As mentioned at the end of my last blog, this list represents the ten books I use most frequently and keep near my desk They are in no particular order except for the first two since they are so big. I have to choose them with care or they may slip out of my hand and fall crashing to the floor
Encyclopaedia of Typefaces: The Standard Typography Reference Guide by Jaspert & Berry, Turner, Johnson,(2009) Herman Zapf once said, “The old guys stole all our ideas.” Well, this is a compilation of five centuries of serious ideas that preceded us. If you have anything like an eidetic memory (akin to photographic), here’s the book for you. The original editions of this book were created primarily from metal type samples—many don’t even have full alphabet showings. There was even talk of not updating it after the 1970 edition due to the proliferation of phototype, which was held in such low esteem by “real typographers” that it was thought that an update would dilute what was already out there. I cannot tell you, since I still use my 1970 hardback edition. Unless you want to spend some money, the new ones seem to be only paperback.
Linotype Specimen Catalog 1923 (and/or American Type -or- ATF Specimens of Type 1923; Barnhart Brothers and Spindler Catalog 1895) or similar volumes. Every typographer should obtain a copy of one of these, if possible. Search around, I think there are some online versions that will give you the flavor of the type. Its real importance is showing the differences in letter deign at different sizes. Online is good but you just can’t beat the originals printed with metal type on paper to help you understand what it was really like and how we got to where we re today. [My Note: I was very disappointed to realize the Garamond we (and most phototype manufacturers) used for phototype was modeled after the 10 point size rather than the really elegant 24 point version.]
Anatomy of a Typeface, by Alexander Lawson This is not about one typeface. It’s a mini-course, a historical overview, if you will, of how we got to where we are now. It's really a great help in understanding type design.
The Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Bringhurst Here’s a great combination of history, design and some old-fashion technology. Mr Bringhurst is a poet and, in a sense, this book is written from a poet’s perspective. It deals with art, history, page design, and some explanations of technology.
The Complete Manual of Typography, by James Felici (Adobe Press) Everyone needs a “manual”— a go-to book for rules and terms. This one probably has more than you need by someone who’s been working in the industry for a while. A History of Graphic Design by Philip Meggs I didn’t get around to taking this course until I was in graduate school. By that time I was well established in the field of typography and had a minor in Art History. Yet, i found the course new and refreshing and quite a compliment to what i knew of the history of Typography. This is the definitive book that accompanies most courses. Even a used copy of this book will be a helpful addition to your library.
Shady Characters by Kieth Houston Can’t tell a pilcrow from an octothorp? Try this fun read. And much of it is now available on line at: https://shadycharacters.co.uk
Letters of Credit by Walter Tracy The author, himself, spanned the ages of metal type and phototype, carefully explaining how a typeface is designed. You’ll discover that despite all our advances, we have lost a lot in getting to the 21st Century. Although written fairly recently, this one’s out of print but available through used booksellers online.
Type and Typefaces by Ben Lieberman A really nice overview of what the author describes as “The Typorama.” Simple to read and understand with plenty of illustrations. Good for beginners and anyone who needs a refresher.
TypeSense by Susan and David Wheeler The only type design and layout book I keep within reach. Highly recommended by Roger C. Parker, whose books on layout you should also read. This one has basics and good application examples, not only that, but it reads well, too.
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You may notice that there are no design or layout books listed. I have a few that I can put into an addendum. As you work with type, you’ll find yourself using a lot of them, whether online or print versions.
TypeSense, listed above is a good all-around book to use Another popular one is Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type. Typographic Design: Form and Communication, by Meggs, Cater, Day, et. al., pretty much a standard in the field. Not so much a how-to but a survey displaying work into the 21st Century covering al kinds of different forms and applications, from print to web to motion.