The Visual History of Type

Paul McNeil

Laurence King Publishing / 2017 / 672 pp

Producing a complete printed catalogue of latin-alphabet typefaces would now be an impractically vast undertaking, but Paul McNeil’s substantial survey of around 320 examples, each given a full spread, is both as satisfying a historical summary of styles as one could hope for, and a handsome and useful book. Most of the illustrations are of specimen pages produced when the type was first issued. This has the ad­van­tage of showing accurate reproductions of historic letter­forms and, to some extent, the ways in which manu­fact­urers and designers expected the fonts might be used. Starting with Gutenberg in the 1450s, McNeil’s chron­ology is more granular than the rough arrange­ment of bookmarks shown below, but they give an idea of how much innovative and revived type has been issued in the past century.

Centuries of type

Most typophiles could probably point out deserving type that isn’t represented. They would have trouble making a strong case for omitting any of the faces that have been included.

The Visual History of Type is available to buy online from Laurence King Publishing.