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Anatomy of a Typeface [Hardcover]

Alexander Lawson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 July 1993
Tracing the forms, history and development of various typefaces since the development of printing in 1452, this analysis of letter form explores the vast territory of typefaces, their uses and their antecedents, from Garamond and Bembo, to the design of sans-serif letters and newspaper types.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: David R. Godine Publisher Inc (1 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087923332X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879233327
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,799,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
Frederic W. Goudy, prolific type designer though he was, came rather late to the design of a black-letter type, just about midway, in fact, in his prodigious output of approximately 123 type designs. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work on history and design of typefaces 22 Aug 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Although called "Anatomy of a Typeface," this book actually takes about 20 classic typefaces and analyzes each, discussing its designer, history, and aesthetics in depth. This is an outstandingly thoughtful and well-researched book by a master in the field, potentially of use both to someone with a basic understanding of the topic and to an expert.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A collection of magazine articles 30 Jan 2006
By Michael Abbott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While this is not a bad book, I don't think it deserves the five-star reviews it got above.

Each chapter is an article (or perhaps adapted from an article) originally for a magazine called Printing Impressions. As a result they stand alone better than they fit together: some stories are duplicated or unnecessarily scattered over several chapters, while others seem more compressed than they had to be (such as his discussions of sans-serif typefaces.) The type samples are good, often original, which is wonderful for history (but will be a disappointment if you wanted side-by-side comparisons.)

The discussion of the workshop process of making metal type is tantalising but not all that helpful to understanding. And while it has pretty old engravings, they aren't labled or explained to help distinguish essential parts from workshop quirks.

I'd certainly recommend reading Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style first. I've not yet read James Felici's Complete Manual of Typography but people say good things. From browsing it seems to be more specific than Bringhurst, with more focus on technology, and less on timelessness. (It's hard to tell but I doubt it has his wonderful prose.)
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history and commentary 12 Aug 2005
By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work on history and design of typefaces 22 Aug 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although called "Anatomy of a Typeface," this book actually takes about 20 classic typefaces and analyzes each, discussing its designer, history, and aesthetics in depth. This is an outstandingly thoughtful and well-researched book by a master in the field, potentially of use both to someone with a basic understanding of the topic and to an expert
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misleading title, but still an important book 13 Mar 2008
By G. Hinds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought this because I was told it was one of the three best books for studying typography (the others being "The Elements of Typographic Style" and "Letters of Credit"). Based on the title, I was hoping this would give me a better sense of the visual/technical vocabulary and structure of typefaces in general. Instead it is basically a history of the important type faces and designers, tracing the reasons why different styles moved in and out of fashion/use as printing technology and publishing in general progressed. I found it very dry, and less useful than the other two books, but I can see where any designer should have at least a passing understanding of the content of this book. I just think it should have a different title. "Letters of Credit" talks more about the "anatomy" of typefaces, so I might recommend starting there.
5.0 out of 5 stars Start with this book 11 April 2013
By jeaniee1953 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Exceded my hopes. Does a wonderful job of telling the history of typeface, in a clear, easy to understand way. I found it fascinating.
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