Caslon Analytics elephant logo title for Print profile
home | about | site use | resources | publications | timeline   spacer graphic   Ketupa



















related pages icon


section heading icon     typography

This page considers typography.

It covers -

section marker icon     introduction

Stanley Morison, father of Times New Roman, commented that

Typography may be defined as the craft of rightly disposing printed material in accordance with specific purpose; of so arranging the letters, distributing the space and controlling the type as to aid the maximum the reader's comprehension of the text.

Typography is the efficient means to an essentially utilitarian and only accidentally aesthetic end, for the enjoyment of pattern is rarely the reader's chief aim. It follows that in the printing of books meant to be read there is little room for 'bright' typography. ... The good type designer knows that, for a new font to be successful, it has to be so good that only a few recognise its novelty.

Arguably the best guides are Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographical Style (Vancouver: Hartley & Marx 1996) and The Thames & Hudson Manual of Typography (London: Thames & Hudson 2000) by Ruari McLean. Bringhurst coauthored A Short History of the Printed Word (Vancouver: Hartley & Marx 1998).

section marker icon     histories

Geoffrey Dowding's Introduction to the History of Printing Types (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press 1997), John Maxwell's essay on The Survival Of Roman Types in the Face of Technological Change and Fred Smeijers' Counterpunch: Making Type in the Sixteenth Century, Designing Typefaces Now (London: Hyphen Press 1996) are serviceable. Maxwell is also responsible for Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type (Vancouver: Hartley & Marks 1995).

Anthony Cahalan's brief paper Design & Consumption: The Proliferation of Typefaces (PDF) offers intelligent comments on the late 20th century explosion in font design - tripling in the nineties? Papers in Illuminating Letters: Typography & Literary Interpretation (Amherst: Uni of Massachusetts Press 2001) edited by Paul Gutjahr & Megan Benton consider how typography affects meaning from the Bible to comic books.

Typography: Who, When, How
(Cologne: Konemann 1998) edited by Friedrich Friedl, Nicolaus Ott & Bernard Stein is a comprehensive guide to typographers, printers and 'dead tree-flake' technology. Rookledge's International Handbook of Type Designers (Carshalton Beeches: Sarema Press 1991) by Ron Eason & Sarah Rookledge is shorter but more analytical. Simon Loxley's Type: The Secret History of Letters (London: Tauris 2003) and Letter by Letter: An Alphabetical Miscellany (New York: Princeton Architectural Press 2008) by Laurent Pflughaupt are engaging accounts for non-specialists.

For a more in depth study consult Robin Kinross' Modern Typography: An Essay in Critical History (New York: Princeton Architectural Press 1996) and Sebastian Carter's masterly 20th Century Type Designers (New York: Norton 1995). Walter Tracy's Letters of Credit (Boston: Godine 1989) profiles major designers and design considerations. Nicolas Barker's Aldus Manutius and the Development of Greek Script & Type in the Fifteenth Century (Bronx: Fordham Uni Press 1992) and Harry Carter's A View of Early Typography: up to about 1600 (London: Hyphen Press 2002) are warmly recommended. Carter is profiled in Harry Carter, Typographer: A tribute to an unsung English typographer (Hinton Charterhouse: The Old School Press 2005) by Martyn Thomas, John Lane & Anne Rogers. Daniel Updike's Printing Types (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1922) is online.

Ken Garland's A Word in Your Eye (Reading: Uni of Reading Dept of Typography 1996) and Design Writing Research: Writing on Graphic Design (London: Phaidon 1996) by Ellen Lupton & Abbott Miller incisively question McLuhan's blathering.

Jan Tschichold's The New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1995), Ruari McLean's How Typography Happens (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press 2000) and The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design (Vancouver: Hartley & Marks 1995) are better value than the characteristically wacky rant by Eric Gill in An Essay On Typography (Boston: Godine 1993).

Gill fans may enjoy The Art of Lettering: The History, Anatomy & Aesthetics of the Roman Letterforms (London: KG Saur 1983) by Albert Kapr, Letter Forms: Typographic & Scriptorial (Vancouver: Hartley & Marks 1999) by Stanley Morison or Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface (New York: Princeton Architectural Press 2000) edited by Lars Müller. FW Goudy's 1940 Typologia (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1977) remains of significance.

James Moran's Stanley Morison: His Typographic Achievement (London: Lund Humphries 1971), Christopher Burke's Active Literature: Jan Tschichold and New Typography (New York: Hyphen Press 2008) and Paul Renner: The Art of Typography (New York: Princeton Architectural Press 1998) are major studies of the UK and German designers.

Tschichold's Treasury of Alphabets & Lettering: A Source Book (New York: Norton 1995) while less analytical is a major resource. Alexander Lawson's Anatomy Of A Typeface (Boston: Godine 1996) intelligently profiles a face rather than the man. Lawson and Dwight Agner collaborated on the crisp Printing Types: An Introduction (Boston: Beacon 1990).

Hermann Zapf's About Alphabets: Some Marginal Notes on Type Design (Cambridge: MIT Press 1970) complements archival studies such as Alphabets to Order: The Literature of Nineteenth-Century Typefounders’ Specimens (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press 2000) by Alastair Johnston and John Man's entertaining but less substantial The Gutenberg Revolution (London: Review 2002).

For Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854-1899) see in particular his The Biography of Ottmar Mergenthaler, Inventor of the Linotype (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press 1989) edited by Carl Schlesinger and the more revealing Ottmar Mergenthaler: The Man and His Machine: A Biographical Appreciation of the Inventor on His Centennial (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press 1999) by Basil Kahan.

section marker icon     aids

Typology: Type Design from the Victorian Era to the Digital Age (San Francisco: Chronicle 1999) by Louise Fili & Steven Heller and Letterforms: Bawdy, Bad & Beautiful: The Evolution of Hand-Drawn, Humorous, Vernacular, and Experimental Type (New York: Watson-Guptill 2000) by Steven Heller & Christine Thompson are further examples of eye-candy, somewhat overindulgent to the bizarre or funky.

As aids for recognition consult Benjamin Bauermeister's A Manual of Comparative Typography (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold 1988) and An Atlas of Typeforms (London: Lund Humphries 1968) by James Sutton & Alan Bartram.

section marker icon     art

Fleuron Anthology
(Toronto: Uni of Toronto Press 1973) edited by Francis Meynell & Herbert Simon comprises essays on printing from the seminal journal Fleuron, founded by Stanley Morison. The Typographic Book: 1450-1935 (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1963) by Morison & Kenneth Day is an intelligent survey which should be read in conjunction with James Bartram's 500 Years of Book Design (New Haven: Yale Uni Press 2001).

Joseph Blumenthal's Art of the Printed Book, 1455-1955: Masterpieces of Typography through Five Centuries from the Collections of the Pierpont Morgan Library (Boston: Godine 1973) is, simply, a beautiful book.

section marker icon     science

Karl-Erik Tallmo's essay Where It's @ discusses the history of the 'at' symbol, complemented by a note elsewhere on this site. In contrast, Johanna Drucker's The Visible Word: Experimental Typography & Modern Art 1909-23 (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1996) is a rigorous academic study. A Psychological Study of Typography (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1959) by noted scientific fraudster Sir Cyril Burt has a curiosity value.

For usability and perception studies see our Design and Accessibility guides; there is a more detailed discussion of the 'font wars' in the supplementary Readability profile.

section marker icon     ethics and aficionados

seeks to promote typefaces as creative works and encourage their protection as intellectual property, discussed in our Intellectual Property guide.

One of the crispest introductions is Stop Stealing Sheep (& Find Out How Type Works) (Mountain View: Adobe 1993) by Erik Spiekermann & EM Ginger. We enjoyed Type & Typographers (London: Architectural Design & Technology Press 1991), an eclectic and intelligent set of essays by Manfred Klein, Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin & Erik Spiekermann.

The ABC Typography Virtual Museum is one of the more effective online exhibitions of fonts.

The Linesandsplines blogg will appeal to typophiles, as will the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) and the Society of Typographic Aficianados (SoTA) - international organisations concerned with type and typography.

     next page  (the printing press)

this site
the web


version of October 2008
© Bruce Arnold | caslon analytics