Just My Type: a Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield
“…the book typographer’s job was building a window between the reader inside a room and that landscape which is the author’s words. He may put up a stained glass window of marvelous beauty, but a failure as a window; that is he may use some rich superb type like text gothic that is something to look at, not through.”
What’s your sort? All of a sudden, everybody’s fixated on fonts.
Not being really a monogamous sort means being routinely drawn to various sorts. In some cases, with enormous bowls. We can certainly be partial to zaftig with soft, stunning edges, but in some cases we may incline toward something more preservationist, upright, common. Sometimes different, thin even, perhaps with sharp edges.
One of the great joys to be had in reading is to learn something new about some aspect of life that has been before your eyes all along. Walking down a street with no fonts on display might lead one to suspect an involuntary transport to an unintended time and location, say Soviet-era Moscow, or worse, Siberia (and yes, there is a font called Siberian, a unicase, sans-serif). But almost all of us, today, are surrounded by fonts. Simon Garfield has certainly touched many, particularly in the GR community, with his work. We all do love to read and are probably more susceptible to the attraction of beauty, utility, and charm in fonts than most. Yeah, we bad. But not only are fonts significant in the books, magazines, newspapers, and web-sites we read, they command our attention as we walk down the street, step into an elevator, check the time, unwrap our breakfast, decide what faucet to twist when washing our hands, and they call to us from the labels on our clothing, whether obnoxiously plastered on the outside or applied more decently in the inside of our clothes. They are on traffic lights, highway signs, airport directives, and on the sides of police, fire and emergency vehicles. And they have, of course, been around in different time periods. Fonts do seem to capture elements of the zeitgeist.
“These days, digitization enables us to view the copies [of the Gutenberg Bible] online without the need for a trip to Euston Road, although to do so would be to deny oneself one of the great pleasures in life. The first book ever printed in Europe – heavy, luxurious, pungent, and creaky – does not read particularly well on an iPhone.”
For the individuals who may just know about Gutenberg from the project named after him, it was amazing to discover that he was a metal forger before he envisioned the printing press. Working with liquid metal certainly relates. Garfield offers us an impressive cast of characters, and one may state they were all sort cast. Or, then again that they involved a cast to kill for. They were in charge of what words look like. Gill Sans, for instance was made by Eric Gill. Mr. Sans is unaccounted for. Matthew Carter, the originator of Bitstream, designed Verdana, among numerous others. John Baskerville outlined the text style that was named for him, yet there was no nod from his canine. There truly is a person named Bodoni out there, first name, Giambattista. What’s more, on it goes. Some of these stories are more intriguing than others. There will be another that may get your attention. There is consideration given to the advancement of textual styles in different nations, most eminently Switzerland, Germany, France, and England. Maybe the most amazing name in the book has a place with a printer from the 1500s. Wynkun de Worde, the main Fleet Street printer, utilized typefaces, a major innovation at the time.
“Most people take the way words look for granted … Words are there to be read – end of story. Once typomania sets in, however, it becomes quite a different story.”
The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
Maira Kalman paints her profoundly individual perspective with an incomparable mix of picture and content.
The Principles of Uncertainty is a powerful introduction to encountering life through the mind of Maira Kalman, one of the current darlings of the art world. The outcome is a book that is part individual account, part narrative, part travelogue, part scrapbook, and all Kalman. Her splendid, unconventional works of art, thoughts, and pictures – which at first seem irregular – in the end frame a complicated, interconnected perspective, a peculiar inward monolog. Kalman battles with some existential inquiries: What is character? What is satisfaction? For what reason do we fight wars? And after that, obviously: death, love, and sweetness (not really in a specific order).
Kalman’s gigantic achievement is her 2005 illustrated version of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, which established her as a unique, motivational voice. And the idiosyncratic, silly, tragic style of The Principles of Uncertainty reveals Maira Kalman for what she really is: a national treasure.
“We could speak about the meaning of life vis-a-vis non-consequential/deontological theories, apodictic transformation schemata, the incoherence of exemplification, metaphysical realism, Cartesian interactive dualism, revised non reductive dualism, postmodernist grammatology and dicey dichotomies. But we would still be left with Nietzsche’s preposterous mustache, which instills great anguish and skepticism in the brain, which leads (as it did in his case) to utter madness. I suggest we go to Paris instead.”
A visual pleasure. This book is delightfully amazing. It concludes in a breeze, yet each page needs perusing and must be re-read to assimilate its visual display. A record of the creator’s thoughts, her ventures and trinket items and ancient rarities gathered at different events, each page projects out like the unverifiable forecast of a meteorologist. A few sentences die out, while the others influence you to take a full breath. At the essence of everything is the vaporous idea of life, the vulnerability that enshrouds it in mist, and the discovery of peace in the little pleasures of life.
“He is a monk. On his card it says INNER PEACE CENTER. I will go there in February for a tea ceremony. Does he actually know more than I do about inner peace? If he met my relatives, would he have a nervous breakdown? What about his relatives? Do they drive him nuts? The truth is everybody gets on everybody’s nerves.”
Wall and Piece by Banksy
“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.”
Everybody in Britain knows Banksy, yet it’s frequently amazing to find that my US companions haven’t heard of him. He’s one of the most entertaining craftsmen around, and has taken spray painting to a totally new level. His works of art simply turn up, in the most impossible spots. Here’s one of the world’s top choices, which was found one morning on the wall of the Broad Plain Boys’ Club in Bristol. Neighborhood officials sought to remove it, but the professionals said they must be crazy. Destroy a Banksy?
He’s fantastically great at outmaneuvering security. One of his most noteworthy exhibits was the accompanying piece, which turned up in the British Museum. They likewise chose to keep it!
“Once upon a time there was a bear and a bee who lived in a wood and were the best of friends. All summer long the bee collected nectar from morning to night while the bear lay on his back basking in the long grass. When winter came the bear realised he had nothing to eat and thought to himself ‘I hope that busy little bee will share some of his honey with me.’ But the bee was nowhere to be found – he had died of a stress-induced coronary disease.”
This book saves the words and fills in the gaps with photos, letting Banksy’s political articulations, quickly and covertly splashed, represent themselves. If Banksy were only a rebel, stirring with discontent, this book, and his craft, would be unremarkable. Banksy’s specialty is to communicate with a tense, wry voice. His spray-painted manifestations are not urban destruction. Rather, they’re the realistic, unheard voices of those yelling that something isn’t right.