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Book Review: The Anatomy Of Type: A Graphic Guide To 100 Typefaces
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The Anatomy Of TypeThe Anatomy Of Type
A Graphic Guide To 100 Typefaces
Hardcover | Kindle Edition
Written by Stephen Coles
Harper Design
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Cover Price: $25.99

I love minutia. It’s a fact, I’ll never deny it. Digging into the history of not just what we write but also how we write really intrigues me. So much so that this isn’t my first review of a book that deals with this subject matter. But whereas my first review was really more of a historic journey through the changes that fonts have undergone, this one is a visual guide that truly explains the differences and presents examples of why and how that particular typeface should be used. The Anatomy Of Type: A Graphic Guide To 100 Typefaces is definitely a handy, not-so-little book to have around.

Most people take them for granted. They neither know nor care how this font or that font came into being. Well, this book isn’t for them. It’s for me…well, me and people like me (I know it’s frightening to believe there are others similar to myself, but there are…we are legion). Yep, it’s for every introvert and bibliophile who loves books for more than the words on the page. Of course, it might be for you, too. That’s really up to you, isn’t it? Not sure if it’s right for you? Then allow me a moment to convince you.

First off, a font is a collection of glyphs. You might be familiar with the word hieroglyph, this is not dissimilar but a glyph is a character where the hieroglyph usually portrayed a word or set of words. On the flip side, when I see the word glyph I think of Dungeons & Dragons, magical glyphs (symbols) were used to ward off intruders and used as traps. Don’t look at me like that, you knew I was a geek. You are reading this on the Geeks of Doom website, aren’t you?

So anyway, these fonts are used to deliver the typeface. To quote author Stephen Coles here: “In simple terms, the typeface is what you see and the font is what you use.” Sounds a bit confusing at first but you’ll get the hang of it. These typefaces have multiplied over the years (and centuries), different printers developing their own as needed. And in recent decades we have seen a revival of many older sets. This is thanks in no small part to the usage of personal computers. The average person never knew there were so many varieties available…until they opened up a program to create a document.

This book is a breakdown of all the nuances that make up each typeface and what makes them so different. From aperture to swash to weight, each attribute is notated and explained. Sure, there’s a bit of history to each one, but the majority of the book is meant to decipher the individualistic qualities of each and, on occasion, how they compare to others that are similar. It’s a more technical than the vast majority of books, but that is what makes it so unique.

I’m sure that if you know anyone in the visual arts, they would appreciate this. It’s packed with information that has forced me to reassess my usual choices when writing. Additionally, it’s nice to know the difference between each style. I honestly don’t know if I could have seen the variances between a few of them had I not been shown what to observe. Poke through this when you see it in the reference section, you might find a deeper appreciation for how your favorite books are displayed on paper or screen.


  1. Some typography in my Geeks of Doom? Yes please!

    Comment by Nick Zakhar — July 1, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

  2. Hope you liked it!

    Comment by Waerloga69 — July 5, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

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