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Old 04-28-2006, 01:05 PM   #1
ktinkel
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Default Two new books on type

Besides Helvetica: Homage to Helvetica and InDesign Type: Professional Typography with Adobe InDesign CS2, both mentioned in other threads recently, I have two other interesting new books:

Type: The secret history of letters
by Simon Loxley (ISBN 1-85043-397-6). Traces the history of printing with movable type from the 15th century to the present, in fits and starts (I suspect the chapters began as lectures which are here strung together).

The book is not much about type per se (so there are not many specimens). It is about the role of type and printing in a social, political, and economic context. Biased, as one would expect, toward English history.

It tells the stories of many pivotal characters in the history of type, starting from Gutenberg and the rivals for his fame. And it oddly slights others, such as Frutiger, who is mentioned only twice, briefly: in a quote on the failings of the Lumitype; and in a negative critique of Univers, “the coldest typeface,” with no mention of the face Frutiger or his other work. But there are obviously limits to how much can be crammed into 250 pages.

It is mostly a good read. Not scholarly, for better or worse. Its best virtue is that it fills in the history of type and brings it somewhat up to date, discussing the development (and demise) of Letraset transfer type, Photo-Lettering, ITC, the rise of desktop digital type, and more. I would love to see the topics of the last 70-ish pages expanded (where these topics were covered) into a book of their own, however.

Designing Type by Karen Cheng (ISBN 0-300-11150-9). According to the jacket blurb, this book “discusses issues of structure, optical compensation, and legibility, with special emphasis given to the often overlooked relationships between letters and shapes in a font.” It does all that, for sure, in an attractive but somewhat unwieldy large-format book, with text set in what appears to be 9/12 Univers Light, which is elegant looking but hard to read.

Those cavils aside, this is a useful book. Using a variety of desktop digital fonts as illustrations (and occasional drawings from her students), Karen Cheng shows examples of the construction details of each character of the alphabet, including punctuation, figures, and diacriticals for serif and sans serif typefaces, and explains the “standards” behind the proportions and details in the actual fonts.

She is thorough, even getting into tiny details — a slight tilt to the top of the t in some faces or the height of crossbars of f and t (which might vary). She even tackles the letters I find most vexing to draw, the z and Z.

For spacing advice, she presents a slightly adjusted version of Walter Tracy’s system from Letters of Credit, which is the best starting point I know. And she includes Emil Ruder’s useful spacing text from Typography, a textbook of design.

If you are thinking of designing type or even if you are interested in understanding how type works in text, this book is an excellent reference. Highly recommended.

   
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Old 04-29-2006, 04:44 AM   #2
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Default Book notes with the type font

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
Besides Helvetica: Homage to Helvetica and InDesign Type: Professional Typography with Adobe InDesign CS2, both mentioned in other threads recently, I have two other interesting new books:

Type: The secret history of letters
by Simon Loxley (ISBN 1-85043-397-6). Traces the history of printing with movable type from the 15th century to the present, in fits and starts (I suspect the chapters began as lectures which are here strung together).

The book is not much about type per se (so there are not many specimens). It is about the role of type and printing in a social, political, and economic context. Biased, as one would expect, toward English history.

It tells the stories of many pivotal characters in the history of type, starting from Gutenberg and the rivals for his fame. And it oddly slights others, such as Frutiger, who is mentioned only twice, briefly: in a quote on the failings of the Lumitype; and in a negative critique of Univers, “the coldest typeface,” with no mention of the face Frutiger or his other work. But there are obviously limits to how much can be crammed into 250 pages.

It is mostly a good read. Not scholarly, for better or worse. Its best virtue is that it fills in the history of type and brings it somewhat up to date, discussing the development (and demise) of Letraset transfer type, Photo-Lettering, ITC, the rise of desktop digital type, and more. I would love to see the topics of the last 70-ish pages expanded (where these topics were covered) into a book of their own, however.

Designing Type by Karen Cheng (ISBN 0-300-11150-9). According to the jacket blurb, this book “discusses issues of structure, optical compensation, and legibility, with special emphasis given to the often overlooked relationships between letters and shapes in a font.” It does all that, for sure, in an attractive but somewhat unwieldy large-format book, with text set in what appears to be 9/12 Univers Light, which is elegant looking but hard to read.

Those cavils aside, this is a useful book. Using a variety of desktop digital fonts as illustrations (and occasional drawings from her students), Karen Cheng shows examples of the construction details of each character of the alphabet, including punctuation, figures, and diacriticals for serif and sans serif typefaces, and explains the “standards” behind the proportions and details in the actual fonts.

She is thorough, even getting into tiny details — a slight tilt to the top of the t in some faces or the height of crossbars of f and t (which might vary). She even tackles the letters I find most vexing to draw, the z and Z.

For spacing advice, she presents a slightly adjusted version of Walter Tracy’s system from Letters of Credit, which is the best starting point I know. And she includes Emil Ruder’s useful spacing text from Typography, a textbook of design.

If you are thinking of designing type or even if you are interested in understanding how type works in text, this book is an excellent reference. Highly recommended.
Because of this forum, I have become much more sensitive to noticing type when I read. I notice that some books have a short note somewhere saying what font(s) are used in the book. It would seem to me that books about type should have such a note, but apparently not. Of couse, we can write to the publisher or author, and suggest such a note.

Computer books sometimes tell us that the code is in a monospace font and other conventions, but they don't include which specific font is used. Sometimes they don't explain the fonts, we are just supposed to guess that the Courier examples are going to be how code is presented. Same thing as font books, they could be more specific.
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Old 04-29-2006, 06:02 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by dthomsen8
Because of this forum, I have become much more sensitive to noticing type when I read. I notice that some books have a short note somewhere saying what font(s) are used in the book. It would seem to me that books about type should have such a note, but apparently not.
That note is called a colophon, and it is rarely supplied.

Worse, it is often incorrect.

In the case of the Loxley book, there is a brief note (not a real colophon) on the copyright page: the text is in Monotype Bembo and the display in Futura Bold.

The Cheng book doesn’t say. I decided it was Univers 9/12; but it could be Helvetica or some other typeface — the text was so small and light that I didn’t bother pinning it down.

   
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Old 04-29-2006, 06:19 PM   #4
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Getting back to the topic: Do these books — their content, I mean? — interest anyone besides me?

   
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Old 04-29-2006, 10:27 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ktinkel
Getting back to the topic: Do these books — their content, I mean? — interest anyone besides me?
They do interest me - so do write about such books.

Just a pity I don't have the $$$ atm or I'd run off and get them, too.

   
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Old 04-30-2006, 03:22 AM   #6
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Default Books on type are interesting

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Originally Posted by ktinkel
Getting back to the topic: Do these books — their content, I mean? — interest anyone besides me?
Yes, books on type are interesting to me, but I am unlikely to do more than borrow them from the library or read them at Barnes & Noble or Borders. The Free Library of Philadelphia doesn't get books promptly when they come out, and even then there is a delay in cataloging, so the bookstores are a better way to see the newest books.
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Old 04-30-2006, 12:17 PM   #7
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The Free Library of Philadelphia doesn't get books promptly when they come out, and even then there is a delay in cataloging, so the bookstores are a better way to see the newest books.
Does your library accept recommendations? Perhaps that would encourage them to get books more promptly.

   
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Old 05-01-2006, 03:07 AM   #8
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Default Starving the Libraries and Parks

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Does your library accept recommendations? Perhaps that would encourage them to get books more promptly.
The Free Library of Philadelphia and the Fairmount Park Commission (the park system) have been starved for funds for many years. Funds go to more popular causes, including recreation centers.

Recommendations? Even buying and giving a book to the library won't get it on the shelf, without a personal agreement with the head of the department that they want the book and will actually get it cataloged (a significant delay) and put on the shelf. Otherwise, it is a gift book and it is sold. Sad reality.

Perhaps things are different in Australia. The parks in Sydney and Melbourne were very well maintained. Of course, my visit was over the Australia Day holiday in 2005, so maybe that might affect my impression. I have no way of commenting on the libraries, though.
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Old 05-01-2006, 04:19 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by ktinkel
Getting back to the topic: Do these books — their content, I mean? — interest anyone besides me?
I very much am interested in your reviews, but like others cannot afford to buy all of the books mentioned.

I wonder if there is some way that reviews of this type, by KT and others, could be archived in a place on the site, where we could access them again if and when we get the coin.

(I'm counting on winning the $14 million lottery on Wednesday, and then I'll buy them all ... but in case that doesn't happen, I'd like to see the reviews saved somewhere.)
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Old 05-01-2006, 05:37 AM   #10
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I wonder if there is some way that reviews of this type, by KT and others, could be archived in a place on the site, where we could access them again if and when we get the coin.
In essence, they are archived here, as messages do not scroll. Perhaps we should put “book” in the title — then searching on that word should bring up the lot of them.

I will also post (possibly expanded) versions on my web site, and when that is up will add a link to my sig. May not be too much longer, either. I hope.

   
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