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Profile Image for Ken-ichi.
598 reviews563 followers
September 23, 2016
Yes, I seriously read a typographic style manual, but believe me, it was worth it. Not only is this a detailed, informative, and surpassingly witty survey of typography, but it's simply a beautiful book to hold and to read. It's a bit like taking an introductory lesson from a friendly architecture professor, learning about intricacies and critical minutia you had never before considered, and slowly realizing your teacher designed the room, the building, perhaps even the chair you're sitting in, and that the entirety of your surroundings is an expression of the lesson itself. I feel similarly about Tufte's books, except there the classroom is a church, and the professor is a jerk.

I picked this up as a sort of sideways approach to improving my web design (planning on moving on to The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web next). I hope I absorbed a little (because there's a lot to know), but I think the main thing I've learned is a finer appreciation for the discipline. Invisibility is the mark of almost all good design, but good typography is hard to see even when you're looking right at it. Words are hard not to read, but at least now I know to at least try and take a closer look.

Did I mention this book is hilarious? There's this one note on setting ragged text, in which Bringhurst cautions against giving software free reign over "an honest rag." "Unless the measure is excruciatingly narrow," he writes, "you may prefer the greater variations of a hard rag. This means fixed word spaces, no minimum line, no letterspacing, and no hyphenation beyond what is inherent in the text. In a hard rag, hyphenated linebreaks may occur in words like self-consciousness, which are hyphenated anyway, but they cannot occur without manual intervention in words like hyphenation or pseudosophistication, which aren't." The note, of course, is set with a hard rag. I mean, how many ironic involutions can you fit in a paragraph? I guess paragraphs about paragraphs provide extraordinary opportunities.

I'm finding myself increasingly fascinated with (and amused by) expertise in all its forms, and this book is a prime example. Parts of it are akin to reading wine labels that speak of odors and flavors you could never even imagine, let alone recognize in a glass of wine. The specimen section is particularly wine label-like, where Bringhurst analyzes an assortment of notable typefaces. He describes Quadraat as "not pretty; its beauty is deeper and stranger than that" (p. 244). Throw in some talk of ascenders and bicamerality and you've got attributes just as arcane and remarkable as "hay-scented" and "overtones of kumquat."

Some words I learned and will soon forget:

elision (n): an omission, particularly of parts of a word.

helpmeet (n): a helper. (p. 227)
Profile Image for Carlos Scheidegger.
72 reviews17 followers
November 7, 2011
This book convinced me that there is a lot of art in typography. It convinced me that good typography can make a big difference in how good text looks in a page. And it definitely convinced me that Robert Bringhurst is a stellar typographer. But it hasn't convinced me that he can convey this knowledge effectively.

Bringhurst has deep knowledge of typography, and the historical chapter on typefaces alone makes it worth your read. However, in many instances he falls into the trap of confusing tradition with quality, and begs most of the raised questions. The chapter on page proportions, as a concrete example, is pure numerology.

His style is a little florid for my tastes, and I feel like his love of the subject matter got in the way of his exposition.

If you are willing to read past rationalizations and are willing to appreciate just how much someone can love typography, and how it obviously comes through in form and function of this book, I highly recommend it. If you are looking for a guide on specifics, perhaps only a fifth of the book will be of direct use.
Profile Image for Phill Melton.
37 reviews5 followers
March 16, 2013
Sure, it's simply the best book on print typography out there. That's nice, I suppose, but the content of this book pales in comparison to its form. It's a book on book design that serves as its own case study in effective design. There's not a thing about this book as a book I don't love—the design incorporates so many little touches (marginal notes, a lay-flat spine on a paperback, proper paragraph layout, dead-on perfect justification) that it's a joy just to look at it.

Which is good, because you spend a lot of time looking at the book; the content inspires you to do just that, to learn and notice what good design and typography are. Bringhurst has made something close to a Perfect Book, then explained how it was done. Oh, and the section on type designers and foundries is worth the price of admission alone. This may be one of the coolest books I've ever used.
Profile Image for Mila.
694 reviews32 followers
November 13, 2020
I loved this book a lot. I made notes of my favourite paragraphs as I read.

I liked Bringhurst's anthropomorphism of type and I found his cheekiness amusing, for example, in:

3.4.2 Don't use a font you don't need.
"The marriage of type and text requires courtesy to the in-laws, but it does not mean that all of them ought to move in, nor even that all must come to visit."

2.2.3 Don't suffocate the page.
"However empty or full it may be, the page must breathe, and in a book - that is, in a long text fit for the reader to live in - the page must breathe in both directions."

4.1.3 Set titles and openings in a form that contributes to the overall design.
"Narrow row houses flush with the street are found not only in urban slums but in the loveliest of the old Italian hill towns and Mediterranean villages. A page full of letters presents the same possibilities. It can lapse into a typographic slum, or grow into a model of architectural grace, skilled engineering and simple economy. Broad suburban lawns and wide typographical front yards can also be uninspiringly empty or welcoming and graceful. They can display real treasure, including the treasure of empty space, or they can be filled with souvenirs of wishful thinking. Neoclassical birdbaths and effigies of liveried slaves, stable boys and faded pink flamingoes all have counterparts in the typographic world."

4.3.1 If the text includes notes, choose the optimum form.
"If notes are used for subordinate details, it is right that they be set in a smaller size than the main text. But the academic habit of relegating notes to the foot of the page or the end of the book is a mirror of Victorian social and domestic practice, in which the kitchen was kept out of sight and the servants were kept below stairs. If the notes are permitted to more around in the margins -as they were in Renaissance books - they can be present where needed and at the same time enrich the life of the page."

5.4.5 Add punctuation, or preserve it, where it is necessary to meaning.
"The phrase twenty one night stands is ambiguous when written, but if the speaker knows what he means, it will be perfectly clear when spoken. Typography answers to vocal inflection in distinguishing twenty one-night stands from twenty-one nightstands."

"In the careful language of science and poetry, hyphens can be more important still. Consider the following list of names: Douglas-fir, balsam fir, Oregon ash, mountain-ash, redcedar, yellowcedar, Atlas cedar, white pine, yellow pine, blue spruce. All these names are correct as they stand. They would be less so if an eager but ignorant editor, or a typographer obsessed with graphic hygiene, tried to standardize the hyphens. The terms are written differently because some are made from nouns that are only borrowed, others from nouns that are generic. The balsam fir is what it claims to be: a fir; the Douglas-fir is not; it is a separate genus waiting for a proper English name. The Oregon ash, likewise, is an ash, but the mountain-ash is not, etc."

Below are some more of my favourite guidelines and rules:

There was so much food for thought here. He compares "space in typography to time in music" and discusses page proportions as musical intervals. He talks about the Golden Section and the Fibonacci series, and how it relates to page layout - mind boggling.

4.2.2 Use as many levels of headings as you need: no more and no fewer.
I liked that he used text that is meaningful to illustrate his thoughts. It was enjoyable to read the excerpts from Henry David Thoreau's "Life Without Principle" rather than just the "latin" I've come across in other textbooks on typography.

Funnily enough, when I came across true Latin in the "Passages from the Song of Songs" which beautifully illustrates the use of Elevated cap: Castellar 54 pt. and Drop caps: Aldus 42 pt, mortised line by line - I thought it was fake!

"It falls to the typographer to deal with an increasing herd of flicks, squiggles, dashes, dots and ideographs that travel with the alphabet yet never quite belong. The most essential of these marks - period, comma, parenthesis, and the like - are signs of logical pause and intonation, much like the rests and slurs in a musical score. Some, like the dollar and per cent signs, are stylized abbreviations. Others, like the asterisk and the dagger, are silent typographical cross-references. And a few that are normally unspoken have tried to sneak their way into the oral tradition. Speakers who say quote unquote or who slash what or That's it period! are, of course, proving their debt to these para-literary signs." That last sentence is so cheeky!

I never paid it any heed but it makes sense that "analphabetic differ from one face to another", for example on my computer, the asterisk in Times New Roman has a Neoclassical appearance: one with an even number of lobes, each of the six lobes in symmetrical teardrop form; while the asterisk in a twentieth-century neohumanist face (Palatino Linotype) has five asymmetrical lobes showing the trace of the broadnib pen.

I also discovered that the Palatino Linotype Italic ampersand is much prettier than the boring & but I can't reproduce it in this review.

4.5.3 Balance the front and back matter.
"Books are normally built up from gatherings or signatures - printed and folded sheets - with each signature forming a unit of 8, 12, 16, 24 or 32 pages. The 16-page signature is by far the most common. Typographers therefore work to make most of their books seem divinely ordained and conceived to be some multiple of 16 pages in length. Seasoned book typographers recite in their meditations not only the mantra of points and picas - 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 ... - but also the mantra of octavo signatures: 16, 32, 48, 64, 80, 96, 128, 144, 160, 176, 192, 208, 224, 240, 256, 272, 288, 304, 320, 336, 352, 368, 384, 400.... These are the lengths of the books we read."

9.5.1 If the text will be read on the screen, design it for that medium.
"The screen mimics the sky, not the earth. It bombards the eye with light instead of waiting to repay the gift of vision. It is not simultaneously restful and lively, like a field full of flowers, or the face of a thinking human being, or a well-made typographic page. And we read the screen the way we read the sky: in quick sweeps, guessing at the weather from the changing shapes of clouds, or like astronomers, in magnified mall bits, examining details. We look to it for clues and revelations more than wisdom. This makes it an attractive place for advertizing and dogmatizing, but not so good a place for thoughtful text."

Here is an detailed discussion on a wide range of typefaces. It was fun to read the description and visually see what he meant because the typeface was accurately reproduced on the page. I discovered that on my computer the font "Old English Text" is a blackletter font and that "g" is either binocular or monocular.

"Many of the old scribal conventions survive in typesetting today. Titles are still set in large, formal letters; large initials mark the beginnings of chapters or sections; small capitals mark an opening phrase.

The well-made page is now what it was then: a window into history, language and the mind: a map of what is being said and a portrait of the voice that is silently speaking."

In summary, this book is an absolute work of beauty. All of the typographical guidelines that Bringhurst wrote about were strictly adhered to by him and his typesetter. He had to, or he'd never hear the end of it!
Profile Image for Alexander Theofanidis.
1,005 reviews65 followers
September 1, 2023
Ενδιαφέρον αν και λίγο κουραστικό (και να σκεφτείτε ότι προέρχομαι από οικογένεια τυπογράφων), ωστόσο κανείς δε μπορεί να αρνηθεί ότι είναι αναλυτικό και πλήρες. μερικές φορές έχει λίγο πατρναλιστικό χαρακτήρα "μην κάνετε αυτό, κάντε το άλλο", αλλά όλα αυτά είναι δοσμένα καλοπροαίρετα και με αγάπη για το αντικείμενο.
Αν δεν σας ενδιαφέρει η τυπογραφία γενικώς και ειδικώς, μην μπείτε καν στον κόπο.
Profile Image for Darren Goossens.
Author 10 books2 followers
July 19, 2014
This review appeared at a blog. Here.

There's a certain incongruity in writing about The Elements of Typographic Style, a book about how to design books, using my Alphasmart Neo, which gives me five narrow rows of heavily pixelated characters. Except this is not true; it is in fact completely in keeping, because one of Bringhurst's messages is, I think, learn about your tools (where a tool might be a typeface or a page design, as well as a piece of software), use the right ones for the job, and use them well. For producing plain text the Neo is the right tool; it is not the right tool for designing a page or driving tent pegs.

Bringhurst's book is a modern classic and a 'review' is at best redundant, so instead I'll just make a handful of random comments and saying that lots of people should read it.

* In some ways the centre of the book is in this extract:

'The needs of the text should take precedence over the layout of the font, the integrity of the letterforms over the ego of the designer, the artistic sensibility of the designer over the foundry's desire for profit, and the founder's craft over a good deal else.'

Indeed, the first subsection of the first chapter is titled Typography exists to honour content. But how do you recognise the needs of the text and design a page and choose type accordingly? Surely there are essentially three parts to mastery of most things: (1) Being able to physically do it. (2) Being able to tell shit from clay. (3) Knowing what to do about the shit. (I apologise for the crudity, but the idiomatic force is irresistible.)

Sticking to the subject of typography, thanks to computers (1) is now not an issue for most of us. Where once the physical act of setting type was a skill in itself, even apart from getting the subtleties right, now we can get a first pass just by bunging text into a program, whether InDesign or Quark or LaTeX or whatever, and we can get on with (2) and (3). These require an educated eye and a brain that knows a few rules and tools for finding solutions to design issues, and it is here that this book is so very useful.

* The title reminds us of Strunk and White, a prescriptive little book about writing; and the quoted text above contains the word 'should'. Educators can argue about the value of highly prescriptive guides. Do the strangle creativity? Are they even correct? How much of it is purely subjective? A good prescriptive guide should at least give the beginner something sound to start with, and doing what Bringhurst suggests will get you most of the way to a useful, usable result. Deeper mastery will tell you when even Robert Bringhurst should be ignored. It's a bit like Orwell's five rules for writing, which are all definite and clear, and then at the end are followed by 'Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous'.

* For me, the ideal of book design is rather like a comfortable, handsome armchair. On the first meeting it is nice to admire it and appreciate its many good qualities. But its main task is to let me engage with the text. Bringhurst makes this point over and again. The typography serves the text.

* I guess it is one of those arts that only gets noticed when something goes wrong.

* The book is (of course) clearly written; it is almost too easy to read. It is (of course) very well designed, and extremely informative.

* The back cover tells me that Hermann Zapf himself said 'I wish to see this book become the Typographer's Bible.' Who am I to argue? Maybe the typographic Gideons could make sure a copy shows up in the desk drawer of everyone charge with flanging together the office newsletter.

* The book could act as a text for a course, a gift to anyone who likes books as objects, or the beginning of an education for anyone who has to design, well, almost anything -- not just books, and not just working with text.

* I recently read The Form of the Book by Jan Tschichold, an equally, possibly more, prescriptive look at designing books. Bringhurst edited the English translation, as it turns out. The two have much in common, including a pragmatism that grounds them and makes them at once useful and inspiring.

* Page 321 suggests that 360" = 1o; I am pretty sure that should be 3600. I'm sure that will be fixed in version 4.1. Should I email the publisher? No, someone will have told them by now....
Profile Image for Alexey.
17 reviews4 followers
February 12, 2019
A perfect book about books. Astounding attention to details.
Profile Image for Lindy.
118 reviews38 followers
January 18, 2016
The Elements of Typographic Style is pretty much the bible for its field. I read it some time ago (it was first published in 1992) and decided to revisit it recently. Bringhurst writes with clarity, passion and humour. He loves the printed word and celebrates when it is presented with grace and beauty. So do I. The printing museums in Antwerp and Lyon have both enthralled me.

Bringhurst's aim for typographers is to "induce a state of energetic repose which is the ideal condition for reading." He warns of "typographical slums," "hyphens like refugees" and texts like "shrink-wrapped meat." It isn't all about the fonts, either: "Perhaps fifty per cent of the character and integrity of a printed page lies in its letterforms. Much of the other fifty per cent resides in its margins." Yay for white space!

I'll close with a quote about one of my pet peeves when I'm editing: double spaces after a period. "In the nineteenth century, which was a dark and inflationary age in typography and type design, many compositors were encouraged to stuff extra space between sentences. Generations of twentieth-century typists were then taught to do the same, by hitting the spacebar twice after every period. Your typing as well as your typesetting will benefit from unlearning this quaint Victorian habit." To my dear blog readers, may you take note.
Profile Image for Misha Kuzemski.
38 reviews10 followers
January 9, 2017

Це, звісно, не для світського ознайомлення праця, але якщо б Вас часом, леді і джентельмени, зацікавила історія шрифтів, їх створення, їх змісту та власне, ким бачать себе (натхненні, відданні і свідомі типографи), то це ідеальне поєдання цих аспектів. Автор дуже тонко подає типографію, стиль шрифту у роботі, через аналогічні змістовно сенси у музиці, до того ж скурпульозно розкриває найтонші грані філософії функціонування усього різноманіття шрифтів.
23 reviews
July 31, 2018
Five stars, if not out of enjoyment, than for sheer quality. I find it difficult to imagine a text of typography more brimming in style and grace than this one. The font guide at the very end is gorgeous and invaluable.

This one's for anyone with even a bit of interest in the matter. At times accessible or inaccessible, what more could you ask for?
Profile Image for H James.
299 reviews24 followers
May 1, 2018
Aside from some mystical mumbo jumbo about the pseudoscience of golden ratios in page layout, this is a brilliant, succinct, and comprehensive guide to typographical best practices. Skip Chapter 8 and this guide will serve you well.
Profile Image for saraanshauthor.
18 reviews13 followers
April 25, 2023
Do you know there was a time when an author should have good handwriting because typography is just an idealized writing?

This book is so good that I am here to share my experience right after finishing this book.

This is for everyone (artists) - designer, typesetters, publishers, typographers and authors.

I thought I would skim the appendix but this book comes out super informative and interesting that you would not like to miss any piece of facts. However, in between due to cultural differences some readers may feel to skim some terms and then you may regret but again...The author strategizes this book with such intelligence that the appendix actually going to be revision of the chapters (somehow).

I recommend this book to those authors who want to know what is well designed book is called and what it takes. Fresher typographers and designers can expect clarity on the foundation of writing, printing and lettersetting.
26 reviews
May 29, 2021
This is for version 4.3:

Super detailed insights into the topic, easy to understand even for outsiders. I however wished that more things explained in text would come with a visual example (that's a soft critique since there are already plenty of examples and graphical explanations).

Downside of reading this book: facts learned here can hardly been unseen and ignored, so be prepared for the world bad typography around you. Also, never read this while working on a publication or thesis or something or it will ruin your schedule.
Profile Image for Theut.
1,590 reviews33 followers
August 24, 2018
La domanda sembra strana ma... come facciamo a leggere? A districarci in merito al senso del testo, ai dialoghi, alle convenzioni scientifiche, alle lingue straniere (con caratteri non latini), a non soccombere cioè allo stream of consciousness degli autori? Grazie ai tipografi e agli stampatori!
Bellissimo studio, tecnico e affascinante, di Mr Bringhurst che è, tra le altre cose, un tipografo di grande esperienza e perizia.
Profile Image for Yami Ehr.
55 reviews
March 30, 2020
Guau! Es un libro con gran detalle, creo que contiene información súper valiosa y que definitivamente es un “must” cuando se tiene este interés. Creo que es un libro que en lo personal reto mi ñoñez porque quise no sólo leerlo lento hasta que pudiera comprenderlo sino investigar más, ejecutar más y poner en práctica algunas cosas que me inspiraban y me distraían de su lectura. Para mí fue todo un reto personal terminarlo pero acabe satisfecha con el libro y los conocimientos compartidos.
Profile Image for Ben Bowler.
9 reviews4 followers
December 20, 2020
Although this book is from another era it’s surprisingly relevant to the modern day. If you’re building applications or even just writing, this book gives a solid guide to the standard use of typography. Also, I finally learned what an “em” unit is having used it for web design for the last decade.
Profile Image for Akshay Bakshi.
47 reviews
December 21, 2017
I didn’t finish this because it was far more technical and went deeper into the art of type than I feel I will ever need. Almost a textbook for a professional.

However, everything I did read and understand, I loved. The precision and richness of information that goes into setting text on a surface is breathtaking. Glad I know a bit more about it now.
Profile Image for Allen Mueller.
15 reviews
September 28, 2018
As a typography focused designer with a couple of decades of experience, I've taken a few courses in Typography, and I've skimmed a small mountain of attractive, yet essentially worthless "design" books. The problem with books that are meant to educate about design is partially in the way subjective and objective factors are approached. Typography is helpful though, as certain aspects are more concrete than one might think, and this is where Bringhurst shines.

There's a multiverse of stylistic guidelines within the pages of this beautifully typeset book. (I have the paperback edition, and I greatly enjoyed the character of the typesetting and the voice that Mr. Bringhurst writes in.) A large portion of it goes to dealing with typesetting for multi-page volumes primarily composed of text, but there's a lot to learn for any designer who composes letters in a space. Even though my work has never touched on the composition of actual books, I found the section on musical correlations between page, spread dimensions and text block proportions quite fascinating.

Most useful to me was a set of helpful paradigms related to how certain aspects of type can be treated for legibility, thoughts on how to approach kerning and tracking, why one might use all caps vs. lower case type and other such stylistic guidelines. It's been about twelve years since I first read this book, and some of the principles I picked up here are now set deeply in my habits as a designer. Others have even become rules to be broken with glorious results, when the timing is right.

I've noticed some reviewers go right into discussing whether they agree with Bringhurst or not, straight to the subjective matter. The book is called "The Elements of Typographic Style" for a reason. See it as a set of paradigms that should help guide you to more logical solutions in your typesetting. As a designer, your job is to communicate. You will use logic as well as style, rules as well as breaking of rules - and ultimately, science and art are both required to stimulate the mind of your audience. This book is more about the objective factors - though traces of the subjective are impossible to eliminate in the creative world. Appreciate it for what it does best: throwing light on murky areas of design so we can learn what is essential and exert our energies elsewhere. There's not much to read in the design world that offers this.

As to the subjective stuff: quit buying design books. Look to the past. There you'll find the mentor you were searching for.
Profile Image for Abrahamus.
222 reviews5 followers
September 27, 2009
Within a short time after completing my formal education and entering my profession, I became rather painfully aware that my training in the art and craft of typography had been sorely lacking in many respects. There is an incredibly rich history and a fascinating set of accepted principles and rules which govern typography, the skillful use of letterforms and typeset matter which is a very important sub-discipline of graphic design. These were practically occult to me early in my career. I had some vague sense that they were floating around out there and that others were aware of them and made good use of them, but they were as yet undiscovered by me. After I languished for a couple of years or so in this state, a helpful co-worker (eternal thanks, Jade!) recommended this book. My well-worn paperback first edition copy of Bringhurst’s respected manual still sits within easy reach on my shelf and I refer to it – sometimes out of necessity and sometimes out of sheer delight – on probably a weekly basis, at least. I would say that its contribution to my career has been inestimable, though I have by no means begun to exhaust the vast store of knowledge on the subject and am always captivated to learn more.

There are those who will assert that rules have nothing whatever to do with aesthetic enterprises, to which I say Hogwash! Of course I will grant that the rules have to be employed with a rather loose grip and a free hand, especially when it comes to aesthetics. But even one intent upon bending or breaking the rules (which is appropriate and even obligatory from time to time) must understand them thoroughly if it is to be done with thoughtfulness and effectiveness. (This is true, incidentally, with respect to literature, poetry, music and any other art form as much as it is within the visual arts.)

For all its value, Bringhurst’s book is not without its flaws. In my opinion, these have more to do with what is left unsaid than what is said. (Some of the reviews on, while overwhelmingly positive, do highlight this fact. I would particularly Amen! virtually every critique offered by Erik Fleischer.) Hopefully the author can address these in a future edition. That said, I would consider this a must-have book for every graphic designer and a handsome edition to the library of anyone who has even a casual interest in typography.
Profile Image for scoffs, calumnies, etc..
24 reviews4 followers
October 8, 2020
This book owns. I bought it at a Barnes & Noble that was going out of business and I knew nothing about typography at the time but a decade of constantly flipping through it I have extremely strong opinions about typography. This is a technical work but even as a layperson in the field I find it a total joy to read in a way I don't even know how to adequately describe. Like: Bringhurst has the deepest feeling for his craft: it will resonate with anybody who practices any sort of craft from woodworking to music to bike repair and somehow I feel like this book is secondarily (accidentally?) an object lesson in taking every little detail of what you do seriously and approaching your art/craft/work with a level of intensity bordering on the sacred. But it's also just a really good book about type that will have you looking intensely at a little aspect of the world that's seen but rarely uh "observed", if you will.
Profile Image for Matt.
82 reviews25 followers
October 7, 2009
As the title clearly indicates, Bringhurst sets out to do for Typography what Strunk and White’s Elements of Style did for writing: condense the vast array of typographic rules into one thorough reference manual. Of course, the role of typography has vastly expanded over the past century, and the typographic rules for billboards are entirely different from those for websites. Wisely, Bringhurst restricts himself primarily to one form: the book.

Within that field, the Elements does a wonderful job of exploring the minutiae that most normal readers never notice, such as kerning (adjusting the spacing between certain pairs of letters which, if spaced the same as other letters in the font, would read as either too tight or too wide – example: fi) or tracing the histories of various fonts. What makes the book appealing, even to non-specialists, is how the book reveals a hidden language – subtle moves such as how the book designer chose to emphasize certain aspects of the text by the way in which he/she floated the textblock on the page. Indeed, in Bringhurst’s conception, these decisions should go unnoticed – at one point, he summarizes the job of the typographer as “creative non-interference.”

Like any attempt to define out a system, Bringhurst’s may appear to be overly prescriptive to some practitioners. But for the rest of us, the strong views help create a clarifying lens, a new tool with which we can understand another little corner of the world.
Profile Image for Ozan Tortop.
Author 7 books6 followers
January 1, 2019
Best typography book I have read so far. Heaps of tips and tricks, and valuable information about typography and design history. But because it’s a typography book, that’s not a surprise, it supposed to be informative and well designed. What surprised me most was the writing style. Robert Bringhurst basically tickles your brain, shows you how horribly wrong was what you did last week for a design project in a sentence, give you a decent amount of humour without loosing the content. Couple of quotes from the book to give you a basic idea about what kind of humour is that:

“Academic habit of relegating notes to the foot of the page or the end of the book is a mirror of Victorian social and domestic practice, in which the kitchen was kept out of the sight and the servants were kept below stairs.”—Talking about notes section of a book.

“The marriage of type and text requires courtesy to the in-laws, but it does not mean that all of them ought to move in, nor even that all must come to visit.”—Talking typefaces.

“They can also be used (as they often are) to shout at readers, putting them on edge and driving them away; or to destroy the historical integrity of a typeface designed before boldface roman was born; or to create unintentional anachronisms, something like adding a steam engine or fax machine to the stage set for King Lear.”—Talking about bolds and bold italics.
Profile Image for Andrew.
131 reviews14 followers
August 21, 2014
Part Tufte design book, part Chicago Manual of Style, part encyclopedia of fonts. Wonderful book for anyone interested in design.

The book can be read in one of two ways:

1) This book is pretentious! When the author describes a poor choice of margins as abuse of your publication's readers, he is clearly exaggerating the importance of his field.

2) Typography is an old field that, unlike modern UX, which continues to abuse software users with poor application design, has already figured out the rules and can write them down in a neat, orderly way that modern software usability can not yet.

The book includes:
* Rules for how to lay out a page, how to space text, how to kern letters, and what to look for in a font
* Which decisions in the above process are hard-and-fast rules, and which are reasonably left up to artistic discretion
* Historical considerations in font design, particularly with
* Distinctions between print and online publications and how that affects typographical choices
* High concern for glyphs and character sets from a variety of languages
* Details regarding modern electronic font file formats and their implications

Does that sound interesting? Read it!
Profile Image for Michael Arntzenius.
30 reviews4 followers
November 11, 2019
This is a valuable book if you're diving deep into typography, but if you're just starting I'd suggest Butterick's Practical Typography ( It's much shorter while covering much of the same basic territory and has less book-layout-specific advice. Bringhurst's prose style, while enjoyable at times, can grate in large doses. Bringhurst is also not the best at explaining the justifications for particular typographic rules or choices. The chapter on page layout and geometry, in particular, is full of "argument without argument" - Bringhurst likes to use simple ratios and geometric constructions in making book layouts, and while he musters a collection of many true statements that seem related to this habit (eg. the occurrence of the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio, and hexagons in nature; the consonance of simple ratios of pitches in music) they do not actually connect into a reasoned argument that this is a good way to design pages.
Profile Image for MrBM.
12 reviews1 follower
April 12, 2020
Hands down the BEST book about typography I’ve ever read! I might be overselling it since most of the typography books I “read” have more pictures than words. In any case, I waited way too long to read this. I recall seeing it on other designer’s lists of books to read but it always looked a bit stuffy or old-fashioned for my taste. I'm an idiot, what can I tell you—I wish I had read this book 20 years ago. Not only is it a highly-informative book, but his sparse tongue-in-cheek humor really makes it a joy to savor. The cherry-on-top was how much care went into the production of the book—a really elegant, perfectly-sized reference book.
November 13, 2020
Great book for those interested in publishing and typography, which conciliates technical information, historical facts and a wonderful text. It's almost literature – good one. It's not a manual, it's a book concerned with understanding typography as an expressive and eloquent tool that gives life to any text. Really worth reading!
Profile Image for Jennifer Fidler.
23 reviews12 followers
May 22, 2009
little dry (very dry if you're not into typography) but absolutely stunning book.
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