Typographers on Type

Ruari McLean’s collection of essays in Typographers on Type read like chefs sharing their favorite recipes and cooking process. From William Morris’s “Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press” (1895) to Matthew Carter’s “Now We Have Mutable Type” (1990), McLean has done an excellent job of assembling the pieces in chronological order, supplying short introduction for each essay, and providing useful information and development of typography in the 20th century. The book is set in FF Quadraatt, which is beautiful and easy to to read.

Twentieth Century Type Designers

Sebastian Carter’s short profile of prominent type designers starting from Frederic W. Goudy to Carol Twombly (the only female designer featured in the book) is a good overview to typography. Worth a read.

Bruce Rogers: A Life in Letters, 1870–1957

Bruce Rogers designed Centaur (one of the well-known humanist typefaces) and responsible for classic book design including works from Shakespeare and the Bible. As one of Rogers’s apprentices, Joseph Blumenthal collected the letters Rogers had written and presented in a form of an autobiographical; therefore, the subtitle of this book not only refers to the typographic letters, but also the actual written letters. The book is set in Monotype Centaur and printed on Mohawk Superfine paper. Needless to say, it’s an insightful, beautiful read.

The Complete Typographer

In the first 35 pages of The Complete Typographer, Christopher Perfect managed to give readers a brief history of typography starting from 3000BC to 1990s. The second section exams the different categories of types with illustrations to help identify their characteristics. The last part provides guides on working with type. This is a good overview for anyone wanting to learn a bit about typography but doesn’t want to delve into it too deeply.

The Typographic Scene

Walter Tracy’s brief collection of essays give a broad history of typographic events in the twentieth century with the focus on symmetrical verses asymmetrical design. Like Letters of Credit, his concise, thoughtful writing makes the argument on both sides clear and balanced. The piece on reading research is also intriguing.

The Complete Manual of Typography

A concise yet comprehensive manual on typesetting drawing from over thirty years of experience. Felici’s writing is clear and his examples are easy to study. Set in Monotype Perpetua, the beautiful book is a reference that is never too far from reach.

Meggs’ History of Graphic Design (5th Edition)

Before diving into Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, I faced a dilemma. Should I jump right in or should I wait until the fall since the book is required for Graphic Design History class? Once I began the first chapter, however, I couldn’t stop.

With almost 600 pages, the book began with the invention of writing and ended at the digital revolution. The first two parts are fascinating, especially chapters on the alphabets and the progression of print and typography. Part three and four are comprehensive in documenting the graphic design moments and prominent designers. While the layout is filled with rich visual examples to complement the texts, the body copy, which set in Sabon Next, is a bit loose.

The historical details definitely needed to be revisited again, but this is the first textbook that I have read from cover to cover.

Typefaces for Books

A typographic resource, part showcase, part specimen. The book examples are complemented with the authors’s concise criticism. The specimen demonstrations come with various text sizes and line heights. Not all types in the specimen are appropriate for reading text. The book itself is set in Ellington, which is not a friendly for reading typeface either. Nevertheless, the brief historical background of printing and bookmaking is informative.

Type & Typography: Highlights From Matrix, The Review for Printers and Bibliophiles

Similar to Alexander Lawson’s Anatomy of a Typeface, Type & Typography is an invaluable book on learning the history of typography. The articles, selected from the Matrix archive, covered a wide range of topics including early Indian typography, the Colum Cille Irish type, Greek types, Treyfold type and music type. The body text of the book is set in Hermann Zapf’s Comenius, which is beautiful, legible and readable.

Steve Jobs

Now that the hype has subsided, I got around to read Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs. In contrast to the negative criticisms from the tech community, I find Isaacson’s writing to be engaging, particularly in demonstrating Jobs’s design sensibility. Jobs had picked the right author to write his biography. I am glad I read it after all. The book is also way better than the movie played by Ashton Kutcher.