be, it remains exciting.”

Also (speaking well before the computer typography boom):

“It is the prized consistency of machine-made lettering that generates the demand for contrasting forms, inventions not provided for on transfer sheets. For in the hands of the skilled designer-lettering-artist-calligrapher the alphabet is almost as flexible and expressive a medium as illustration itself in evoking a mood, creating a feeling, reinforcing a fact.”

Dona nobis pacem.


Elizabeth the chef.

Thy Musique, from Hymn to God my God in my sickness, John Donne.

The moon behind lace curtains.


Treetops, poem by Goethe.

Adam was but human.

Ono no Komache


Love song, Rainer Maria Rilke.

The wheel, poem by Edwin Muir.

The Sunne Rising, John Donne.

Aside from her birth date and place (Germany) the only other info I found was a single quote purported to be from Hella:

“In making any object, the philosophy behind its creation is ‘art,’ the planning is ‘design,’ and its execution is ‘craft.’”

Hope you enjoyed.