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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history and commentary, August 12, 2005
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This review is from: Anatomy of a Typeface (Paperback)
Lawson has created a wonderful, readable historical account. The first 30 chapters each present one typeface ('font' for computer folk). A typeface's chapter analyzes the structural features of the sorts ('glyphs'), noting how the typeface fits into the usual bins labelled 'black letter', or 'modern', etc. That discussion tends to be spotty, though, and the successful reader already knows a few different ways for serifs to differ from each other, for line weight to vary, and lots more.

What this book does well is present specimens of different typefaces within each family, showing how the letterforms drifted through time, or how they evolved to meet specific demands of paper, ink, and press. The typefaces are arranged in a chronological order, of sorts, but one type face's era may overlap another a large margin. Within each chapter, Lawson explores the development of that typeface, from the calligraphy and earlier letterforms that preceded it up through its contemporary appearance and use. The many examples also show the relationships between members of the same evolutionary tree. A few times, though, the samples could have been bigger, e.g. for pointing out differences in bracketing of the serifs.

This is very much a history of the type designers, printers, and other people in the history of type. It also gives some history of printing and typefounding technology. That motivates discussions of typefaces that were created to solve specific problems of paper, ink, and press, as well as esthetics. Historical information about punchcutting technology and modern type creation tools also explains the changing business relationships between font designers, distributors, and users.

Knowledge of history may help the reader in speccing type appropriate to some printing task, but there's very little here that would help in setting up a page of text. It's a book for another purpose, though. It's about the typefaces that are (or should be, or should not be) important to today's typographers, and why.

//wiredweird
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