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Anatomy of a Typeface Paperback – 1 Jan 1991

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: David R. Godine Publisher; New edition edition (1 Jan. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879233338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879233334
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 14.3 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,126,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A true classic for lovers of typefaces
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history and commentary 12 Aug. 2005
By wiredweird - Published on
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.

5.0 out of 5 stars A EDUCATION IN TYPOGRAPHY 19 July 2012
By Joseph L. Breckenridge - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of essays about type and the people who design it is, I think, essential reading for those who care about typography. It may seem a dry subject from the outside, but selecting the right type for a job, and using it in the most effective way possible, is as important to the printed word as color is to design.

As a collection of pieces written over a number of years for Printing Impressions, a trade magazine, it is not a systematic treatment of the subject. However, there are some fascinating stories here as well as useful, practical facts for those who work with type or simply want to understand it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Start with this book 11 April 2013
By jeaniee1953 - Published on
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.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! A Great Book! 19 Mar. 2003
By Vista Bill Raley - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A friend told me about this great book. It is possibly the best book about type and type designers that I have. Alexander Lawson does a superb job telling the history of the designers and the type faces back to the beginning. Excellent illustrated examples of the type faces. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in type and letterforms.
21 of 21 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
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.)
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