Thommy Ford Reads

A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library

Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, 1628-1938

Caslon Specimen from 1785

Caslon specimen, 1785

Type (686.224 TYP) is a massive two volume set from Taschen that allows readers to peruse 300 years worth of type specimens.

True to their name, type specimens were created by foundries to promote their wares. They’re kind of like font catalogs. Some were full-fledged books that sampled multiple fonts, others were simply broadsides or chapbooks that sampled a single font. Many of them were truly beautiful examples of printing and design.

Taschen has kept the writing to an absolute minimum here. The books really are a Visual History. Some might be disappointed in the lack of scholarly essays, but I think it’s a great service to the History of the Book to have a chronological visual collection this thorough and this beautiful all in one place.

Wood type specimen from the London foundry of Harrild & Sons, 1906

Wood type specimen from the London foundry of Harrild & Sons, 1906

In fact, the grand historical perspective of both volumes got me thinking about the current font renaissance we’re living in. It might be nice to see a companion volume, or more appropriately a companion website, that collects together the best of contemporary digital font specimens, like the ones you can see at myfonts or

But I suppose that’s beside the point, which is simply that these are beautiful and engaging volumes. Whether you’re interested in the history of type and design, or you’re one of our many fans of books about books, don’t hesitate to stop by the library and browse Type. You’ll probably end up checking it out, and in any case the time you’ll spend poring over the images will not be wasted.

Review by Matthew

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This entry was posted on April 19, 2013 by in Book Review, Non-Fiction.
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