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3.8 out of 5 stars
An Essay on Typography (Penguin Modern Classics)
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on 24 May 2015
A nice little artefact as well as an engaging read. The cover font (in Gill Sans-the typeface inspired by Johnston's iconic London Underground font) and that of the body text (Gill's other typeface, Joanna), along with the well-justified paragraphs, make a neat, attractive container for Gill's discussion about the value of handmade arts and crafts, the machine-made goods that gradually edged them out, and the advantages and inconveniences of both approaches.
Inviting the reader to think about beauty, craftsmanship and factory manufacturing, the development of typefaces and styles, why children should be taught shorthand and phonography to improve handwriting and the limits that impose themselves on the creativity of the assembly-line worker and the lone artist or artisan, the Essay makes an interesting if dated argument for the moral virtues of craftsmanship and the DIY ethic that Gill espoused elsewhere.
An interesting little work; students and professionals in graphic design, as well as the simply curious will find this an engaging book.
It's a strange artifact, in that for a work on typography, there are multiple errors and inconsistencies, more ironic that annoying.
-I wonder if this was deliberate, but the chapter entitled 'The Procrustean Bed' which is about justified lines, has two pages of perfectly justified text and then the remainder of the pages displaying a ragged right-hand edge.
-multiple lone, out-of-place letters on a single line at the bottom of a page
They in no way detract from the content; i just found them to reinforce Gill's opinions on type and a reminder to the reader as to the natural imperfections of the Humane approach and the mechanical results and methods of Industry, each producing its own work and its own shortcomings.
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on 24 November 2014
Great book, amazing content. Lots and lots of interesting stuff you usually take for granted. Unfortunately I’ve found myself cringing over some of the type set in this book. It’s rather ironic that a book about typography has so many typography and editorial errors. Some hyphens dividing words mid-line, possibly because the layout was changed overtime and the previously hand divided word skipped to the next line or something similar. A random single line with the character “g” at page 80, sometimes pilcrows mark the start of a paragraph with the addition of a new line, some others they don’t — as used in an old style book — and details like those look quite uncared for. I know of most of Eric Giil’s mannerisms such as using “tho’” and the ampersand a lot even when not necessary but some are just plain careless.
I found it quite annoying, albeit an extremely good content.
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on 23 November 2017
I had to buy this for graphic design class. It is pretty good, although I could not understand it most of the time
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on 19 April 2014
Although this essay is nominally about Typography, it is underneath an elegant and concise discourse on the hand-made product in a time of mass production. Written in 1931, before the machine had totally taken over all production, when the term hand-made meant something (and something expensive), Gill's words now take on an elegiac feel. Even so, he makes valuable distinctions between the business of manufacturing anything and the pleasure of making something.
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on 17 March 2014
An excellent essay: some marvellous quotations and illustrations. For fans of type, primarily, though there are also some good barbed comments buried in there. Short, pithy - easily read.
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on 27 January 2015
Leaving aside the dreadful reputation of the man, the book is very light on useful typographic guidance, and long on subjective rambling.
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on 29 September 2014
Great book
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on 14 September 2014
This is a marvelous book. Gill writes with arrogance, but also flashes of humour. This book - rightly described as a manifesto - is extremely interesting, not only from his views of the separation of concerns between production and artistry, but also from the sheer p a s s i o n the man has for typography.

It comes through - and is full of interesting tidbits (did you know the "g" you are reading is actually an italic g?). I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book at all, I picked it up in small bookstore in Santorini but am extremely impressed by its content.

Give it a whirl. I've read that Gill himself wasn't exactly a aspirational figure on a personal level, but the information in this book, and the force with which it is explored make it a must read, beyond the man himself.
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on 16 December 2013
If only for his eponymous typeface Gill, he will always be a hero. However this book is tedious in the extreme and hopelessly dated. I'd forgotten how bigotted and narrow his views were. Also it is now impossible to ignore aspects of his private life, of which I was unaware of when I first studied him at art school in the 1960s. Best left to the dust of history.
6 people found this helpful
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