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Just My Type: A Book About Fonts Paperback – 22 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (22 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683022
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Garfield was born in London in 1960. He is the author of an appealingly diverse and unpredictable canon of non-fiction, including Mauve, The Nation's Favourite, The End of Innocence and The Wrestling, and has edited three popular collections of diaries from the Mass Observation Archive. His quirky history of fonts, Just My Type, turned out to be a hit, which reassured him that he was not alone in his passions.

His latest book is about maps - a wide-ranging, inquisitive and light-footed examination of how we use maps not only to find our way, but also to express all aspects of our lives - from art and crime to politics and cinema. The book is about exploration in its widest sense, travelling from the Great Library at Alexandria to the home of Google Maps, with cartographic diversions via Birmingham, Antarctica, Melbourne, the Himalayas, the East End of London, New York and the Congo. The book has some big questions too: Can men really read maps better than women? Is there anywhere in the world yet to be mapped? Will sat nav be the ruin of us all?

Garfield has been intrigued by maps since he had to find his way around the London Underground as a young boy, and he has been fascinated by geography ever since he was taught it at school by the former England cricket captain Mike Brearley (although admittedly Brearley mostly knew about India and Australia and other places he'd opened the batting).

Garfield also enjoys Hampstead Heath, cycling, globe-spinning by Presuming Ed, and writing by Tracy Kidder, Nicholson Baker, Bella Bathurst, Bill Bryson and Simon Armitage.

Product Description


Brilliant ... whether you're a graphics geek or have never given a second thought to what you're reading, don't miss this quirky, fact-filled font fest. (Lauren Laverne Grazia 2010-10-25)

Reading this book may just change your life; it'll certainly make you smile. If nothing else, it'll make you appreciate the beauty - and sometimes the horror - that is all around you. (Time Out)

A celebration of our way with words (Observer 2010-10-17)

Light-hearted but comprehensive, from rather odious typefaces, such as the hairy Grassy, to the ubiquitous Helvetica, each font is given a rundown. Garfield says he's unable to walk past a sign until he has identified the typeface. Now, neither can we. (Monocle 2010-10-01)

Garfield convinces us it's okay to actually like typography. What shines about this book is its accessibility; you don't have to be a typeface historian or a designer to find it enthralling ... It's fascinating to read about the history, origins and revolutions of typefaces, and this book strikes a great balance between fact and humour. Garfield's book isn't snobbish or elitist, and this is its most refreshing quality - it's for everyone to enjoy and share ... reading this book may just change your life; it'll certainly make you smile. If nothing else, it'll make you appreciate the beauty - and sometimes the horror - that is all around you. (Nick Booth Time Out 2010-11-11)

Hugely entertaining ... a lively history ... my considerable enjoyment of this book may have been enhanced by the fact that I've always been very interested in print design. But even those who have never considered the beauty of the Baskerville Q ... should find themselves being drawn in by Garfield's enthusiasm and wit (Anna Carey Sunday Business Post 2010-10-17)

A quirky introduction to fonts ... Simon Garfield is careful to tickle as much as he teaches ... Just My Type is fun. If you have ever looked at the drop-down menu in Word and wondered what a Garamond is, or what's meant to be new about Times New Roman, Garfield will be just your type. (Peter Robins Daily Telegraph 2010-10-16)

Dozens of compelling anecdotes are clearly told by Simon Garfield in this eye-opening book, which is utterly convincing in its central idea - that we are surrounded by fonts and influenced by their subtle message ... a delightful, brain-expanding book. (Harry Mount Mail on Sunday 2010-10-24)

Garfield's great strength is his storytelling. His book comprises dozens of lovely vignettes, anecdotes that make a potentially dusty subject utterly compelling ... he shows as judicious a sense of imagery as he has of more technical description ... a fine primer (Archie Bland Independent on Sunday 2010-10-31)

A lively history of fonts, from the first moveable letters used by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440s to the latest cutting edge typefaces ... lavishly and imaginatively illustrated ... a joy to look at as well as to read ... encapsulates the romance and magical possibilities of type. (Anna Carey Sunday Business Post 2010-10-17)

Chatty, anecdotal ... illuminates even a walk to the shops (Sunday Times 2010-11-07)

Superb ... it is a fascinating and funny book that delves into the history and oddities of typefaces throughout the ages ... it's full of weird and wonderful stories. (Doug Johnstone Big Issue 2010-11-01)

A gift for aesthetes and arty types ... funny and fascinating (Bea Hodgkin Easy Living 2010-12-01)

Just My Type is a font fanatic's dream (Alison Flood Wired Magazine 2010-11-01)

Garfield is extremely knowledgeable about type history while ignoring the politics and egos ... the tone is often funny and always entertaining ... thoroughly enjoyable. (Steven Heller Financial Times 2010-11-06)

A delight from start to end (The Age, Australia 2010-11-06)

A whistle-stop tour of fonts ... Garfield's book will open your eyes to the array of typefaces that demand our attention every day. (Emma Hagestadt Lady 2010-11-09)

Punchy and entertaining overview of typography ... Garfield's intriguing book can send you online to look more deeply, typographically speaking into the character issue. (Liam Stebbing Irish Times 2010-11-13)

Garfield has a track record of making odd subjects fascinating ... a weirdly addictive book. (Saga 2010-11-01)

Engrossing ... I've long been a fan of Garfield's popular touch, but he also writes knowledgeably about the minutiae of printing and layout. The book is attractive too ... for this book's many pleasures he should, at least, have a typeface named after him. (Nick Curtis Evening Standard 2010-11-18)

The most interesting and entertaining parts of the book are the glimpses into the strange internet world of type fanaticism. (Sebastian Carter TLS 2010-11-19)

Equipped with both knowledge and a nimble way with words, Garfield is an entertaining and congenial guide to this ubiquitous but little-known world. (Jeremy Lewis Literary Review 2010-11-01)

A quirky and informative study of fonts (Anthony Horowitz Sunday Telegraph 2010-11-28)

Bouncy, well-informed and wittily designed ... an engaging book. (Jonathan Glancey Guardian 2010-12-04)

There's a ton of fascinating stuff you never knew about fonts and thankfully Simon Garfield has stuck practically all of it in this friendly and informative book about the subject ... packed with nuggets that are way more relevant to your cool young life than you might realise ... riveting, and truly educational stuff. (Stuart Hammond Dazed and Confused 2010-12-01)

Amusing and informative ... Just My Type is an immensely refreshing offering from an author who is fascinated by his subject. Conveying the richness and the personality of typefaces with love and passion, this is an accessible and entertaining introduction to the world of lettering. (Patrick Myles Blueprint 2010-12-01)

Delightful ... Just My Type is the kind of book that makes you look at the world differently, indeed, it can induce a mild obsessive compulsive disorder ... like a master sommelier, Garfield has a wonderful capacity to convery the little hints and barely registered associations which different fonts impart ... an ingenious book. (Stuart Kelly Scotsman 2010-12-04)

Accessible, informative and often amusing... Copiously illustrated, it's a painless way to develop an appreciation for the subject. (Alastair Mabbott Herald 2011-09-10)

This is a smart, funny, accessible book that does for typography what Lynne Truss's best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation: made it noticeable for people who had no idea they were interested in such things. (New York Times)

[A] lively romp through the history of fonts. Garfield's evocative prose entices us to see letters instead of just reading them (Publishers Weekly)

Highly recommended to all, whether or not you feel predisposed to like this kind of thing! Eye-opening and mind-expanding! (Library Journal)

Deliriously clever and entertaining. (Boston Globe)

A witty and illuminating history of typography... As a writer who succeeds in re-interpreting arcane design-speak for a wider audience, Garfield is at his best when investigating the personal histories of designers... It is a book that opens our eyes afresh to the jostling array of "armour-plated" "balletic" "nuzzling" typefaces that demand our attention and appreciation... An unexpectedly engrossing read, this is a book that threatens to make font wonks of all of us. (Emma Hagestadt Independent 2011-09-23)

Entertaining feast of fonts for graphic geeks and a humorous insight into the fonts dominating print today. (Times 2011-09-24)

Every so often someone writes a book about an obscure subject and uses it to illuminate the rest of the world... this is one of the best. (William Leith Evening Standard 2011-09-29)

After being walked through these stories, it's difficult to even look at a cereal packet in the same way again... This book won't just turn readers into avid font-spotters; it will also nudge them towards admiring the beauty of a single letter or a well-drawn ampersand. Garfield's... clear, lyrical prose is infectious, and sometimes as though the letters themselves were living things. (Jessica Holland Observer 2011-10-02)

Book Description

Non-fiction Christmas bestseller. Radio 4 Book of the Week

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Rob Sawyer on 3 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a gushing review of this in the DT and was immediately transported back to the late 1970s (1979 I think) when a uni friend of mine gave me his old (c1977-1978) Letraset catalogue (I think I still have it somewhere). I was rather taken aback and impressed by all the different typefaces and even tried to reproduce by hand some Old English names and signs with a Rotring pen (remember those?). Fast forward a few years and there I am doing my final year project surgically removing the lower line of the 'E' because I had run out of 'F's for 'Figure'. So I thought this book would be the sort of minutiae type anal retentive stuff I enjoy reading - and it is!

It could have been such a boring book just talking about some of the more famous 100,000+ typefaces that exist but it isn't - it's a masterpiece. I can't believe that someone could research and write such an excellent book on something that ostensibly is insignificant, and it is only when you read the book the lightbulb comes on and you think how important typefaces, fonts and printing is in your life. This is even truer with the advent of the digital age, as we can easily compare typefaces and fonts on a PC - which is a lot of fun!

I didn't realise (I suppose I should have) just how much effort goes into designing a typeface and the fonts and in a way this book salutes that with its clever (though perhaps obvious) use of the typefaces all the way through - it must have been a nightmare to proof read.

I now know that the delicious typeface on the London Underground is Johnstone Sans and that one of the designers had some very odd sexual leanings!

Also I did find a couple of potential minor errors in the book and wrote to the author who was kind enough to reply - what a good egg (and we agreed that they were minor!).

If you like this type (b'dum tschh) of thing then I can't recommend this book highly enough - it's a real gem.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Kenny Grant on 22 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
As the anarchic cover hints, this isn't a dry history of typopgraphy; the miscellany of stories within build up a picture of font history through a montage of anecdotes. The book uses the lives of typographers, the inspirations for their designs, and the social background to weave a fascinating story.

From the elegant and practical Sabon (first produced for easy typesetting), via the downright criminal Gill Sans (wanted for incest and zoophilia), to the now infamous Comic Sans (wanted for crimes against taste), most of the fonts we use today are touched upon, and a few less well known ones too.

Sadly the fonts we use every day to dress our thoughts often pass unnoticed, and the creators unrewarded - Just my Type lets us know why fonts are so important, and what your choice of font says about the words you have writtten before they have even been read.

There's no neat chronology here, and little to surprise a close student of typography, but as a layperson's introduction to the surprisingly passionate world of typography this book couldn't do better.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy on 18 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
You are looking at it right now, and if it is doing its job, you don't even notice it. It might represent a creation that has taken centuries to come to its current state of perfection, or it might be something that a dedicated specialist worked on for years and brought out a decade ago. It represents artistry directed within a circumscribed realm. I am talking about the font in which these letters are presented. Thirty years ago, fonts were usually the interest of only a select few in the printing world, but now every computer is charged with fonts and everyone gets to be an amateur typographer (technically, the font is a specific set of metal parts, or digital files, that allows reproduction of letters, and a typeface is the design of letters the font allows you to reproduce, but you can see how the words would get used interchangeably). Simon Garfield is not a professional typographer; his role is bringing out fine nonfiction about, say, stamp collecting, history, or the color mauve. But he has an amateur's enthusiasm for fonts, and communicates it infectiously in _Just My Type: A Book About Fonts_ (Profile Books). This is not a collection of type designs, though there are many illustrations. In most cases it won't help you in finding out what font you happen to be looking at (but it will tell you how to do so in surprising ways). It is a book of appreciation for an art that is largely invisible, but is also essential.

I would not like to read pages set in any of the fonts in one of Garfield's last chapters, "The Worst Fonts in the World." On the list is Papyrus, which caused a stir when it was used extensively in the film _Avatar_. The expensive film used a free (and overused) display font, and font fans noticed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Derek on 31 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A quite interesting read, but written in the modern style - nice anecdotes but no coherent chronology and presented in mostly short fragments (though some are rather idiosyncratic and go on for too long!).

Given that the subject matter is visual - fonts, and their use in signs, advertising, record sleeves, etc - the book is poorly illustrated. Sometimes we get an enlarged illustration of the font that is under discussion, more often all we see of the font is in its name, displayed within the text. Perhaps the author belongs to a sect where images of the divine are not permitted, or only through occasional glimpses.
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