Fire Sale! Everything must go!

Jared Benson's picture

Everyone seems to have their favorite type books. If there was a fire in your home or studio, what five type books from your personal library would you grab on your way out the door?*

Post your top 5 list here.

* So that we're on the same (ahem) page here, it is assumed that you would choose to save yourself and get out of the building rather than sit and perish with your library.

Miss Tiffany's picture


also ... best description word. ergo: typography, type design, history of type, general design

Michael Surtees's picture

1. The Complete Manual of Typography (James Felici)
2. What is a Designer (Norman Potter)
3. Obey the Giant (Rick Poyner)
4. The Art of Looking Sideways (Alan Fletcher)
5. Full Volume of Critique Magazines (1 through 18)

hrant's picture

I don't own any really expensive type/design books, so I'd go for the stuff that's both sentimantally valuable and hard to replace.

Type Foundry in Silhouette, Rudolph Koch

Octavian specimen booklet, Monotype Corp.

Sign and Design, Alfred Kallir

Letters of Credit, Walter Tracy

Haygagan Daradesagner ('78), Henrik Mnatsakanyan


aschmidt's picture

hmm, fun question for mulling over:
<li> typology, type design from the victorian era to the digital age
by steven heller & louise fili </li>
<li> the elements of typographic style by robert bringhurst </li>
<li> how typography works (and why it is important) by fernand baudin
<li> typographica by rick poynor </li>
<li> a view of early typography up to about 1600 by harry carter (although
this i just bought, i would save it)</li>

matha_standun's picture

I'm with Hrant on the sentimental and hard to replace stuff even though, if there was a fire, I don't think I'd have enough time.

If nobody tried to stop me I'd save:

1. My collection of Irish propaganda newspapers
(full of weird and wonderful typographical

2. The Irish Character in Print (EW Lynam)

3. Irish Type Design: A History of Printing
Types in the Irish Character (Dermott McGuinne)

4. T

John Hudson's picture

I'd probably be burned to death standing in front of the bookcase trying to make up my mind. Here are five likely contenters. The first is not specifically a 'type book', but they are all among the most difficult to replace, and hence treasured, items in the Tiro library. None of these are on Amazon, Tiffany, but you could try a title search on ABE.

Wilkins, Charles. A grammar of the Sanskrita language. London, Printed for the author by W. Bulmer and Co. 1808.

Enschede, Charles (with additions by Harry Carter). Typefoundries in the Netherlands, from the 15th to the 19th century. Haarlem. Stichting Museum Enschede. 1978.

Tetterode non-Latin catalogue. (I don't have it with me at the moment, so I'm not sure of the exact title or date. Early 20th century.)

H. Berthold AG. Schriftgiessereien und Messinglinien-Fabriken Aktien-
Berlin, 1924. (The types shown in this important Hebrew specimen are all available in other texts, and in digital format, but so few copies of this book seem to have survived, I'd feel obliged to try to rescue it.)

Scholderer, Victor. Greek Printing Types 1465-1927. London. Trustees of the British Museum. 1927. (One of 650 copies of the original edition, with collotype facsimiles that put all modern printing technologies to shame.)

aschmidt's picture

doh, you'll have to enable my html list in your imagination.. also my last pick gets knocked out in favour of: design writing research, writing on graphic design by ellen lupton & abbott miller

sean's picture

Not necessarily in order

a)The form of the Book - Jan Tschichold
b) The Elements of Typographic Style (hardback edition) - Robert Bringhurst
c) Designing Books - Jost Hochuli, Robin Kinross
d) Grid systems - Josef Müller-Brockmann
f) Bradley His Book - William H. Bradley

tamye's picture

Ou la la, what a question.

Five of my most cherished/oft-consulted essentials, including several that are very difficult to find, and very expensive to obtain.

Bringhurst. Of course.

Stephen Moye's Fontographer: Type by Design

Phil's Photo's Homage to the Alphabet

Rookledge's International Typefinder

Frank Romano's Encyclopedia of Graphic Communications

filip blazek's picture

Top Five Frantisek Muzika, Krasne pismo (Beautiful Typefaces), Prague 1958, 1963 Friedl-Ott-Stein, TYPO, Konemann, Koln 1998 FontFont catalog (the newest) The Hoefler Type Foundry catalog (the newest) Indie Fonts, P-Type 2002

Filip Blazek

porky's picture

An Essay on Typography - Eric Gill
The Elements of Typographic Style - Robert Bringhurst
A Short History of the Printed Word - Warren Chappell

5 books right? Sorry, but I couldnt live on just type books, so:

The Culture of Make Believe - Derek Jensen
The Stars' Tennis Balls - Stephen Fry

Gregory Cadars's picture

Only 3 books, cause I got to save my records too:

"Arts et M

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

1- Industrial design reconsidered (Tom

trae's picture

Thank god my library isn't that big yet...

1 - Typography, An Encyclopedic Survey... (Friedl, Ott and Stein)... probably all I could manage to lug out but well worth it...

2 - Tschichold's The New Typography ... 'cause I'm still reading it

3 - the pre-computers guide, Classic Type Faces and How to Use Them (Biegeleisen) ... I love, love, love this book... he describes each like a fine wine or, or, I don't know. This book is just so much fun.

4 - I've got about four others in my fledgling library but since some are straying from "books only..." well, damnit, is there enough time to rescue the computer? I cringe to think about rebuilding the other library... and maybe the cat, too...

5 - my stash of articles from old issues of Step-by-Step, ABCs of Type...

rcapeto's picture

Hard question. Five is definitely too few. I'd
try to keep my copy of Spencer's Pioneers, if only
because it's printed letterpress, as it should be;
Aicher's typographie, because it's big and crisply
white (no one is looking, so I'll try to sneak Karl
Gerstner's thin kalte Kunst? and Eugen Gomringer's
thin max bill under Aicher's dust jacket (as they
relate only indirectly to typography, that's not too
much cheating); Schmid's brave Typography Today,
for its Japanese-Swiss concision; Wim Crouwel's
Mode en Module, not least because he's signed it;
Robin Kinross's Modern Typography, for it seems
that the new edition will be long in coming. (But
the opposite question would be interesting too:
what books one would gladly leave behind... ;)

ricardo's picture

1-The Elements of Typographic Style - Robert Bringhurst
2- Counterpunch (Fred Smeijers)
3- The Alphabet and the Elements of Lettering (Frederic W. Goudy)
4-The Thames and Hudson Manual of typography (Ruari MacLean)
5- A divina arte negra e o livro portugu

jordy's picture

I guess I have too many books!! But these are used often
Bringhurst - Elements of Typographic Style
Walter Tracy - Letters of Credit
S Carter - Twentieth Century Type Designers
Lawson - Anatomy of a Typeface

and a book I love and hard to find
Jan Tschichold Leben und Werk Des Typographen, printed by letterpress, published in Dresden, 1977, awesome printing and design

oh yes, collected Wallace Stevens - can't live without - oops, 6 books

Jordan Davies

jfp's picture

Hermann Zapf, His design philosophy

John Hudson's picture

The guys whose answer to this question I would really like to know are Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. Together, they must have one of the most extensive and quality collections of type books on the planet, outside of an institution like the St Bride Printing Library, and I'd love to know which ten volumes (yeah, I'd let them take five each) they would try to save.

John Hudson's picture

Speaking of books and fires: there was a fire in our office building last year. It was a small fire, limited to one office, three floors below us, and thankfully it didn't set of the sprinklers on our floor. It did set off the sprinkers on some floors, though, and while the fire itself destroyed very little, the sprinkers caused a huge amount of damage. Now I'm really paranoid, and my bookcases are covered in giant, heavy-duty plastic drop sheets. It looks really weird, like our office is part of a Christo wrapping project, but I sleep easier.

glutton's picture

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Chris Ware)

The Art of Getting Over (Stephen Powers)

Wood Type Alphabets (Rob Roy Kelly)

Stencil Graffiti (Tristan Manco)

Designage (Arnold Schwartzman)

piccic's picture

Not necessarily in order (as Jared Benson, in a fire, I wouldn't take the time to prioritize):

+) A History of Lettering - Nicolete Gray, Phaidon Press Ltd, Oxford, 1986 (ISBN 0-7148-2334-1)

+) Storia della Stampa (A History of Printing) - Piero Trevisani, Editrice Raggio, Roma, 1953 (may be found from antiquarian booksellers)

+) The Alphabetic Labyrinth - Joanna Drucker, Thames and Hudson, London, 1995 (ISBN 0-500-01608-9)

+) L'Encyclop

piccic's picture

Personally I would reach John Hudson when we are in hospital after the fire to photocopy at least part of his five books...

lettertiep's picture


l'effet Gutenberg / Fernand Baudin
(A Belgian book on typography!)
Detailtypografie / Forssman-de Jong,
Grid systems / Müller-Brockmann,
Something from Uitgeverij de Buitenkant (can't decide yet),
my collection of Druk, a magazin about (fontshop)type, edited by Jan Middendorp,
Letters, edited by Evert Bloemsa

see also Nijhof & Lee

hrant's picture

> Letters, edited by Evert Bloemsa

More info on this, please!


lettertiep's picture

hi Hrant,

Letters is a wonderful book, it consists of several (rather practical) articles (mostly in Dutch, some in English) on type, typedesign & typography. Not all articles are new, some already appeared in other books or magazines.
Writers include Robin Kinross (an interview with Gerrit Noordzij), Jan Middendorp, Gerard Unger, Harry Sierman, Martin Majoor, Lucas De Groot, Fred Smeijers... It is published by [Z]oo/Vd, is set in TEFF Renard, and is part of a series on graphic design. It can be bought online at Nijhof and Lee I suppose (more shopping info also on the zoo site)... Nijhof and Lee also have an english description of the book.


hrant's picture

OK, now I remember hearing about it.
Darn, yet another "must-have" book...


Jared Benson's picture

In no apparent order (In a fire, I wouldn't take the time to prioritize):

1. D.B. Updike's Printing Types (2 volumes)
2. 1923 ATF Specimen Book & Catalogue
3. Counterpunch by Fred Smeijers
4. The Typophiles "Left To Their Own Devices" (1938)
5. Carouschka's Tickets

Joe Pemberton's picture

Along with the many of the usuals above I'd add:
20th Century Type Remix by Lewis Blackwell. A
great breakdown of more recent history (well,
20th century).

Typology: Type Design from the Victorian Era
to the Digital Age by Steven Heller and Louise
Fili is also good, but the dense format is crammed
nd therefore is less useful.

Can't forget The FontBook from FontShop.

anonymous's picture

I would add two items:

TypeWise -- by Kit Hinrichs. Was published around 1992, no longer in print, but it's got great examples of his design projects for Pentagram. His style is so clean and functional without looking too much like Swiss Modernism. His work is pretty identifiable but never seems to get dated... unlike a lot of stuff from just a few years ago.

And just for fun:
Bushisms -- Volumes One and Two. Quotes from W. -- no one could make this stuff up. Did you know that American newspapers regularly "clean up" his quotes for publication so they're understandable? And in the process make him look less like a boob? Kind of an interesting ethical issue, disorting news items for the sake of readability.
Anyway, these books have the unedited gibberish that are a hoot.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Include links to amazon (where possible) please ...


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