Teus de Jong died last week in hospital in Groningen, after a succession of serious illnesses. He was the typesetter of a number of our books, especially the paperbacks designed by Françoise Berserik. I knew him mainly through emails; but I also came to know him in the silent way in which one feels the presence of a compositor who gives order to words that one has edited or perhaps even written. One becomes aware of choices made, decisions taken – of a person behind the construction of the lines of text.
Teus and Fransje worked as a team: she writing instructions and making sketches on paper, or sometimes just speaking them to him on the telephone, and he doing the rest. He did his job very well and had the necessary concern for the smallest detail. He had an interest beyond simply carrying out instructions. For example, in the last book he did for us, by then badly ill, he silently filled in a gap I had left in the index (a date of birth that I hadn’t been able to find). He preferred to make his own barcodes, because he didn’t quite like the typeface for the numerals in the files that I gave him. Perhaps the best compliment we (designer, compositor, editor) got was from Gerrit Noordzij when his book The stroke was finished. After an extended, intense period of preparation, Gerrit congratulated us, and included Teus in his thanks. Gerrit knows all about typesetting and I took this as a high compliment.
I met Teus only once in person, at a party, and then became more aware of the man behind the text – as someone from our generation, growing up intellectually in the late 1960s and 1970s, who had read a lot of critical theory, seemed world-weary and very funny, still loved Bob Dylan.
From Fransje I heard something more about him: that he was a sociologist, had taught history of science at the TU Delft, was an expert computer programmer, and after doing all that had become a typesetter. He lived with his wife in Nij Beets, a village in Friesland – recently in the Dutch news – which for me will always be famous as the place where Teus lived. We were glad to give its name in the colophons of the books he worked on.
I have sometimes cited his partnership with Fransje Berserik as a good way of working: she made the design decisions and he did the typesetting in what I imagined was the peace of his house in Nij Beets. Certainly the separation of roles seems a good thing, and it can enable good qualities, not always attained in the DTP-production that happens now, in which the designer is often the typesetter too and is thus without that unsparing critical eye on what is being made.
We will miss him very much, and will have to find other people with whom to work and other ways of managing book production. But if we go on reprinting these books, ‘Teus de Jong, Nij Beets’ will continue.