Books : reviews

Simon Garfield.
Just My Type.
Profile. 2010

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 9 June 2012

A fun jaunt through the world of typefaces, many of which, to my untrained eye, are virtually indistinguishable.

p29. Comic Sans walks into a bar and the bartender says,
'We don't serve your type.'

There's some interesting history, both of printing, and of type face design through the centuries. It really brought home to me how much computers have changed everything: to own a printing press, you also needed to own a full set of type, laboriously carved from metal, which, in different sizes and weights, would be expensive (and heavy!). Although printing press allowed many copies of books to be made, there weren't many printing presses. Nowadays nearly anyone can set up a "print on demand" press. (But no mention of Knuth, Computer Modern, or MetaFont.)

One thing that's fun to realise is that many of the "modern" typefaces arose in the 1930s.

To accompany the readable style, I would have liked more pictures of the typefaces. Sometimes there is only a word or two, often not representing the points made in the text (such as talking of the gorgeous bowl to the "g", then illustrating said face with a word containing no g's). So, a fun romp through more typefaces than seem strictly necessary, but somewhat lacking in detail.

Simon Garfield.
On The Map.
Profile. 2012

Maps fascinate us. They chart our understanding of the world and they log our progress, but above all they tell our stories.

From the early sketches of philosophers and explorers through to Google Maps and beyond, Simon Garfield examines how maps both relate and realign our history. His compelling narratives range from the quest to create the perfect globe to the challenges of mapping Africa and Antarctica, from spellbinding treasure maps to the naming of America, from Ordnance Survey to Monopoly and Skyrim, and from rare map dealers to cartographic frauds.

En route, there are ‘pocket map’ tales of dragons and undergrounds, a nineteenth century murder map, research on the different ways that men and women approach a map, and an explanation of the curious long-term cartographic role played by animals.

On The Map is a witty and irrepressible exploration of where we’ve been, how we got there and where we’re going.