Course reading lists

Posted on 13 October 2011 in:

When I started teaching in 2009, I prepared a two-page list of recommended reading to distribute to my students. Updating this PDF eventually became a minor pain, so I moved 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 are type-centric.

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).

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

Jump to: Type Design, Type History, Typography

Type Design
Carbarga, Leslie, Learn FontLab fast. Los Angeles: Iconoclassics Publishing Co. (2004). Purchase directly from the author.

Carbarga, Leslie, Logo, font and lettering Bible. Cincinnati: How Design Books (2004). Purchase directly from the author.

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

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

Noordzij, Gerrit, The stroke: theory of writing. London: Hyphen Press (2006). 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). 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).

Smeijers, Fred, Type now. London: Hyphen Press (2004).

Tracy, Walter, Letters of credit: a view of type design. Boston: David R. Goodine (1987).

Type History
Blume, Julia; Pané-Farré, Pierre and Smeijers, Fred (ed.): »Vom Buch auf die Straße. Große Schrift im öffentlichen Raum.« Journal der HGB #3. Leipzig: Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (2014). All articles published in German and English.

Burke, Christopher, Active Literature: Jan Tschichold and New Typography. London: Hyphen Press (2008).

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

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

Friedl, Friedrich; Ott, Nicolaus und Stein, Bernard, Typografie: wann, wer, wie. Hagen: Könemann (1998).

Johnston, Edward, Writing and Illuminating and Lettering. Charleston, South Carolina: Nabu Press (2010). This is the most-recent edition; the book has been reprinted numerous times since 1906. The text 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).

Kinross, Robin, Modern Typography. Second edition. London: Hyphen Press (2004).

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

Middendorp, Jan and Spierkermann, Erik, Made with FontFont. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers (2009).

Mosley, James, The Nymph and the Grot: The Revival of the Sanserif Letter. London: Friends of the St Bride Printing Library (1999). 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). 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).

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

Bringhurst, Robert, The elements of typographic style. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks (1992).

Butterick, Matthew, Typography for Lawyers. Houston: James McClure Publishing (2010).

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

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

Gill, Eric, An Essay on Typography. London: Lund Humphries (1988).

Highsmith, Cyrus, Inside Paragraphs. Boston: The Font Bureau, Inc. (2012). Order it from

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

Kapr, Albert und Schiller, Walter, Gestalt und Funktion in der Typografie. Leipzig: VEB Fachbuchverlag 1977.

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

Lupton, Ellen, Thinking with Type. New York: Princeton Architectural Press (2004). Also published in French, German, and Portuguese editions.

Middendorp, Jan, Shaping Text. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers (2012). Also available in a German edition.

Spiekermann, Erik, ÜberSchrift. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2004). 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).

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

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