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An Essay on Typography Paperback – June 16, 2015


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; Reprint edition (June 16, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879239506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879239503
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 4.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Written with clarity, humility and a touch of humor…timeless and absorbing --Paul Rand, The New York Times

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This multi-faceted book is a gem. It was written in a period when Industrialism was increasingly establishing itself over Craftsmanship. Gill starts by analyzing the clash between these two worlds, then goes on to situate typography in this melee. Most of the book concerns Gill's views on correct typography, some of which seem quirky. Gill is unique: his forward style and searing insight are inspiring and refreshing, even after six decades. The last section of the book is Gill's proposal to convert written English into phonetic writing, avoiding spelling/pronunciation inconsistencies and increasing efficiency. It makes great sense - typical Gill
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By seanwilk on August 14, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I noticed few reviews for this book, so it had to be said. At once a historical view of typography as well as universal ideals still applicable to modern design. Eric Gill was a genius, and his timeless typefaces were the only window I knew him through before I read this book. This is the sort of book that you finish and then go look for more books like it; my favorite kind.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
This essay on typography is actually an essay on far more. It goes well with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, in its nostalgia for the 'humane' individual craftsman over the commerce and industry. Gill comes back, again and again, to question the proper places of mass production and handwork with respect to each other. He was an idealistic, but still realized that industry was here to stay - it could not (and still can not) simply be wished away. The real goal is "an industrialism ... [with] many noble and admirable features."
Gill uses typography and printing as the vehicle for his social thoughts, and offers a good bit of advice on typography throughout. He discusses letter forms as ethetic, practical, and historical objects - especially interesting from a man who made so much typographic history himself.
I never did quite work my way through all of his social arguments, however. He seems to hold "engineers" as the opponents of art and perhaps creativity. I known that many engineers then and now lack training in esthetics and visual presentation. Anyone who's seen the Brooklyn Bridge or Eiffel Tower knows, however, that engineering is also a creative act. Gill ridiculed the practice of one worker designing a font, a second preparing it for transfer to metal, another cutting the master tools for each letter, and so on. I have to agree, the assembly line mentality is not suited to all tasks, especially when each product is as unique as a letter form. Still, among all arts, printing is perhaps the one most typified by team effort and division of labor. It would be a very rare individual who could create a text worth reading, create the font in which it is presented, set the type and run the press, and carry out all the other tasks needed to create a bound book.
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Format: Paperback
Eric Gill (22 February 1882 - 17 November 1940) was an English artist (sculptor, stonecutter, typeface designer, printer) and social commentator. He was an early advocate of Distributism -- a socialist Roman Catholic economic philosophy formulated by G.K. Chesterton and others which sought to bring the benefits of industrial capitalism to the masses. Since his death he has received strong criticism because of his somewhat disturbing sex life, which he recorded in his diary, and which was exposed in Fiona MacCarthy's 1989 biography. As often happens, the controversy has brought his artistic works that much more attention (and praise).

As the title suggests, "An Essay on Typography" (first published in 1931) discusses typography. Gill's credentials as a type-designer include the still-popular Gill Sans and Perpetua typefaces. The book itself is set in his Joanna face. I found it quite enjoyable to read. The pages are typeset according to his suggestions (in the chapters "The Procrustean Bed" and "The Book") for page layout: even spacing between words, 10-12 words per line, sufficient line space. The bottom margin is larger than the others, as he recommends, for ease of holding the book. Unfortunately I never hold a book at the bottom (when using one hand I hold it at the top; with two, at the sides). For the most part his notions of good type design and page layout are the same as you hear web designers periodically proclaiming today.

There is a chapter on lettering, giving a very brief history of the roman alphabet. And the next chapter is on the three alphabets in use by printers: uppercase, lowercase, and italics.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't quite know how to describe this book, except to say this:
I read this the first time about 20 years ago, and then gave it away, and recently purchased another copy. I have frequently remembered what I took from Eric Gill: the idea of doing everything with the intent of doing it well, and that the frame of the picture (or the typeface of the document, or a careful paint job in a room) --the shape of the communication -- can be as important as the communication itself.
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