Great Book for Font Developers

Mark Simonson's picture

I was doing some Christmas shopping yesterday and spotted this at the local B&N:

Fonts and Encodings, by Yannis Haralambous.

The French edition has been out for a while, and I was looking forward to an English edition. Apparently, it has been out since September.

This book is really amazing, and a must-have for font developers.

twardoch's picture

Indeed, an excellent book.

A.

ralf h.'s picture

Can you give some examples what you liked about the book? What's in there, that's not in other books?
I stumbled over the book several times, but always hesitated to buy it.

Ralf

Mark Simonson's picture

I've only had the book since yesterday, so I haven't read the whole thing. But, from what I have read and looked at, it appears to be very thorough and lucid. The writing style is engaging with a bit of subtle humor (even sarcasm at times), which can be illuminating in its own way.

What attracted me to this book is the way it gathers a huge amount of information into one place. Sure, you can find all of it (and more) on, for example, Microsoft's, Apple's, and Adobe's websites, but it's nice to have it summed up in one book, and from a (presumably) more objective observer. And if you do need further information, links are included to the relevant documents on the Web.

What other books are comparable?

Mark Simonson's picture

I have noticed a few typos, however: "RoboLab" instead of "RoboFab" on page 442.

blank's picture

I’m buying it just for geek cred. What could possibly be geekier than an O’Reilly book about fonts and encodings?

dezcom's picture

What about "Unicode Explained"? Anyone read that one?

http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/unicode/

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

"writing style is engaging with a bit of subtle humor (even sarcasm at times),"

Sounds like my kind of book and written by a reknown Greek typographer!

ChrisL

david h's picture

> I was doing some Christmas shopping yesterday and spotted this at the local B&N:

Fonts and Encodings, by Yannis Haralambous.

http://www.typophile.com/node/38641

Mark Simonson's picture

I think the Unicode book is geared towards working with and taking advantage of Unicode in documents from a user's perspective.

Mark Simonson's picture

> http://www.typophile.com/node/38641

I missed that thread, and it didn't show up when I did a Typophile search on the author's name. (Should have used Google--d'oh!)

dezcom's picture

Thanks Mark!

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

I missed that thread too, David.

ChrisL

twardoch's picture

Yeah, I also recommend getting the Unicode Explained book. I think many of the non-super-technical font developers and type designers will find there good, concise and practical explanations of not only the Unicode Standard but also many implementation issues around it.

A.

dezcom's picture

Now you made me order "Unicode Explained" too, Adam :-)

ChrisL

Artur Schmal's picture

* adds two more books to the xmas wishlist *

david h's picture

> I missed that thread
> I missed that thread too

That's OK :)

Mark Simonson's picture

Oh, my...

I've noticed one alarmingly serious flaw in the book: Everywhere that code is shown, which is set in monospaced type (Letter Gothic), whenever there is a negative number, only the minus sign is present--no numeral. At first I wasn't sure, but it seems to be consistent throughout the book.

O'Reilly has really messed up. I think they need to pull the copies and issue refunds or something.

(Seems like I saw another book where this happened, but I can't quite remember what it was...)

Mark Simonson's picture

I just sent an errata notice to O'Reilly.

Mark Simonson's picture

(Actually, it's not Letter Gothic, but something similar.)

gthompson's picture

And it's available used through Amazon for less than $56.

George
I felt bad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no Bodoni

Artur Schmal's picture

* takes one book off the xmas wishlist *

Mark Simonson's picture

The book is also missing or unavailable for reading online on O'Reilly's Safari service. Maybe this means they have pulled it and are correcting it (I hope).

It's a real shame because the book is otherwise terrific. I am very reluctant to return it, even in it's current state.

dezcom's picture

My copy should arrive tomorrow from Amazon. I assume O'Reilly will send errata sheets or some such thing to make the code right for us.
ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

The book is about 1000 pages. I found missing number errors on 65 pages. Curiously, the code listings in the TEX sections seem to have been spared.

How could something like this happen? A bug in a formatting script perhaps?

dezcom's picture

Seems like it, Mark. My guess is the minus sign triggered some sort of hidden text function that requires some sort of exception tag.

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

It's the hyphen, actually. So, "utf-8" appears as "utf-" in the book, for example.

Mark Simonson's picture

Kind of ironic considering that the book concerns itself partly with describing the advantages of XML and TEX-based typesetting systems, and such a system was used to produce the book.

dezcom's picture

Kinda like Jim Fixx dieing of a heart attack?

ChrisL

BlueStreak's picture

"Kinda like Jim Fixx dieing of a heart attack?"

Will the old timers please stand and be recognized. That was what, a hundred years ago? I remember the sense of irony well. I guess I thank god for my knees going before my heart.

Thanks Mark for the good and bad news.

dezcom's picture

My knees went too and my heart followed several years later :-)

http://www.halhigdon.com/Articles/Fixx.htm

ChrisL

Thomas Phinney's picture

I can't say how the French edition is, but the English edition is just riddled with errors. Most are typos and the like, but some of the errors are pretty serious. For example, in the introduction it claims that the standard em square is 1024 x 1024 for PostScript fonts, and 4096 x 4096 for TrueType fonts. Of course, the correct values are 1000 x 1000 and 2048 x 2048 - and that difference between 1000 and 1024 is important, because it means that the TrueType norm is not a simply multiple of the Type 1 ("PostScript") norm.

It's a shame, because it is a wonderfully ambitious book and covers an amazing amount of ground. A second edition that corrected the errors could be a truly great book.

Regards,

T

dezcom's picture

My copy arrived last night. I will write to the publisher and see what they say.

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

I wrote to them about the negative number omissions using their online errata form for the book. I also heard back about the lack of an online edition, but no real answer yet, just a note to say the question has been forwarded to the author and publisher. (I thought O'Reilly was the publisher, but I guess it's more complicated than that.)

I can confirm Thomas's comment about the book being "riddled with errors." I'm noticing more little things the more I read it. I can look past the mistakes when I know better, but it makes it hard to trust the information that's new to me.

dezcom's picture

I was hoping to use the book as a reference to fill in my knowledge gaps. There are plenty of cases where I would not know there was an error so this makes me leery of the value in reading it. :-/
The woes of translation are compounded when you need both technical and language skills to proofread the manuscript.

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

I guess until a corrected edition is out, it will be a bit like the Wikipedia. Gloriously deep, but suspect.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I find Wikipedia more reliable. :/

I really wanted to recommend this as a reference for Adobe tech support, but I just can't, yet. I hope for a second edition. I've been accumulating all my little bugs in an email to send to O'Reilly.

Cheers,

T

blank's picture

I knew there was a reason I didn’t put it on my Amazon wish list. That and I would have to actually, you know, design and release fonts to make it useful.

Stephen Coles's picture

Here is Yannis Haralambous' personal site, in case you want to contact him directly about the errors.

dezcom's picture

Thanks, Stewf!

ChrisL

BlueStreak's picture

James said,
"That and I would have to actually, you know, design and release fonts to make it useful."

Actually I was interested in it to find out more about specifying type on websites. Is it only useful for font design? I'm still interested, but at the cost I'm inclined to wait for the next edition.

Mark Simonson's picture

It does have a chapter (about 50 pages) called "Fonts and Web Pages" in which he talks about of using fonts on the Web as well as efforts to expand the range of typefaces available for use on the Web, such as TrueDoc, WEFT, GlyphGate, and SVG.

jselig's picture

I was excited to read this book until I got 1/2 way through the thread.

That said, I'll be holding out until the second edition.

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