Advice please: on useful old books to add to Typophile's library

ebensorkin's picture

Recently Christian Shwartz was mentioning a book here

Called "A selection of types from six centuries in use at the office of Joh. Enschedé en Zonen at Haarlem, Holland, Printed & Issued in the year MDCCCCXXX'

Which got me wondering. What other books might my fellow typophiles recommend that are not hyper-rare or hyper-expensive but which would be good to have while studying type history & especially text text type? For instance, I remember reading that some books set in metal Bembo can be had for a song if the content is of dubious interest now. Any faves in that category? What about Van Dijck's stuff? The reason I ask is I am near some antiquarian book stores in So Cal for just a little while & I would like to make good use of the opportunity! I could just buy things online I guess but this would be more fun.

hrant's picture

The 1978 re-issue of Enschede's "Typefoundries in the
Netherlands from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century".


raph's picture

Books I wouldn't want to be without:

The Typographic Book, by Day and Morison, about $75.

American Proprietary Typefaces, David Pankow, $50 new.

The Solotype Catalog, about $20.

An ATF catalog. I like my 1912 best (about $250), but the '34 or '41 edition is a must-have at around $15-$20 if you can't afford one of the big ones.

A View of Early Typography, by Harry Carter, about $25. Scholarly as well as rich in beautiful specimens. And it's Matthew's dad.

The practice of typography, by de Vinne. Plain Printing Types is about $70.

Typographia, or the Printer's Instructor, by John Johnson, 1824. Roughly $60 for each of the volumes. The extensive (221 pp) section on non-latin scripts alone is well worth the price.

You can get a decent Baskerville edition for around $100.

Hmm, that's a few hundred bucks, maybe more if you go all-out. But I can definitely think of worse ways to blow a grand.

kentlew's picture

In terms of "bang for buck", you might look for Books and Printing: A Treasury for Typophiles edited by Paul A. Bennett, (1951: Cleveland and New York, The World Publishing Co.)

This is a collection of essays on type, typography, and printing. The book was composed in twenty-one different typefaces, including Baskerville, Bell, Bembo, Bodoni Book, Caledonia, Caslon, Centaur, Deepdene, Eldorado, Electra, Emerson, Fairfield . . . the list goes on. (Looks like the composition was both Monotype and Linotype.)

So you get a nice specimen of different faces in use, plus great articles by the likes of Goudy, Dwiggins, Rogers, Rushmore, Morison, Updike, Cleland, Armitage, and many others. Bennett was the head of publicity for Mergenthaler Linotype.

The book is 400+ pp. I think I got my copy for around $10. Shouldn't be too hard to find.

Walter Tracy listed this in his resources in Letters of Credit, which is how I got turned on to it.

-- Kent.

ebensorkin's picture

Thanks for all the examples. This is great!

Christopher Slye's picture

One of my not-so-common favorites is An Atlas of Typeforms by James Sutton & Alan Bartram. For some reason it really fascinated me when I was learning about type. (And I still like looking at it.)

For more reading and less looking, I also like Into Print by John Dreyfus.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I'm a huge fan of the 1923 ATF catalog. You can get it under $100 (shipping included) on eBay, if you wait/shop. Given that it's over 1000 pages, it's a bargain.



Renaissance Man's picture

Printing Types, Vol. 1 & 2 - Updike (Dover)
Beatrice Warde, The Crystal Goblet: Sixteen essays on typography (Sylvan Press)

ebensorkin's picture

Wow. More excellent ideas. Thank you!

I want to see if I can push this idea just bit further or see if perhaps I have a mistken notion here... feel free to take that postion too.

While I was in LA I found a book about some random nonsense printed in 1731. I am still working to figure out what it's printed in. At first I thought Fleischman because of the narrow a and the wild italics. Now I am not so sure. Anyway it was exciting at $60 despite it's printing flaws. It is a rich visual reference. The reason I mention it is that part of what's fun about the book is that the type in it is being used or applied. And you can see the color of it on the page. This seems like a great thing.

So I with that in mind; I was wondering if in addition to the Treasuries, Atlas' & Catalogs -you guys also like to collect books just because they are set in a given face. For instance, ( sorry for the repetition ) is there a classic well printed letterpress edition of something that is known for it's excellent Bembo, or Fleischman, or Caledonia or whatever you are keen on?

kentlew's picture

I have been known to buy books primarily for the typeface, but I rarely acquire a non-type book just for the type itself if there isn't also some non-type interest for me.

For example, it's not hard at all to find decent books set in Caledonia (seems like half the books produced in the U.S. in the 1950s were set in it). But I enjoy nature writing and I have a book, Footnotes on Nature by John Kieran with wood engravings by Nora S. Unwin, that I also enjoy as a great exemplar of Caledonia in everyday use from that period. I bought it partly for the topic and partly for the type and design. It's just an ordinary trade edition, not particularly precious or collectible, nothing too special. But that's exactly how Caledonia was meant to be used, and I love seeing it like that.

I did once pick up a book primarily because it was printed in Ruzicka's Primer (which is much less common). But it was also by Hermann Hesse, an author whose work I admire (although I've never gotten around to reading the whole book -- Beneath the Wheel, a minor work). I definitely would not have bought the book if it wasn't set in Primer (or some other typeface of keen interest). On the other hand, I don't know if I would have bought the book if there wasn't some small additional interest beyond the type.

However, I did once buy a fairly pricey collectible first-edition of essays by Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel, solely because it is a rare example set in Dwiggins's Stuyvesant (which was never released). I've always enjoyed Wallace Stevens's poetry, but these essays are a bit over my head, and I wouldn't have bought the book except for the type. (And I sought it out specifically for that reason.)

-- K.

Susiehuff's picture

Jan Tschichold, The New Typography.

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