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Review: Anatomy of a Typeface 
12th-Oct-2009 09:25 am
Anatomy of a Typeface Anatomy of a Typeface by Alexander S. Lawson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was hoping that this book would literally be an anatomy of a typeface - a look at how the different parts of a typeface fit together to contribute to legibility, beauty, or some other desired characteristic. This is actually more of a roughly chronological history of typeface design. It covers some of what I was looking for, but only in passing in discussing the merits or demerits of particular typefaces. And it is unfortunately written for readers who already know quite a bit about printing and typefounding. Thanks to my school-newspaper production days, I know what kerning and leading are, and I can tell a serif from a sans-serif font. But am I intimately familiar with the differences between a Monotype and a Linotype? Dear reader, I am not. I desperately wished for a glossary, at the very least.

The book was also published in 1990, so while it does discuss the early impact of computers on type design and typesetting, it misses out on recent developments. This isn't a fatal flaw - despite the fact that the author clearly expects the reader to know the difference between hand-set type, Monotype, Linotype, and phototypeset material, this isn't primarily a book about typesetting technology. But it does mean that there is no discussion of typefaces designed specifically for reading on a computer screen. Which is a shame, because I would have liked to see Lawson's opinions of these faces.

Flaws aside, the book is full of interesting information about type and type design, and lots of gorgeous examples of various fonts (Though I wish that the font examples were either specially indicated in the index, or cross-referenced in the text - it's not unusual for a reproduction of a font to appear some pages away from where it is discussed in the text, and I did a lot of flipping through the pages, trying to find that sample of Bodoni so I could see what was wrong with its serifs.) If you are interested in typefaces and printing, it deserves a look.

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