Book Review: "The Elements of Typographic Style" by Robert Bringhurst

September 8, 2008

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert BringhurstI’ve read this twice now, and twice I have thought it amazing that there are people who have not heard about this book. I suppose this is because I am buried in my own perspective: former college graphic design major and current amateur letterpress printer.

The re-read was prompted by my recent work of rehabilitating my old Chandler & Price press, and trying to learn everything about this elegant art. Bringhurst’s brilliant book is both reference and narrative, something to keep at hand when setting type and trying to remember average letters per 20-pica line in 10-point fonts, but also something to curl up with. What a peculiar balance!

Bringhurst isn’t just a type expert; he’s also a poet. As such, the tone is master-crafted and evocative. He speaks of motion and negative space and the moods of the printed word. All this while dosing you with history and the occasional barbed interjection (Mr. Bringhurst is not a fan of Helvetica or Cheltenham, for example).

The first half a dozen chapters focus on type in a pan-technological study. The foundations laid here are relevant both to setting type by hand as well as kerning in Adobe Illustrator. Then there are a few chapters on layout–which manage to integrate proportion, mathematics, musical harmonies, the Golden Mean and a certain amount of mysticism and reverence. Toward the end of the book, there is more detail on digital typography (which I must admit I skimmed because of my current focus).

If you do anything with type, read this book. It is required.


LibraryThing Tags:

read, printing, letterpress, design, reread, printing, layout, readin2008, nonfiction, reference

As always, see all of my reviews on LibraryThing.

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