- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Particular Books; 1st Edition edition (26 Sept. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 184614647X
- ISBN-13: 978-1846146473
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.6 x 21.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 301,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Shady Characters: Ampersands, Interrobangs and other Typographical Curiosities Hardcover – 26 Sep 2013
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More About the Author
Superb (Mark Forsyth author of The Etymologicon)
Entertaining, informative, a must-read. If ever a book deserved its hardbacked, reverse-embossed, lavishly illustrated, thick white heavy paper incarnation, and a place on an actual bookshelf, it is Shady Characters. (Guardian)
Engaging typographical journeys . . . Houston brings to life a history of ingenuity and imagination (The Times)
Houston brings considerable wit to the 5,000-year-old enigma of how we attempt to communicate our thoughts through visible signs . . . Shady Characters might make you look at books - in print or online - in an entirely new way (Nature)
Shady Characters ventures into the previously untrodden history of punctuation marks . . . scholarly, highly readable (Spectator)
Refreshing . . . the stories he uncovers along the way are fascinating (Telegraph)
About the Author
Keith Houston started writing about the stories behind different marks of punctuation back in 2008 and soon discovered that they wove a fascinating trail across the parallel histories of language and typography. He is the founder of ShadyCharacters.co.uk where he brings these typographic raconteurs into the light of day.
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Top Customer Reviews
Keith Houston's book is about symbols and punctuation and characters that have a past to it and how it is linked to writing in today's times. For instance, it was wonderful to know about the ampersand and how it came to be. Or for that matter, about the pilcrow which is one of the oldest symbols of the world and yet we don't know much about it. Like how the @ symbol came to being way back in 1971 - this anecdote I found most interesting, because it was fascinating to know about the symbol which has become an essential part of our lives.
What Keith skilfully does in these chapters about each character is bring out the past and link it beautifully with the present and the future. The writing (which I thought would be tedious at first) is only enjoyable and full of anecdotes. So there is little chance of the reader getting bored. There are ten characters or symbols spoken of and each one has a unique story to tell. The reader has no time to get bored at any point in the book.
"Shady Characters" is about uniqueness. It is about seeing the unknown and sometimes most taken granted for world. The world of punctuation, symbols and other lovely characters that make up the world of semantics and otherwise just add a little bit of charm.
It's a delightful, meandering journey through the arcana of some typographical punctuation. It's full of wonderful diversions; I didn't know that the librarians at Alexandria were tax-dodgers, for example. Nor that 'there the bee sucks, there suck I' was so troublesome.
It starts with Eric Gill's 'Typography', and his use of the ¶ and continues from there. The biography of Gill starts off seemingly anodyne and bland; but, given the thoroughness of the book, it pulls no punches about Gill's life.
The typography is wonderful, you'll find that it's 'rubricated', and it's rare to find such a well-designed book these days.
Less delightful, sadly, are some of the reproductions of early manuscripts and printed works; these would benefit from contrast improvements and sharpening in a photo-editing program.
That aside, it's a wonderful work, either to read through or just to dip into here and there.
The quality of the paper in this edition is very pleasing but there's just one thing about the book that bothers me about it and, oddly enough, it's the type. There is little to differentiate between the point size used for the chapters and that used for the figure captions; occasionally they almost run into to each other. Also, the glyphs are highlighted in red - which is useful - but in such a delicate font that they sometimes slipped by unnoticed, particularly the asterisks*.
The main problem is with the Kindle edition of this book. The non-standards marks dotted through the text were almost impossible to read on Paperwhite or using the Android app. Also the heavy use of footnotes made navigation rather awkward on those Kindle platforms that don't seem to work well with that kind of thing (I'm lookin at you Android app!).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting read. Some chapters, like the one about @, are a bit dull. But they are balanced by, for example, the history of ¶ which is excellent. Read morePublished 4 months ago by David
Surprisingly interesting book on typography. I found it informative and most entertaining.Published 8 months ago by Daisy W
A hugely enjoyable history of some of the more unusual typographical symbols. Will be of interest to graphic designers and typography geeks.Published 10 months ago by Timothy Gowen
I read a review of this book in the Guardian and thought it sounded interesting and the sort of thing that would appeal to my husband. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Hornbeam