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Printing Types: An Introduction Paperback – August 13, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; Revised & enlarged edition (August 13, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807066613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807066614
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lawson's goal is to categorize different printing types ("fonts" in the computer world) "... in a logical system based first upon their structure and seondly upon their historical derivation." The kind of font makes a real difference in the feel and sense of the work written in it, so this isn't just a mouse-milking exercise in taxnomic detail for its own sake.

This book goes a long way towards meeting its goal. It describes the major structural families of Roman letter forms, based on stroke weights and emphasis, style of serifs (if any), and historical origin. There are plenty of visual examples for most of the text, critical for training the eye. This brief book is certainly a good start.

It's just a start, though. Lawson chose a brief format for this book. That avoided tedium, but necessarily omitted examples and discussions that could heve deepened the presentation. The section on display fonts is the briefest, probably because the range of display fonts is widest and hardest to divide into tidy compartments. Instead, Lawson relegates all special cases to the "hell box," the bin where damaged type was dumped on its way to being melted down. This, I think, is a symptom of the book's weakness: the tendency to force type faces into his Procrustean categories, and gloss over whatever didn't fit.

He acknowledges that "Exact classification of the many types which can conceivably be listed as decorative is not easy." I would argue that rigid classification is not always desirable and is often impossible. Lawson mentions Knuth's MetaFont program in passing, and that tool (or another like it) inflicts mortal wounds on any body of categories. Whatever the diagnostic point that separates one class from another, in serifs and bracketing, emphasis, decoration, etc.
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