- 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: #2,912,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Printing Types: An Introduction Paperback – August 13, 1990
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Top Customer Reviews
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., the clever artist can defeat it. It would be a freshman computing exercise to morph two (or more!) fonts into each other, straddling the line of distinction with one foot firmly on each side of the divide.
If not taken to dogmatic extremes, type taxonomy can be helpful in a variety of ways. It establishes a common language, allowing terse exchange of complex ideas. When classification fails, as it surely will at some point, the typographer needs a descriptive vocabulary that calls out a font's unique structure in equally concise words. Lawson seems to have become so dedicated to classification that he under-represents the rich descriptive vocabulary needed for the second half of the job.
This is a good introduction, and may work well if type is a tool rather than a passion for you. This book will probably disappoint the specialist or advanced student, however. Other books give more detailed description and in more specific terms.