Themed Book Lists

12 Books on Lettering

Alphabets, Letters, and Characters

March 26, 2014

A follow-up to “50 Books on Type on Typography,” here are a dozen  additional books that explore lettering.

Art and Text Aimee Selby et al.

From the Publisher. Art and Text covers the development of the textual medium in art from the early combinations of text, lettering and image in the work of seminal artists such as El Lissitzky and Kurt Schwitters right up to the present day.

Cultural Connectives: Bridging the Latin and Arabic Alphabets Rana Abou Rjeily

From the Publisher. Cultural Connectives presents Arabic from a fresh perspective by bridging Arabic and Latin scripts through Mirsaal, a family of typefaces designed by Rana Abou Rjeily that brings the two scripts into typographic harmony, even in light of their differences. Using her designs, Abou Rjeily applies Arabic rules of writing, grammar, and pronunciation to English as a way to introduce Arabic to non-native speakers.

Hand to Type Jan Middendorp Editor
Hendrik Hellige Editor
Robert Klanten Editor

From the Publisher. Hand to Type is a stunning compilation of hand-made and digital scripts that showcases the beauty of handwritten letterforms. The book features work by some of today’s most successful and original calligraphers and lettering artists. In addition to fonts and lettering using the Latin alphabet, it introduces artists who explore Cyrillic, Arabic, and Greek scripts.

The book’s rich visual examples are complemented by in-depth interviews with outstanding calligraphers and type designers conducted by editor Jan Middendorp. Hand to Type also offers a revealing glimpse into processes by which hand-made letters may be turned into digital files. Prominent guest authors introduce the workings of scripts with which many readers may be less familiar—from Arabic and Indian writing systems to the amazing scripts found in pre-war German schoolbooks and on Amsterdam pub windows.

Handwritten Steven Heller
Mirko Ilić

From the Publisher. Increasingly, advertising campaigns, record covers and branding are adopting manually created typography. This is the first publication to offer a complete overview of handwritten typographics, drawing on an extensive array of examples from around the world.

An introduction by design historian Steven Heller places the contemporary work in a broader context of design. At the heart of the book are hundreds of examples, presented in creative themes: "scrawl," "scratch," "stitch," "simulate," "shadow," "suggestive," and "sarcastic."

Letman Letman

From the Publisher. Letman is internationally known for his trailblazing synthesis of illustration and lettering. He not only creates masterful decorative letters and typefaces, but also pioneers work that is a hybrid of graphic design, screen printing, graffiti, illustration, and painting.

This book is the first monograph from Amsterdam-based illustrator Job Wouters, who works under the pseudonym Letman. In addition to commissioned designs for publications including New York Times Magazine, Playboy, It’s Nice That, and Creative Review and brands such as Audi, Heineken, Dries Van Noten, Tommy Hilfiger, Eastpak, and Universal, Letman also includes a compelling selection of his personal projects and sketches.

Letter and Image Robert Massin

An extensively illustrated survey of the role of type in culture from pre-history through the 1960s. French graphic designer and writer Robert Massin (b. 1925) is one of the key figures in the development of postwar graphic design. He served as art director for the preeminent French publisher Gallimard, devising its well-known Folio collection.

— Graphic designer and visual literature pioneer Warren Lehrer comments on Letter and Image:

“This comprehensive, profusely illustrated overview of how letters and images have intermingled in art and literature through history and around the world is still the best book ever made on the origins of what I’m calling visual literature. It chronicles the history of how letters and images were pretty much one and the same early on. Though they were separated into distinct fields (art and writing), the impulse to bring them back together continued as evidenced in letterforms intertwined with humans, foliage, and animals; pattern poetry, figured verse, calligrams, shaped poetry and prose; the use of letters in fine art; and modernist movements up to concrete poetry and other text-art of the 1960s.”

— Visual culture critic Rick Poynor says: “Massin’s anthology of letterforms as images, illustrated with more than 1,000 historical examples, is a phenomenal feat of visual research. First published in 1970, this cornucopia of peculiar characters has few peers to this day.”

 — Graphic designer Tom Geismar (Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv) notes that the book contains “many rare examples.”

On 2 other designers’ Book Lists.

Lettering Large Steven Heller
Mirko Ilić

From the Publisher. Typography has jumped off the printed page to stand on its own as branding, sculpture, and even architecture. Lettering Large examines this phenomenon through a diverse collection of images collected from a vast range of sources around the world. As technology has made construction and production of monumental letters possible, the demand for their design has grown exponentially. This book is the first to chronicle letters as presences in the urban landscape. Preeminent graphic design and typographic commentator and historian Steve Heller teams with Mirko Ilić, a noted graphic designer, to select the most dramatic and telling examples culled from sites across the United States and throughout Europe and Asia.

Also see the Daily Feature “The (Giant) Writing on the Wall.”

Luca Barcellona: Take Your Pleasure Seriously Luca Barcellona

From the Publisher. For Luca Barcellona, Italian graphic designer and calligrapher, letters are the building blocks of his creations. From Carolingian to tags, from the quill to the spray can, Barcellona takes the age-old craft of lettering to new heights with the inventiveness and talent of a contemporary virtuoso. His striking, expressive, and original letterforms and compositions open onto uncharted territory, laying the foundations of a new writing style. Take Your Pleasure Seriously (a quote by the designers Charles and Ray Eames) serves as a leitmotif for Barcellona who turned his passion into a way of life, first as a graffiti artist and then as a professional calligrapher. His production spans a broad spectrum from the reproduction of a world globe from 1569 to brand identities, book covers, ad campaigns, and performances. This beautifully designed artist book features hundreds of drawings made over the last decade including commissioned work (Carhartt, Dolce & Gabbana, Nike, Red Bull, Universal, etc.), personal projects, performances, and many never-seen-before work.

Marian Bantjes: Pretty Pictures Marian Bantjes

From the Publisher. From a remote cabin off Canada's Pacific coast, Marian Bantjes has created a unique visual language that combines typographical craftsmanship, illustrative flair and personal observation. Her generous approach, meticulous attention to detail and wit have made her one of the most sought-after graphic designers—among art directors, branding agencies and students—of her generation. This is Bantjes' first complete monograph, exploring the astonishing range of her output over the past decade. It offers candid, thoughtful and insightful commentary on how she works, collaborates and creates her "pretty pictures," echoing the humorous, wry cultural observation and design comment that formed the centerpiece of her seminal first publication, I Wonder. Whether it is an ornamental design for a magazine cover, information graphic, a poster, a "typographic illustration" or an as-yet-undefined piece of graphic art, Bantjes reveals the source of her inspirations, how she arrives at her design solutions and resolves intricate compositional challenges. This ambitious, luxurious publication presents Bantjes' projects chronologically, revealing a fascinating journey from her early work as a hot-metal typesetter to her adoption of digital technologies that push conventional print production to the limit. There is inspiration for everyone within these pages, particularly those who prize texture, detail and delicate decoration. Marian Bantjes is a designer-craftsman who has established her own particular form of graphic expression that is prized for its individuality and timelessness.

Scripts Steven Heller
Louise Fili

From the Publisher. Seen in everything from wedding invitations and birth announcements to advertisements, menus, street signs, and diplomas, script typefaces impart elegance and sophistication to a broad variety of texts. Scripts never go out of style, and the hundreds of inventive examples here, many found in obscure sources from across Europe and America, are sure to inspire today's designers.

The Visible Word Herbert Spencer

From Designers’ Books. A summary of over one hundred years’ worth of investigations by one of the UK’s most influential typographers. Spencer’s extraordinarily detailed 24-page bibliography is testimony to his investigation. The visible word is part of a program of research into the readability of print in information publishing. In this book legibility is explored with equal thoroughness and objectivity, resulting in the fact that people read most easily the kind of lettering they are used to.

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