Bibliophile's Wonders

Kon's picture

I have some typophile-oriented wonders I would like to share.
So I wonder why:

- Some fine books are out of print for so many years (e.g. "The form of the book" by Tschichold).

- Some limited editions books have no 'cheaper version', so that a non-millionaire could still buy them (e.g. "Pen and Graver" by Zapf). Should we start scanning? I was happy to find the scanned version of Zapf's Manuale Typographicum at

- Some nice videos (like Zapf's tutorial on Calligraphy for Hallmark Cards) are so hard to find. I think videos by great type designers would be really helpful although type design is not so momentary to be captured on film. TypeCulture has a nice sample of such movies at

- Most great books by Verlag Hermann Schmidt Mainz are not translated in English. Of course the german market is big but from what I can tell those books would be a great addition to non German speakers.

dan_reynolds's picture

The Zapf film that Hallmark made in the 1960s is still property of Hallmark. They hold the copyright to it, and handle its distribution, since it is their property. Linotype has a license to bundle the film on the Zapfino Extra CD. So, if you license Zapfino Extra, and order it via CD instead on download, you get this great film. But Linotype cannot distribute the film through other means; neither can anyone else that I know of, except Hallmark.

Some Verlag Hermann Schmidt books are translated into English; some are translations of books that first appeared in English. I've spoken with one of the publishing house's authors. He told me that, in order for the books to be translated, a foreign publishing house has to sign on, produce the books, and take over distribution. If you want a specific Verlag Hermann Schmidt book translated, you need to convince the author that it should be translated in the first place, then find a publishing house to publish the book in that country, and then you need to find someone to pay for the translation and the redesign.

rs_donsata's picture

Great links.


crossgrove's picture

Try searching for Pen and Graver (or Feder und Stichel) at ABEbooks. You might be surprised.

xensen's picture

Books go and stay out of print because they are not profitable to the publisher. In the U.S., the trade bookstore discount off the retail price averages between 40 and 50 percent, depending on volume (usually it's closer to 50). Of the remaining 50 percent a distribution house (or the cost of internal distribution) costs about another 25%. If an author or copyright holder is involved royalties are likely to run another 8-15 percent. The publisher is also charged for hurts and for returns. Unsold inventory is taxed as an asset but the publisher must pay to warehouse it. Marketing and editorial fees take another slice of the pie. Distribution is a crap shoot -- if too many books get into stores the publisher will be killed with returns (at times returns have averaged more than thirty percent), if not enough get into stores (which is likely, failing some compelling hook) the book will not reach its potential purchasers. Once in stores the sell-through is problematic. The publicity outlets of tv, radio, newspapers, etc., are mostly owned by the same seven or eight international entertainment corporations that control 90% of U.S. trade publishing (and put most of their resources into the top few titles). The whole industry is geared to new titles, not backlist or reprints, which will get no reviews; potential readers will not know they exist. Most books have just a couple of months in stores before they are returned to publishers, and without publicity timed to that window they are dead in the water. Bookstores won't reorder a slagging title and reps won't push it. Costs are up front, payment is made on a percentage schedule across many months.

That's why many fine typographical books are out of print.

Kon's picture

Thanks for your replies.

[dan_reynolds] I didn't know that about Zapf's video. I guess I will grab it soon.

[crossgrove] Yes, almost all books are available but at such high prices. I would be satisfied with a facsimile of "Pen and Graver"

[xensen] I would not mind them being out of print. I just can't find them in good prices. So I guess they printed really few books. I think some publishers print really few and they know it will go out of print. But I don't know much about the book business.

Syndicate content Syndicate content