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. Even online list require updating, though. The following list is now version 5, from July 5, 2017.
What follows is not a definitive list of books on the typographic subjects; it is certainly not as good – or as complete – as longer, better lists that I’ve seen, such as those compiled by Gerry Leonidas or James Mosley. If you are looking for other lists, I can recommend the article on a typographic canon published years ago by Christoph Koeberlin.
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. My list does not include a section for general graphic design texts, since most of my course offerings are type-centric.
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
Carbarga, Leslie, Learn FontLab fast. Los Angeles: Iconoclassics Publishing Co. (2004).
Carbarga, Leslie, Logo, font and lettering Bible. Cincinnati: How Design Books (2004).
Flor, Martina, Lust auf Lettering: Ein praxiserprobter Workshop in zehn Schritten. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2016). Also available in English and Spanish editions, from other publishers.
Henestrosa, Cristóbal and Laura Meseguer and José Scaglione, How to create typefaces: From sketch to screen. Madrid: Tipo e (2017). Originally published in three Spanish-language editions as Cómo crear tipografías, del boceto a la pantalla.
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 and Philipp Stamm (ed.), 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).
Blume, Julia and Pierre Pané-Farré and Fred Smeijers (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 and Nicolaus Ott and Bernard Stein, Typografie: wann, wer, wie. Hagen: Könemann (1998).
Johnston, Edward, Writing and Illuminating and Lettering. London: Pitman & Sons (1906). This has reprinted many times over the past century. The book’s most-recent edition, published in 2016 by D&B Books in London, introduces a radically-different layout. Johnston’s text was translated into German by Anna Simons and published in 1910 as Schreibschrift, Zierschrift und angewandte Schrift. This 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 and Lars Müller (ed.), Helvetica Forever: Geschichte einer Schrift. Baden: Lars Müller Publishers (2007). Also available in Chinese, English, and Japanese editions, from other publishers.
Middendorp, Jan and Erik Spierkermann, 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).
Staub, Kurt Hans and Erich Zimmermann, 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 Ralf de Jong, Detailtypografie. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt (2004).
Forssman, Friedrich and Hans Peter Willberg, 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). Also available in Japanese, from another publisher.
Hochuli, Jost, Das Detail in der Typografie. Sulgen, Schweiz: Niggli (2005). Also available in English, from other publishers.
Kapr, Albert and Walter Schiller, 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).