Blue Pencil no. 17— Just My Type : Addendum

Predictably, my review of Just My Type on Imprint has aroused controversy. Steve Heller has defended the book—to some extent. In doing so, he mentioned that he had reviewed the book favorably for The Financial Times. When I read his review I was not upset that he liked Just My Type. I was upset by some of his reasons. Two statements jumped out at me:

He [Garfield] jumps headlong into the swelling waves of type minutiae, and is extremely knowledgeable about its history while ignoring the politics (and egos) of this world, except as fodder for his stories.


Garfield has read virtually all of the literature, which given the technical-speak is not easy to do. Yet I do have one bone to pick. Although he acknowledges that fonts (aka founts) “weren’t the same as typefaces, and typefaces weren’t the same as type”, noting that “a font was a complete set of letters of a typeface of one particular size and style”, he insists on using “font” throughout the book to mean typeface.

If my dissection of Just My Type is accurate, then Garfield clearly is not knowledgeable about type. And to say that he has read “virtually all of the literature” is nonsense. There are numerous significant books on type and typography that are missing, including some that are directly relevant to his chapters. For instance, Blackletter: Type and National Identity (both monograph and catalogue) by Peter Bain and myself is missing even though Garfield has a chapter called “Can a font be German, or Jewish?”. Some other works, in random order, that are absent are: Helvetica and the New York City Subway by myself, The Nymph and the Grot by James Mosley, An Atlas of Typeforms by James Sutton and Alan Bartram, The English Letter by Alan Bartram, Letters of Credit by Walter Tracy, Printing Types by Daniel Berkeley Updike, Type Designs by A.F. Johnson, Dutch Type by Jan Middendorp, and Alphabets to Order by Alastair Johnston. I will admit that when I looked at Garfield’s bibliography I was surprised that it was better than I had expected given the gaffes in the book. But then again, what did he learn from his reading? After all, he lists Christopher Burke’s biography of Paul Renner and yet he makes two mistakes about Renner and Futura.