February 23 , 2011


The Secret History of Letters


Type is the bridge between writer and reader, between thought and understanding. Type is the message bearer: an art-form that impinges upon every literate being and yet for most of its history it has conformed to the old adage that ‘good typography should be invisible’, it should not distract with its own personality. It was only at the end of the nineteenth century that designers slowly realised that they could say as much with their lettering as writers could with their words. Form, of course, carries as much meaning as content. Now, anyone within reach of a computer and its limitless database of fonts has the same power. Type: The Secret History of Letters tells its story for the first time, treating typography as a hidden measure of our history. From the tempestuous debate about its beginnings in the fifteenth century, to the invention of our most contemporary lettering, Simon Loxley, with the skill of a novelist, tells of the people and events behind our letters. How did Johann Gutenberg, in late 1438, come to think of printing? Does Baskerville have anything to do with Sherlock Holmes? Why did the Nazis re-invent Blackletter? What is a Zapf? Type is a guide through the history of our letters and a study of their power. From fashion through propaganda and the development of mass literacy, Loxley shows how typography has changed our world. ‘Simon Loxley's quirkily elegant Type follows hard on the heels of Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It is better designed and typeset than that unlikely bestseller, and its subject, type, is central to the experience of every reader… A heady mixture of intrigue, personal achievement and corporate greed’ Justin Howes, Times Literary Supplement ‘Simon Loxley reads between the lines in Type… underscoring the passion and ambition of its designers and highlighting the role that business and technological breakthroughs have had in the way we print and read today’ History Today
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