From The New York Times:
Because of a Trappist monk, Apple computer displays look the way they do today.
The monk was the Rev. Robert Palladino, who died on Feb. 26 at 83. A Roman Catholic priest who began his vocation in a monastic order, Father Palladino was also a world-renowned master of calligraphy.
“Priest and calligrapher,” his business card read, in his unimpeachableRenaissance italic, and he long plied both trades at once. For years, babies he baptized received baptismal certificates in his flawless hand. In Oregon, where he made his home, Father Palladino hand-lettered the state medical licenses for generations of newly minted doctors.
As a Trappist brother, Father Palladino learned his art in silence, honed it over years of study and eventually, on leaving his order, taught it to others.
To his students, he brought a world of genteel scholarship and quiet contemplation; a world whose modus operandi — by hand, with ink, on paper, parchment and vellum — was little changed for centuries; a world of classical music (an accomplished singer, he liked to ply his calligraphy to Beethoven), Gregorian chant and the Latin Mass, which he continued celebrating in discreet defiance long after Vatican II.
Into that world burst a young college dropout named Steve Jobs.
It is a coincidence no less exquisite than Father Palladino’s finest calligraphy that “Silicon Valley’s future most famous screamer studied with a monk who spent years taking a vow of silence,” as The Hollywood Reporter wrote shortly after Mr. Jobs’s death in 2011.
An authority on the history, structure and aesthetics of scripts from antiquity to the present, Father Palladino taught calligraphy at Reed College in Portland, Ore., from 1969 until his retirement, in 1984.
The college’s calligraphy program, which flourished from 1938 until Father Palladino’s retirement, was widely regarded as the foremost in the country, training many respected artists, typographers and graphic designers. For decades, nearly every sign and poster on campus was the graceful fruit of its labor.
Mr. Jobs briefly attended Reed in 1972 before dropping out for economic reasons, but hung around campus for more than a year afterward; during that time, he audited Father Palladino’s class. After helping to found Apple in 1976, he often credited the company’s elegant onscreen fonts — and his larger interest in the design of computers as physical objects — to what he had been taught there.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…
Photo: Liz Devine / The New York Times