Your favorite type I.D. resources

Mark Simonson's picture

I get asked this once in a while and thought I would share. I'd like to know what the other experts here use, too.

One of my favorite resources is "American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century" by Mac McGrew. It's very comprehensive and easy to use. Another one is the "Encyclopaedia of Type Faces" by Jaspert, Berry and Johnson. It's not as comprehensive or information packed, but it does give release dates and (more importantly) includes most European foundries. These are the two best resources I know of for identifying and getting information about metal typefaces.

For typefaces before the nineteenth century, John Berkely Updikes "Printing Types: Their History and Use" is useful. There seems to be a lack of good reference materials for type in the nineteenth century, except perhaps in printing museums and such. Rob Roy Kelly's "American Wood Type: 1828-1900" is good, but only covers (obviously) wood types.

For more recent typefaces (post-metal), FontShop's "FontBook" is good. It lists all the fonts they carry (thousands and thousands) and includes release dates (original and digital, in the case of revivals). Unfortunately, this is out of print right now. They are working on a new edition which should be out in the near future.

Another one I like is "The Solotype Catalog" by Dan X. Solo. This is especially good for identifying phototypesetting and film fonts from the sixties through the eighties.

Finally, there are some online resources that may be of some help, especially for more recent fonts:

I particularly like using the preview string features of MyFonts and FontShop. FontShop's facility has the added advantage of allowing you to copy the URL and paste it here to share the preview with others. (MyFonts used to have this, but they seem to have dropped it when they introduced the "live preview" feature.) It's very useful to enter your preview text before you start searching so that you can see it set in all the fonts that come up when you do keyword searches and such.

And I mustn't forget Mike Yanega's amazing Script Font Identification Guide:

Anyway, those are a few of my most-used resources. Perhaps once everyone has spilled their beans a summary could be placed in the TypoWiki.

Stephen Coles's picture

Great list Mark. I'd add to Identifont, David Johnson-Davies' Fontscape [ ], which has grown nicely into a very good categorical reference. It's not all-inclusive, but it's helped me more than once.

Also: I am pleased to announce that Mark's fonts are included in the upcoming FontBook, along with several other foundries that were not in the last edition.

Alessandro Segalini's picture

I have this book in Italy, it is very good, seems some copies are still on the market :


timd's picture

Rookledge's International Typefinder is another excellent resource the earmark tables are very useful.

david h's picture

Don't forget "Homage to the Alphabet". I have my own earmark tables - like
Rookledge’s International Typefinder (some little 'problems' with this book: for example see page 92 - where's 292? 294? 296?; and page 93 - 301?)

hrant's picture

I would just add J Sutton's "An Atlas of Typeforms".


bowfinpw's picture

I find myself using the two Indie Fonts books from P22 very often for newer, and especially Techno fonts.

I still have a copy of the old Precision Type Font Reference Guide No.5, which I think can still be found through used book sellers online. The thing I like about this one, even though it is a bit old, is that it shows the complete font in all weights. Sometimes this is the only way to quickly find the Italic character sets, or see a good samples of the heavier weights (This is one of the FontBook's shortcomings, in my opinion).

For all the Art Nouveau era faces that keep resurfacing as type revivals, the Petzendorfer 'Treasury of Art Nouveau Alphabets' by Dover Books has been very handy.

"The Modern Encyclopedia of Typefaces 1960-90" by Lawrence W. Wallis is a good review of primarily text faces from the era of film types, with complete showings and credits. Some of the fonts are no longer seen, and would be nice to see as revivals.

The old Image Club catalogs from it's last independent days (early to mid 1990's) still prove quite useful, as it seems many graphics folks are still using their old Letterpress 5.0 and 6.0 CD's. I have found many 'stumper' ID's in those pages.

Mark already mentioned most of my other main references (thanks for the Script Guide note), and I have all my font Library listed on my Font Book List page

- Mike Yanega

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