Course reading lists

Next week, three classes of mine will begin. Over the last couple of years, I’ve handed out a two-page list of books I recommend to students, or e-mailed a PDF around. Updating these has always been a minor pain, so I am moving the lists online.

This post isn’t a definitive list of books on the typographic subjects; it is not as good or as complete as longer lists I’ve seen compiled by Gerry Leonidas or James Mosley, for instance. I like my list a little better than Type Library’s list; but mainly because, well, this is my list. I recommend the series of book lists at Typefacts, too. There aren’t any general graphic design texts below, though, as my course offerings at the moment are rather specific.

I teach in Germany and expect all of my students read both English and German at a high level. There is no preference toward one language or another on my list. If a title has been translated from English into German, I try to mention both editions. On occasion, I have students who can also read Dutch, French, Russian, or other languages; there are excellent resources available in these, but I cannot read them (yet). is not currently involved in any affiliate programs, over Amazon or otherwise. Links to are listed as a convenience; feel free to purchase books wherever you like. For my own shopping, I search for out-of-print books via If you live within travelling-distance of Berlin, I recommend purchasing books from the Mota Italic Gallery & Boutique, on Schliemannstraße 34 in Prenzlauer-Berg; you can also place orders via their online shop. Several of these books will be available in your university libraries, too.

There are books that I do not find particularly good, of course, and these books are not on my list. However, lack of inclusion on this list is not per se the opposite of an endorsement.

My list will be updated and expanded from time to time. This is version 3, from December 27, 2012.

Jump to: Type Design, Type History, Typography

Type Design
Carbarga, Leslie, Learn FontLab fast. Los Angeles: Iconoclassics Publishing Co. (2004). price: currently not available; purchase directly from the author.

Carbarga, Leslie, Logo, font and lettering Bible. Cincinnati: How Design Books (2004). price: currently not available; purchase directly from the author.

Lawson, Alexander, Anatomy of a Typeface. Jaffrey, New Hampshire: David R. Goodine (1990). price: €19.99.

Noordzij, Gerrit, Letterletter. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks (2000). price: €21.99.

Noordzij, Gerrit, The stroke: theory of writing. London: Hyphen Press (2006). price: €20.15. Also available in Dutch and French editions, from other publishers.

Osterer, Heidrun und Stamm, Philipp (Hrsg.), Adrian Frutiger Schriften. Das Gesamtwerk. Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag (2008). price: €104.95. Also available in English and French editions.

Smeijers, Fred, Counterpunch: Making type in the 16th century, designing typefaces now. Second edition. London: Hyphen Press (2011). price: €26.10.

Smeijers, Fred, Type now. London: Hyphen Press (2004). price: currently not available.

Tracy, Walter, Letters of credit: a view of type design. Boston: David R. Goodine (1987). price: currently not available.

Type History
Burke, Christopher, Active Literature: Jan Tschichold and New Typography. London: Hyphen Press (2008). price: €46.99.

Burke, Christopher, Paul Renner: The Art of Typography. London: Hyphen Press (2008). price: €19.99.

Carter, Harry, A View of Early Typography Up To About 1600. London: Hyphen Press (2002). price: €19.99.

Friedl, Friedrich; Ott, Nicolaus und Stein, Bernard, Typografie: wann, wer, wie. Hagen: Könemann (1998). price: currently not available. This bok is tri-lingual; all texts are printed in English, French, and German.

Johnston, Edward, Writing and Illuminating and Lettering. Charleston, South Carolina: Nabu Press (2010). price: €32.99. This is the most-recent edition; the book has been reprinted several times since 1906. The book was translated into German by Anna Simons in 1910 as Schreibschrift, Zierschrift und angewandte Schrift, which is also available in multiple editions.

Kapr, Albert, Fraktur: Form und Geschichte der gebrochenen Schriften. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (1993). price: €34.80.

Kinross, Robin, Modern Typography. London: Hyphen Press (2004). price: currently not available.

Malsy, Victor und Müller, Lars (Hrsg.), Helvetica Forever: Geschichte einer Schrift. Baden: Lars Müller Publishers (2007). price: €30.00. Also available in English and Japanese editions.

Middendorp, Jan and Spierkermann, Erik, Made with FontFont. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers (2009). price: currently not available.

Mosley, James, The Nymph and the Grot: The Revival of the Sanserif Letter. London: Friends of the St Bride Printing Library (1999). price: currently not available; purchase directly from the St Bride library.

Staub, Kurt Hans und Zimmermann, Erich, Bücher als Kunstwerke. Kostbare Handschriften und Pressendrucke aus der Hessischen Landes und Hochschulbibliothek Darmstadt. Darmstadt: Lehrdruckerei der TH Darmstadt (1982). price: currently not available. This book may be purchased directly in the TU Darmstadt library. Of all the books on my list, this is the only title that’s really school-specific. While it is a lovely book, it doesn’t pack the heavyweight good-for-every-typography-student-out-there punch that all of my other recommendations do. Really, this book is on my list because my Hochschule Darmstadt students don’t spend enough time in the library. This book is an aide to resources that are literally available at their doorstep.

Tschichold, Ivan, Elementare Typografie. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (1986). price: currently not available.

VanderLans, Rudy, Emigre No. 70 – The Look Back Issue. Berkeley: Gingko Press (2009). price: €42.07.

Bringhurst, Robert, The elements of typographic style. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks (1992). price: currently not available.

Butterick, Matthew, Typography for Lawyers. Houston: James McClure Publishing (2010). price: currently not available.

Forssman, Friedrich and de Jong, Ralf, Detailtypografie. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2004). price: €98.00.

Forssman, Friedrich und Willberg, Hans Peter, Lesetypografie. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2005). price: €39.80.

Gill, Eric, An Essay on Typography. London: Lund Humphries (1988). price: currently not available.

Highsmith, Cyrus, Inside Paragraphs. Boston: The Font Bureau, Inc. (2012). price: currently not available – but you can order it directly over its dedicated website

Hochuli, Jost, Das Detail in der Typografie. Sulgen, Schweiz: Niggli (2005). price: €18.00. Also available in English, from other publishers.

Kapr, Albert und Schiller, Walter, Gestalt und Funktion in der Typografie. Leipzig: VEB Fachbuchverlag 1977. price: currently not available.

Kupferschmid, Indra, Buchstaben kommen selten allein. Sulgen, Schweiz: Niggli (2004). price: €34.00.

Lupton, Ellen, Mit Schrift denken. New York: Princeton Architectural Press (2007). price: currently not available. Originally published in English as Thinking with type. Also published in French and Portuguese editions.

Middendorp, Jan, Shaping Text. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers (2012). price: €21.95.

Spiekermann, Erik, ÜberSchrift. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2004). price: currently not available. Originally published in English as Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works.

Willberg, Hans Peter, Erste Hilfe in Typografie. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (1999). price: €12.80.

Willberg, Hans Peter, et al, Schriften erkennen. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2003). price: €12.80.

Willberg, Hans Peter, Wegweiser Schrift. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2001). price: €12.80.


  1. Great to have these kinds of lists online. Thanks!

    Have you read, and if you have, did you like this book by Weingart?

  2. I’m a big fan of Weingart’s work, Ingrid, and I have read that book – although I don’t have a copy of my own yet. I really enjoyed it, although the typeface’s point size is really massively huge.

  3. Good for those who have gone half-blind from squinting while kerning 😛

  4. […] Dieses mal sind es eigentlich sogar zwei Kurse, dank Überfüllung! Dazu hat er auf seinem Blog TypeOff eine Leseliste zu den Themen Schriftgestaltung und Schriftgeschichte und Typografie allgemein […]

  5. […] Dan Reynolds teaches typography and type design in Germany. He graduated from the afore-mentioned Reading University and is as well-read as anyone I know. His recommendations are grouped by Type Design, Type History, and Typography. […]

  6. Sorry to be so nitpicky, but Helvetica Forever is published in German, English and Japanese only, no French. (Victory Malsy’s last name is spelled without e.) (And if you want to go fully extensive you could include the authors alongside the editors, too :)

  7. @Indra

    Fixed! Except for the authors bit on Helvetica Forever. I’m going to leave just the editorial credits there.

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