Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Isle of Type

On April 1, 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian published a seven-page “special report” about San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles described in detail the geography and culture of this obscure nation. The report generated a huge response. The Guardian‘s phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. However, San Serriffe did not actually exist. The report was an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke—one with a typographical twist, since numerous details about the island (such as its name) alluded to printer’s terminology.

Davies, editor-in-charge had imagined a small, one-page feature, but the other editors, realizing the potential, decided to expand it into a seven-page supplement, making it the largest special report the
Guardian had ever published. The Guardian turned to the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson to find companies willing to participate in the hoax. This proved to be an easy job. The special report, when it was completed, consisted of seven pages, four of which were devoted to ads. Articles, written in a quasi-serious style that parodied the prose of special reports, examined the history, culture, and economy of San Serriffe.
(Read more at Hoaxipedia)

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