Google Books-- treasure trove!

jlg4104's picture

Nothing beats the real thing, but if you want a look at digitized versions of tons of typography-related books from past centuries, check out Google Books, if you haven't already. Most 20th century stuff remains under copyright protection, and thus a "full view" isn't available. But even as someone who spends a lot of time in online databases, I was pretty astonished at what's available in a full-text version. I wonder if links to a number of books could be assembled into a kind of virtual library for this

shanejlong's picture

I second creating a list!

ebensorkin's picture

Lovely idea! I have been wondering how to take typographic advantage of Google books.

Stephen Coles's picture

Nice tip, Jay. The entire contents of Jan Middendorp's "Dutch Type" is there.

ebensorkin's picture

Some of these old 'lettering' books are pretty sweet.

pattyfab's picture

One thing I've noticed about Google books however is that they tend to scan the covers WAY crooked - see this one for example. I mean, really! Not to mention some of the pages are grey and the contents page is on there three times. Must have had the night shift doing this one.

blank's picture

I started searching through the old typography books a few months ago, but quickly realized that since I'm essentially ignorant about letterpress, much of this old stuff wasn't much help. Hopefully people who know will be able to sift out the good stuff for those of us who can't tell the difference. It hadn't occurred to me to look for lettering stuff, though, so I'll have to look through those.

Access to contemporary European works is great. I've actually cited Google's online edition of Dutch Type in school work, hopefully we'll see more.

Don't forget to try Microsoft's It has books Google doesn't (and vice-versa) and the interface is a little better.

Miss Tiffany's picture

This seems like an amazing resource for those who can't afford the books. A modern day library. I will be adding Google links to the those available in the Typophile Books area.

jlg4104's picture

Yeah, and I noticed the contrast is lousy on a lot of the pages. Not to mention that these are (all, I think) PDFs with each page scanned as an image. So there's no searching once you've downloaded the PDF (Google seems to allow searching the text before its rendered as a PDF on the "client" side), and copying little excerpts isn't really possible. I.e., the scans are rough and "crude." But still a tremendous resource, and you can always print stuff out. My guess is that people either volunteer or are paid very little to do the scanning-- it's got to be a labor of love. I don't think I'd enjoy standing by a scanner with thousands of old pages to scan. At least I assume it's done by hand, unless they have some kind of robots doing it.

ebensorkin's picture

It is by hand I think because on the last page for one book I was reading I saw a finger. A pink little pinky.

I must say being able to search the texts of available books is mighty fine - it takes you right to the page the terms are located on.

The main downside for me has been that many many books are only partly scanned ( or partly available ) - at least for the terms I have searched for anyway.

eliason's picture

According to this New Yorker article, page turning is indeed done by human hands.

jlg4104's picture

Antiqua oder fraktur, anyone?

Wish I could find it in English!

(For those who read German-- it's the whole thing.)

Neat article, BTW. I'm surprised they didn't mention the utopian projects prior to WWII to do the same kind of thing, sort of, with microfilm and notecards. H.G. Wells' wrote of a "world brain" and Paul Otlet and Le Corbusier worked on a sort of total-knowledge museum called the "Mundaneum."

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