One Hundred [sic] Books [sic] Famous [sic] in [Western] Typography [sic]—A Critique

One Hundred Books Famous in Typography by Jerry Kelly (New York: The Grolier Club, 2021)

This book, with a foreword by Sebastian Carter, accompanies an exhibition held at the Grolier Club from May 12 to July 31, 2021.* The exhibition has been touted by Kelly and the Grolier Club as the seventh in an ongoing series of exhibitions based on the concept of “one hundred books famous in [fill in the blank]”. The first of these, “One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature,” took place in 1903. [1] The others covered American literature (1946), science (1958), medicine (1994), fine printing (1999), and children’s literature (2014). [2]

“Of making lists there is no end; there is the same fascination in ranking as classifying great writers as there is on a smaller scale in rating golf and tennis players,” wrote William Lyon Phelps in his review of the Grolier Club’s One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature with Facsimiles of the Title-Pages. He went on to say that “every reader who is fortunate enough to see a copy [only 305 were printed] will immediately begin to criticise [sic] the editor for sins of omission and of commission.” [3] Similarly, Sebastian Carter, in the foreword to One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, writes “Everyone will regret a few absences, since a hundred is not that many books considering the breadth of the subject; and everyone will have a few favorites.” There are indeed many favorites on Kelly’s list but also many more than a few absences. The original impetus for this essay was an alternate list of one hundred books. However, after deeper reflection it seemed wiser and more valuable to provide a critique of the entire enterprise, to question its underlying assumptions, both those which are explicitly articulated and those which are hidden or ignored. [4]

One Hundred
The title of both the exhibition and the book raise questions regarding the definitions of “one hundred”, “book”, “famous”, and—most importantly of all—”typography”. To his credit, Kelly directly addresses these issues in his introduction. He allows that the number one hundred is not only arbitrary, but that it also has not been strictly adhered to by past exhibitions. He follows their lead, defending additional titles, such as the Bruce Rogers edition (1927) of Geofroy Tory’s Champ Fleury (1529), on the grounds that they are related or ancillary. [5] Although Kelly considers one hundred to be “a nice round number,” sticking to it—even with a few additions—seems silly. It is a capricious number that represents blind allegiance to an unjustified tradition at a moment when innovative thinking is required. [6] A better approach would have been to choose the number of books in typography—whether 91, 123 or whatever—that fit the criteria for being “famous”. After all, it is the books themselves, not their number that is important.

Kelly defines a book as “a series of pages that are bound together in a specific sequence within a protective cover.” He does not say that the pages have to be printed or even set in type. Instead he focuses on e-books, dismissing them with a cute anecdote about Maurice Sendak’s curt opinion of them. He makes no mention of books printed on demand. It is only later, during his discourse on the definition of typography, that Kelly states the book must be set in type: “Since we have the word ‘book’ in our title, and we do not consider ephemera or e-books… typography in the case of this title is limited to the manufacture and use of type on the printed page of a bound volume.” In explaining that books with a focus on calligraphy and lettering have been excluded, he oddly lumps L’Operina [sic] by Ludovico Arrighi (1522) and Underweysung der messung mit dem zirckel un richt scheyt by Albrecht Dürer (1525) with John Pine’s two-volume edition of the works of Horace (1733–1737). The first two are books about writing and the making of letters, while the latter is a book that, despite being hand-lettered and then engraved, brilliantly mimics the typeset, letterpress-printed books of its day. [7] It is as much about “typography” as anything printed by John Baskerville or Giambattista Bodoni. One wonders what Kelly thinks of the highly-regarded How Typography Works (And Why It is Important) by Fernand Baudin (London: Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd., 1989) whose text is entirely handwritten?

But more significant than whether or not hand-lettered or hand-written books belong in this survey, is the fact that Kelly’s definition is incredibly loose. It does not exclude a whole raft of printed items such as magazines (and other periodicals), pamphlets, brochures, and catalogues. Yet, he feels compelled to defend the inclusion of journals such as The Fleuron and The Monotype Recorder on the grounds that they are historically important—and that past “Grolier Hundred compilations have occasionally included periodicals”—and to rationalize the presence of the annual calendars issued by Gebruder Klingspor from 1910 to 1941 [no. 52]) on his list on the pretext that they are bound volumes in which “their functionality as calendar pages is made subservient to their use as type specimens”. Instead, Kelly should have embraced his baggy definition and used it as an excuse to add essential periodicals such as Typographische MonätsblatterU&lc (which is present, but only as an adjunct to The ITC Typeface Collection), Visible Language (originally The Journal for Typographic Research), Emigre magazine, and Typography Papers.

“As work progressed on this selection the wisdom of those words became clearer: they cover a wide range of books,” Kelly writes, “from those which are great examples of the subject to those which are milestones on the subject, including some which are firsts in the field, some which are exceptionally fine examples, some which are very influential historical studies, etc.” This conclusion totally sidesteps the question of who considers these books “famous”. Many books on the list are famous only to members of the Grolier Club and like-minded bibliophiles (e.g. no. 49 Historic Printing Types by Theodore Low De Vinne, no. 87 American Proprietary Typefaces edited by David Pankow, and no. 96 So Long, Hot Metal Men by Henry Morris); famous to type historians (e.g. no. 25 Épreuves Générales des Caracterès by Claude Lamesle, no. 28 Les Caractèrès et les Vignettes de la Fonderie du Sieur Delacolonge, or no. 32 A Specimen of Printing Types and Various Ornaments by S. & C. Stephenson); famous to specialized collectors (e.g. no. 52 Gebr. Klingspor Kalendars or no. 77 Vita Activa by the Typographische Gesellschaft München); famous to typographers (e.g. no. 75 Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type by Geoffrey Dowding); as well as several that are widely known but certainly are not famous (e.g. no. 54 The Linotype Manual of Typography by E.E. Bartlett, no. 82 The ITC Typeface Collection, or no. 91 Anatomy of a Typeface by Alexander Lawson). Only a few of these books belong on a short list of “influential” or “important” books on typography. [8]

“Typography” is the slipperiest of the four slippery words in the book’s title. Sebastian Carter, author of the book’s foreword, rather than Kelly tackles it, quickly tracing the evolution of the word from Joseph Moxon (1683) to Herbert Spencer (1969). Typography was initially equated with printing, then with the physical arrangement of printing, followed by the mental planning of printing, and eventually with the mental disposition of type. [9] Unfortunately, he does not explain why the word changed over time.

As printing progressed from a small craft activity to a large industrial practice, the role of the printer changed from a physical one to a managerial one. Once the printer became a manager, the responsibility for the appearance of a printed item began to devolve upon the compositor or typesetter. This explains the appearance of books such as La Science Pratique de l’Imprimerie by Martin Dominique Fertel (1723) and The Printer’s Grammar by John Smith (1755) which give precise instructions for composition which include aspects associated today with typography such as the use of different spaces, how to justify a line, when to use italic and small capitals, how to hyphenate words, etc. These manuals, and their successors such as The American Printer: A Manual of Typography by Thomas MacKellar (1866), included detailed advice on proper punctuation (called pointing) and the employment of accents, thus anticipating modern editorial guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style (first published in 1906). [10]

The rise of the professional typographer as someone distinct from the printer or compositor occurred in the 1890s. Carter alludes to this in citing How Typography Happens by Ruari McLean (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 1999), but does not explain what happened. Instead he wanders off on a discussion of Bruce Rogers’ career that dead ends with Rogers declaring that “even though I may have theories on the subject [book design not typography], I have usually kept them to myself.” Rogers and Charles Ricketts were the first men who provided detailed typographic directions to the compositors in a printing plant, both orally and in written form, rather than execute the typesetting themselves. [11]

Once typography became a separate profession from typesetting, texts about it stopped including information on spelling, abbreviations, punctuation, etc. and began to focus more on design, from a functional perspective as well as an aesthetic one. Legibility and readability became as important as beauty. Between 1925 and 1935, Jan Tschichold, Stanley Morison, Beatrice Warde, and Eric Gill set the terms of a debate about the purpose of typography that continued throughout the 20th century and still reverberates today. [12]

Pierre Simon Fournier le jeune further complicated the definition of typography by claiming that it encompassed the three arts of punchcutting, typefounding and printing. [13] In doing so, he added type design to the mix. One Hundred Books Famous in Typography accepts the many definitions outlined by Carter, including that of Fournier. Kelly concludes that typography is “the art and science of printing types, including type manufacture and type design” as well as the “arrangement of type on the page”.

There is nothing wrong with taking a catholic approach to the subject of typography. But the separate strands—books that exemplify good typography, books about the practice of typography, books about type design, books on the history of type design—have become entangled in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography. This is due largely to the book’s organization. For the most part, Kelly, the book’s designer as well as its author, has presented his list of books chronologically. As expected, the ancillary items (e.g. Zapf’s Manuale Typographicum of 1968) are out of order, but others are as well and the reasons for that are not clear. Here are three instances: A Bibliography of Printing by E.C. Bigmore and C.W.H. Wyman (1880) comes between Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico (1818) and Typographia by T.H. Hansard (1825); William H. Page’s Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, Etc. (1874) is stuck between A History of the Old English Letter Foundries by Talbot Baines Reed (1887) and the Kelmscott Press edition of The Golden Legend (1892); and Early Korean Typography by Sohn Pow-Key (1987) is bracketed by On Designing and Devising Type by Jan van Krimpen (1957) and Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type by Geoffrey Dowding (1954).

Instead of a rational grouping of books by theme or category, there is only arbitrariness. Thus, the ten books about the practice of typography—from Fertel in 1723 to Mark Argetsinger in 2020—are all jumbled up, with only two being linked in Kelly’s text and two coincidentally following one another. [14] To be fair to Kelly he does make numerous cross-references throughout his text, though they are maddeningly inconsistent in terms of relevance. In the text accompanying Miller & Richard’s c.1868 Specimen of Old-Style Types (no. 38) he helpfully mentions Caslon (no. 30), Didot (no. 29), and Bodoni (no. 35) in explaining the significance of Alexander Phemister’s types; and in discussing Bruce Rogers’ Centaur type (no. 51) he includes important links to the types of Jenson (no. 3) and Arrighi (no. 11). Yet, in describing The Printing of Greek in the Fifteenth Century by Robert Proctor (no. 60) he provides a link to Garamont’s grecs du roi (no. 14) of 1540, but inexplicably not to Aldus’ Greek types (no. 5) even though he writes that Proctor “abhorred” them. Similarly, in the text about The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance by Hendrik D.L. Vervliet (no. 97) he mentions Garamont (nos. 14 and 16), Granjon (no. 15), and Colines (no. 10) as subjects of the book without supplying ties to their entries. However, he does include a tie to Beatrice Warde, who is noted as a contributor to The Fleuron (no. 56). Elsewhere obvious connections are missing such as Lumitype-Photon (no. 95) and Adrian Frutiger (no. 99); or the 1768 Enschedé type specimen (no. 27) and Typefoundries in the Netherlands from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century by Charles Enschedé (nos. 48 and 48A). [15]

If One Hundred Books Famous in Typography had been arranged thematically, cross-references would have been necessary only for those books or people who span more than one category.

“In general, we have limited ourselves to books in the Latin alphabet in its various incarnations (roman, italic, blackletter)…” Kelly says before going on to defensively explain that, “In order to give a slightly more complete overview of the art of typography, we have made a very few exceptions, including a couple of books on Greek typography, which formed such a key component of typography in the West… and one in Korean, since it is likely that the first moveable metal types, therefore the earliest examples of typography itself, were produced in Korea.” [italics added]. Hebrew is included via no. 18 Linguae Hebraicae Institutiones Absolutissimae (Paris: Officina Gulielmi Le Bé, 1609), though he does not mention it. Instead, he points out that several other books in the show, such as Bodoni’s Oratio Dominica (no. 33), include examples of non-Latin types.

The examples of non-Latin typography seem to be tokens. It would have been preferable to either have taken a broader look at the subject or to have excluded them entirely. The first approach would have made the selection of one hundred books even more difficult, while the second would have made it easier. If Kelly had chosen to exempt non-Latin types, he could still have acknowledged the preeminence of Korean moveable type, and the importance of Greek types in his introduction or in conjunction with other books on his list. For instance, Early Korean Typography (no. 74) could have been paired as an ancillary book with the Gutenberg Bible (no. 1) rather than relegated it to pp. 204–205. And he could have used his introduction to summarize the many good reasons for not adopting the first course. [16]

Kelly made his task harder by limiting himself to only one book per person. Why? The exhibition is not titled “One Hundred Persons Famous in Typography.” He provides no explanation. If a book meets his criteria of being famous as an example of typography or about typography, it should not be excluded on the grounds that the practitioner already has a book on the list. Clearly Kelly realized how ridiculous such a limit was since he made numerous exceptions. [17] Even more would have been better.

Typography and Book Design
One Hundred Books Famous in Typography is a beautifully produced book. It is printed on a warm white, matte coated paper that is pleasant to the touch. The binding is sewn. (However, the high quality production of the book does not extend to the foil-stamped label on the spine as the one on my copy began to peel off after less than a month.) In size it is a quarto (8.5 x 11 inches) of 333 pages. The text pages have generous margins that follow classical proportions. The text is set justified in a single wide (39 pica) column that spans the page. Despite the wide measure, it is pleasant to read since the size of the Palatino nova type (roman and italic) is large (16 pt?), the lines are judiciously leaded, and the word-spacing is impeccable. [18] Kelly, the book’s designer and typographer, has not succumbed to the contemporary aversion to hyphenation nor has he listened to the type scolds who consider widows to be “type crimes”.

The type scolds, and those who listen to them, might be aghast to see over one hundred widows in the text of One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, but Kelly is on firm ground in allowing them rather than trying to eliminate them and, in the process, disrupt the evenness of his text block. In this practice, he is following Tschichold and Jost Hochuli among others. [19] In contrast, his decision not to indent paragraphs runs counter to Tschichold’s beliefs, though it does not materially affect the readability of the text. [20] Kelly also ignores Robert Bringhurst, author of The Elements of Typographic Styles (no. 92 in the book), who declares: “For abbreviations and acronyms in the midst of normal text, use spaced small capitals.” [21] Instead, Kelly opts for full caps. These are not complaints but observations. Highly respected typographers have argued over details such as these and in a review of a book about typography, such minutiae deserve to be noted.

As expected, the design of One Hundred Books Famous in Typography is in the classicist style associated with Kelly’s oeuvre as a book designer and which one has come to expect from most Grolier Club publications. [22] The format consciously emulates The Typographic Book, 1450–1935: A Study of Fine Typography through Five Centuries by Stanley Morison, Stanley and Kenneth Day (London: Ernest Benn, 1963), the monumental (in size as well as content) successor to Morison’s earlier Four Centuries of Fine Printing (no. 57) and Modern Fine Printing (no. 57A). Brooke Crutchley established a single-column text page 39 picas wide and 35 lines deep. The type is a large size of Monotype Bembo (roman and italic) that fits roughly 14–15 words per line (as does Kelly’s design). The margins are larger than those of One Hundred Books Famous in Typography since the page size is 9.5 x 12 inches. [23]

One major difference between the Morison/Day and Kelly books is their treatment of images. In The Typographic Book the text pages and plates are separate, due to the limited reproduction capabilities of the day, with the former printed letterpress at University Printing House, Cambridge and the latter printed offset by L. Van Leer & Co. of Amsterdam. (For the captions to the plates Monophoto Bembo was used.) [24] Tremendous advancements in printing have allowed Kelly to integrate text and image (in color rather than black-and-white) and to use a single paper throughout One Hundred Books Famous in Typography. Most of the illustrations in The Typographic Book are full-page, but some are doubled up. In those instances, Crutchley placed them sideways, studiously avoiding any overlapping. Similarly, the illustrations in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography are predominantly full-page, but eleven entries have pairs of illustrations that regrettably overlap one another. Presumably, Kelly found this preferable to forcing the reader to rotate the book to view them.

One Hundred Books Famous in Typography is laid out in a simple manner, one that is appropriate to a book comprised of a series of disparate short texts. Most entries occupy a double-page spread with text relegated to the verso and illustrations to the recto. [25] A major complaint about the book, one that far supersedes any griping about the selection of titles, is the choice of images and their number. Although not explicitly stated, it seems as if there was a quota on images as well as on authors. Eighty-three of the 108 items are accompanied by a single image. Of the remaining items, twelve have two illustrations, nine have three, three have four, and one has eight. This count excludes the secondary images relating to the provenance of some of the items. [26] The paucity of images is not due to a lack of space, as the book inexplicably devotes fifty pages to a showing of “Fifty Typefaces Famous in Typography.” Since Kelly is both author and designer of the book it is clearly a joint editorial/design decision.

The images for over one-third of the entries are title pages or covers, following the path established by Stanley Morison in Four Centuries of Fine Printing (no. 57) and heavily critiqued by Alan Bartram. [27]

A number of Kelly’s decisions are debatable and a few are head-scratchers. Among the latter is the showing of three full pages (one with a hand-rubricated initial and two without) from the Eusebius of Nicolas Jenson (no. 3). Why? Nothing is learned from the extra two pages and the text provides no explanation. A double-page spread or a detail of Jenson’s type would have been instructive. Two pages from Miller & Richard’s Specimen of Old-Style Types (c.1868) (no. 38) are displayed, but they bear no relation to the text which is rightly focused on the emergence and influence of oldstyle types in the mid-nineteenth century. Instead one shows Grotesque No. 4 and the other a variety of figures (none of which are oldstyle). Similarly, the text for Indice de Caratteri… nella Stampa Vaticana (no. 22) stresses its exotic (non-Latin) types along with Latin ones by Garamont, Granjon, and Le Bé, yet the two illustrations are of the title page and an unidentified “Alphabetum Latinorum”. Twentieth Century Type Designers (no. 86) is illustrated by its cover—with a hand-lettered title! Only one of the books devoted to the practice of typography (no. 75 Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type by Geoffrey Dowding)—is illustrated with a page showing an aspect of typographic advice. This includes La Science Pratique de l’Imprimerie by Fertel (no. 21) which is lauded as “the first [printer’s manual] to show model designs for title pages, complicated two-column setting and annotations… detailed instruction on the composition of footnotes and marginal notes” and more. [28] These examples are not the only instances of tone-deafness regarding illustrations in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, just those that come quickly to mind.

These carping criticisms regarding the choice of illustrations could have easily been warded off by the inclusion of informative captions. However, there are only four captions in the book, all of which exist solely to insure that images and items for four entries are properly coordinated. [29]

The quasi-chronological arrangement of the 108 items that constitute One Hundred Books Famous in Typography was a design decision as much as an authorial one. The contents page is sparse with no individual listing of the items. That makes locating a specific entry difficult unless one has memorized the numbering of them all. The problem is exacerbated by the handful of items that are not in their expected place based on their publication date, such as Early Korean Typography. [30]

The chronological approach originated with the exhibition itself for which Kelly was curator. But there is one notable difference between the two: the exhibition divided the one hundred plus books into seven sections, each with a title such as “In the Beginning,” The Machine Age,” or “Brave New World”. [31] There are no such divisions in the book which is for the better since they revealed embarrassing anomalies caused by the chronology (e.g. The Printing of Greek in the Fifteenth Century under the rubric of “The Machine Age”). [32]

The division titles of the exhibition must have been chosen by Kelly. Despite the oddities that resulted, the notion of dividing the one hundred books into groups makes sense. As both author and designer, he had full control to rethink how best to represent the selected one hundred books in a book format that, while imposing its own limitations, lacked the impediments that often confront an exhibition. Instead of simply discarding the division titles, he could have rethought the sequence of the one hundred books, grouping them in a non-chronological manner that would have made sense of those titles. [33] One suggestion would have been to organize them based on some of the definitions and criteria outlined in the introduction: books that exemplify typography, books about typography, books that show important typefaces, books about type design, books about the history of typography, etc.

The supplementary bibliographical images in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography are a minor aspect of the book—and they seem to be treated as such. With one exception, they are confined to the verso, placed below the text block—where their position flits about—or cut into the text itself. [34]

Fifty Typefaces Famous in Typography
As indicated earlier One Hundred Books Famous in Typography includes an unexpected—and not fully explained—coda titled “Fifty Typefaces Famous in Typography.” [35] There is no mention of it in the introduction and Kelly’s brief comment on the section page simply describes which of the typefaces are “born” digital, which were originally produced in metal, and which have been reproduced from printed specimens. Each typeface has a short caption containing name, designer, date, manufacturer, and a reference to one or more items in the list of famous books. Half of them also include an “interpreter”. At least one of these elements is problematic or outright wrong for forty of the fifty typefaces.

One example of the problems with Kelly’s captions is that for Centaur (p. 266): “Centaur / Nicolas Jenson, / 1470 / Interpreted by Bruce Rogers. / Monotype / See nos. 3 & 51”. [36] It contains several mistakes: 1. Centaur was not designed by Nicolas Jenson; 2. it was designed by Bruce Rogers, not interpreted by him; and 3. it was designed in 1914; and 4. it was originally cut and manufactured by Robert Wiebking. Given that Kelly is the co-author of The Noblest Roman: A History of the Centaur Types of Bruce Rogers, this is inexcusable. Here, and in twenty-four other typefaces, he has conflated a metal typeface with one derived from it centuries later. In the process he has mixed names, dates, and manufacturers.

Providing a single date for a typeface is complicated. Some sources prefer the year the typeface was conceived, others the year it was manufactured, and yet others the year it was first used or made available to the public. Rather than select one of these approaches and apply it rigorously, Kelly has chosen all of them and more. For Goudy Oldstyle he gives 1915, its year of design; for Weiss Italic, his caption says 1927, the year of its manufacture; for Univers, he gives 1957, its year of release; for Minion Greek he lists 1989, the year the original Minion (which did not include a Greek component) was designed; for Miller, he puzzlingly says c.1760 (the year that punchcutter Richard Austin, its ostensible designer, turned four years old); and for Adobe Trajan he provides 114 AD as the year! The names of manufacturers are not given in full (e.g. Monotype not Monotype Corporation or ATF instead of American Type Founders) and sometimes more than one is included even though the second (or third) had nothing to do with the date used (e.g. Univers was converted for monotype composition in 1961, not 1957).

The references in the captions are also of dubious use. The fifty typefaces link to only thirty-four of the books and in seven instances the connection is oblique, only clear to a specialist. Sabon by Jan Tschichold (p. 306) is a landmark typeface with a fascinating history—and afterlife—that deserves a paragraph of explanation. Instead the caption refers to no. 91 Anatomy of a Typeface by Alexander Lawson even though neither the type nor its designer are mentioned in the text. However, there is no reference to no. 86 Twentieth Century Type Designers by Sebastian Carter where both are noted. [37] Another example is Epigrammata, Kelly’s own revival of a 1510 titling roman by Peter Schöffer the Younger (p. 217) which is linked to no. 25 Épreuves Générales des Caracteres [sic], a 1742 type specimen by Parisian typefounder Claude Lamesle. Although Lamesle’s catalogue included older typefaces, the text makes no mention of any by Schöffer.

Although not clearly stated, Kelly’s intention in adding the typeface coda was to reinforce the aura of authority, of being an essential resource, that One Hundred Books Famous in Typography tries to project. The effort has boomeranged, as the quality of the coda has undercut the whole enterprise. The problem is more than the questionable captions. The section should have had its own introduction, clearly explaining not only its relationship to the one hundred books, but also the problems in assigning dates and design credit to many typefaces (e.g. only listing Max Miedinger as the designer of Helvetica and not mentioning Akira Kobayashi’s role in the creation of the Palatino nova family). A short overview of the technical changes in type design and type making from Johannes Gutenberg to Robert Slimbach would also have been invaluable. Finally, by reducing the size of the typeface samples, Kelly could have found room on the page to provide a brief discussion of the importance of each one.

The latter suggestion is important since the selection of the fifty typefaces is even more open to second-guessing than the selection of the books. Why only fifty typefaces and not one hundred? Each typeface could have been paired with a book. This approach would have not only bolstered the rationale for each book choice, but would have offered an opportunity to identify—or at least try to identify—the typeface each book is set in. That information is of intense interest to bibliophiles and type nerds, but nowhere does it appear in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography.

The other, more obvious, approach would have been to make a better selection of typefaces (whether fifty or one hundred) without straining to match each one to a book. As it is the list is strangely skewed. Cloister Italic, Epigrammata, Lucida Greek, Weiss Italic, Palatino nova Cyrillic, Palatino nova Greek, Minion Cyrillic, and Minion Greek are included, yet Arrighi, Janson, the Romain du Roi, Didot, Bulmer, Goudy Oldstyle, ATF Garamond, City, Times New Roman, Electra and others specifically mentioned in the text are missing. [38]

With either approach the typefaces should be shown in their original form and technology—whether foundry, wood, linotype, monotype, film, or digital—and not in later interpretations. There is no need to show full character sets. Riccardo Olocco’s work in assembling character sets of Venetian incunabula types, including those of Jenson and Griffo, is an excellent model to follow. [39] Not only is Kelly’s decision to use digital interpretations of metal and wood typefaces questionable, but some of the interpretations he has chosen are open to serious criticism. The three most glaring instances are ITC Baskerville with its large x-height instead of the more authentic Baskerville Original by Frantisek Storm; Monotype Fournier instead of PS Fournier by Stéphane Elbaz; and Helvetica (really Neue Helvetica?) from Linotype instead of the more accurate Neue Haas Grotesk by Christian Schwartz.

Of course, another option would have been to scrap the fifty typefaces section entirely. Those pages could have been put to better use displaying additional illustrations from the books (including historical images of typefaces rather than digital recreations) or providing a greatly expanded bibliography.

Further Reading and Selected Bibliography
One Hundred Books Famous in Typography contains both a Further Reading list keyed to each book (including the ancillary items) and a Selected Bibliography of General Works on Typography. Overall, the books singled out for further reading are excellent, though a number of them are not the best on the subject and a few are definitely puzzling. Either L’Effet Gutenberg by Fernand Baudin (Paris: Éditions du Cercle de la Libraire, 1994) or Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress by Richard Gabriel Rummonds (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2004) is more informative about printing and typographic practice than the 80-page exhibition catalogue The Printer’s Manual: An Illustrated History by David Pankow that Kelly references for Fertel, Hansard and Johnson. Nicolas Jenson, Printer of Venice by Henry Lewis Bullen has been superseded by Olocco’s research on Jenson and other Venetian incunabula types. [40] Instead of The Coming of the Book by Lucien Febvre as additional reading for the entry on Early Korean Typography (no. 74), a more relevant choice would have been The Invention of Printing in China and its Spread Westwards by Thomas F. Carter (New York: Columbia University Press, 1925).

Among the puzzling suggestions is Faces on the Edge: Type in the Digital Age by Steven Heller for Stop Stealing Sheep (no. 93). Several books would have been more apropos. Detail in Typography by Jost Hochuli (Wilmington, Massachusetts: Compugraphic Corporation, 1987), Typografie: Schrift, Lesbarkeit by Hans Rudolf Bosshard (Sulgen, Switzerland: Verlag Niggli AG, 1996), and Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students by Ellen Lupton (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004) all provide different perspectives on typography in the digital era. And Emigre: Graphic Design into the Digital Realm by Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993) is a better option for understanding the radical challenges to traditional typography unleashed by the Macintosh and Fontographer in the 1980s. [41]

Given that a quota of one supplemental reference work per entry seems to be at play for the majority of books in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, it would have been more effective to have included them on the text pages along with the provenance information. [42]

The Selected Bibliography of General Works on Typography—an unwieldy (and unexplained) title—is fitted to a single page. Most of the nineteen titles are unassailable, but a few suggest a blinkered view of the subject. How can Kelly justify placing the double issue of Printing History devoted to the American Type Founders Company, The Secret History of Letters by Simon Loxley, and 100 Classic Graphic Design Journals by Steven Heller and Jason Godfrey on the list while leaving out essential texts such as Sixteenth-Century Printing Types of The Low Countries by Hendrik D.L. Vervliet (Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger & Co., 1968), American Wood Type, 1828–1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period by Rob Roy Kelly (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1969), the second edition of Nineteenth-Century Ornamented Typefaces by Nicolete Gray (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1976), American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century by Mac McGrew (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Books, 1993), and Modern Typography: an essay in critical history by Robin Kinross (London: Hyphen Press, 1992)? One Hundred Books Famous in Typography should have had a lengthy, annotated bibliography covering all of the different aspects of typography surveyed in Carter’s foreword.

It may seem odd to discuss the text of a book last, but it seemed more important for this critique to look first at other things such as underlying assumptions and the role of typography and book design in determining and shaping content.

The texts are generally well-written. Kelly’s prose style is fluent and clear. His opinions and assessments are forthright, albeit predictable. [43] Much of the information he presents is faultless. [44] However, the complaint about many of Kelly’s texts is not about accuracy, but about balance—and about the absence of important or more relevant information.

An example of an entry that is both greatly informative and simultaneously uninformative is the one for no. 46 The Monotype Recorder. Roughly 86% of its c.500 words are about the history of the Benton punchcutting machine, the Linotype, and the Monotype; and Stanley Morison’s program of type revivals. All of this is presumably intended to provide context for the magazine which, Kelly states, contained “technical and promotional articles, along with significant historical articles relating to their [Monotype’s] typefaces and the art of typography.” None are specifically enumerated. As for Beatrice Warde, listed in the header, he has only this to say: “Warde, one of the few women in the twentieth-century type world, made significant contributions to type scholarship and promotion (see no. 97). A special issue of The Monotype Recorder was devoted to her work, after her death in 1967 [sic].” There is nothing about her life, her tenure as editor, and nothing specific about her writings such as the oft debated “Crystal Goblet” essay. Warde’s most famous article of historical scholarship, identifying Jean Jannon as the true designer of typefaces attributed to Claude Garamont, was written for The Fleuron (no. 56). [45]

Kelly’s texts are inconsistent in content, a reflection of the muddled nature of the selections themselves. Although the book is ostensibly about famous books, the headings for the entries emphasize individuals, complete with birth and death dates. Roughly two-thirds of the individuals are authors (if the term is stretched to include typefounders like William Caslon as the “authors” of their type specimens) or editors. The remainder are printers, publishers, punchcutters, type designers, type foundries, and type manufacturers. Thus, there are headers such as no. 14 “Claude Garamond (c.1490–1561) / Appianus / Romanvm Historiam / (Paris: Charles Estienne, 1551. Folio”; no. 29 “Firmin Didot (1764–1836) / Spécimen des Nouveaux Caractères de la Fonderie et de l’Imprimerie de P. Didot / Paris: Pierre Didot, 1819. Octavo.”; and no. 58 “Frederic W. Goudy (1856 [sic]–1947) / The Goudy Type Family / Elizabeth, New Jersey: American Type Founders Company, 1927. Quarto.” The effect of this split thinking is that some texts focus on the book at hand while others emphasize the individual highlighted in the header, and a smaller number do both.

Some texts virtually ignore the book they accompany. The text for no. 14 is really about Claude Garamont’s grecs du roi, though more than half of it is devoted to 16th century French typography in general. It is only in the last paragraph that the Romanvm Historiam is mentioned: “The three sizes comprising the grecs du roi [sic] appear together for the first time in a double-page spread of this edition of the History of Rome by Appianus, printed by Charles Estienne when he served as printer to the King.” Unfortunately, the facing image is not the double-page spread but a single page with only one of the grecs du roi. What is famous here is not the 1551 book by Appianus, but the Greek types by Garamont—and even they are insufficiently described. [46] Kelly does not specify the sizes of the three types nor does he provide dates for their design and first use.

The text for no. 14 does not include any biographical information about Garamont. In contrast, more than half of the entry on The History of Printing in America (no. 34) is about Isaiah Thomas’ life. The two paragraphs about the book say nothing about its contents or why it belongs on Kelly’s list of one hundred books famous in typography. Of course, a diligent reader can glean the gist of the contents from the verbose full title: The History of Printing in America. With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers. To Which Is Prefixed a Concise View  of the Discovery and Progress of the Art in Other Parts of the World. Despite the length of the two-volume work, Thomas barely mentions typefounding in America, skimming over the subject in two pages.

This critique is harsh. But it is justified. One Hundred Books Famous in Typography falls short of both reader expectations and its own lofty ambitions. Kelly has the knowledge, the skills, and the resources to do better. The faults enumerated here are not his alone. His advisory committee and the Grolier Club committee on publications are complicit in some of them. The former was composed of like-minded individuals, with the notable exception of Steven Heller, so its impact on the books selected was probably minimal. The inclusion of U&lc (no. 82A), FUSE no. 1 (no. 90), and Typology (no. 98) can probably be chalked up to Heller’s presence, though only the first of them is indispensable. [47]

What role did the Club’s committee on publications play? There seems to have been no editorial oversight. One Hundred Books Famous in Typography is full of bibliographical tidbits regarding the provenance of some of the books (e.g. a letter from Jack W. Stauffacher asking the Grolier Club if it received an announcement of Haiman’s biography of Miklos Kis), yet more pertinent bibliographical information is missing.

The entries make no mention of the technology employed to print each book, the printer (other than instances where the printer was also the publisher), the typeface used to set the book (except where the book was chosen specifically for its typeface), who the designer/typographer was (except where the book was selected for its typography), binding information, or the page count. Even full titles are often not provided. Such information, the lifeblood of a club devoted to bibliophily, could easily have been included in the back of the book. [48] Finally, the absence of captions is unforgivable.

One Hundred Books Famous in Typography is not likely to appear on a future list of one hundred books famous in typography. It is a useful book, but far from an essential book.

*For my assessment of the exhibition itself see 100 Hundred Books Famous in Typography (the exhibition)—The perspective of a specialist.

1. Kelly dates the exhibition to 1902 (as does the Grolier Club’s website), but it took place January 23–February 21, 1903. See The Grolier Club of the City of New York: Officers, Committees, Constitution, By-Laws, House Rules, Members, Annual Reports, etc. (New York: The Grolier Club, 1903), p. 125. One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature with Facsimiles of the Title-Pages with an introduction by George Woodberry (New York: The Grolier Club, 1902), four years in the making, actually preceded the exhibition and was the spark for its existence. Bibliographical Notes on One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature compiled by Henry Watson Kent (New York: The Grolier Club, 1903) was published to accompany the exhibition.
2. The “series” is not quite as neat as Kelly (and the Grolier Club website) claim. Of the six exhibitions cited as predecessors to “One Hundred Books Famous in Typography,” only four of them have a title with that phraseology. In addition to the 1903 exhibition, there is “One Hundred Books Famous in Science” (1958)—Kelly confuses the date of the exhibition with its catalogue One Hundred Books Famous in Science by Harrison D. Horblit (New York: The Grolier Club, 1964); “One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine” (1994); and “One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature” (2014). The second exhibition was not titled “One Hundred Books Famous in American Literature” and it was not, as one might expect, a companion to the 1903 exhibition. The latter was about literature in the English language and included thirteen books by American authors. The real title of the 1946 exhibition is telling for its precision and lack of grandeur: “One Hundred Influential American Books Printed before 1900”. There was no catalogue for it. Kelly and the Club also include “A Century for the Century: Fine Printed Books from 1900 to 1999” (1999) in the series.
3. William Lyon Phelps in The Bibliographer vol. II, no. 5 (May 1903), p. 320.
4. In his review of One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature with Facsimiles of the Title-Pages, Phelps noted that when it came to numbered lists of things, “The fact that no absolute truth in the matter can be demonstrated and that no two intelligent persons will by any possibility agree on the choices lends a certain amount of pleasurable excitement to the hazardous undertaking.” The pleasurable but hazardously exciting task of proposing an alternative list to Kelly’s—viewed from  a radically different perspective—will be the subject of a future blog post.
5. Champ Fleury by Geofroy Tory (Paris: Geofroy Tory and Giles Gourmont, 1529) is no. 12 and Champ Fleury by Geofroy Tory (New York: The Grolier Club, 1927) is no. 12A. The other extra items—they are not all books—are the 1734 broadside “A Specimen by William Caslon, Letter-Founder” (no. 30A); Typefoundries in the Netherlands from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century by Charles Enschedé (1978) (no. 48A), the English translation of the 1908 book (no. 48); Modern Fine Printing by Stanley Morison (no. 57A) as a follow-up to Four Centuries of Fine Printing (no. 57); Type Specimen Facsimiles II by Hendrik D.L. Vervliet and Harry Carter (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972) (no. 66A) paired with its 1963 predecessor (no. 66); Manuale Typographicum by Hermann Zapf (Frankfurt am Main: Z-Presse, 1968), (no. 71A), a follow-up to Zapf’s 1954 book of the same name; U&lc (no. 82A), as a corollary to The ITC Typeface Collection (1980) (no. 82); and The Private Typecasters by Richard Hopkins and Henry Morris (Newtown, Pennsylvania: The Bird & Bull Press, 2008) (no. 96A) in conjunction with So Long, Hot-Metal Men by Morris (2007) (no. 96). Thus, there are 108 “books” in the exhibition catalogue. The actual exhibition at the Grolier Club included other ancillary items such as a 1921 broadside specimen of the types of Frederic W. Goudy and a small broadside about Eric Gill by Barry Moser. Yet, three books listed in the catalogue (nos. 33, 38, and 66) were omitted for unexplained reasons.
6. The same criticism can be leveled at the Fifty Books of the Year competitions organized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts since 1923.
7. To fully appreciate Pine’s astonishing accomplishment see volume I of Quinti Horati Flacci Opera (1733) via Google Books.
8. This is not a complete list of books chosen by Kelly that I consider less than famous. Others are no. 10 De Proportionibus Libri Duo by Jean Fernel; no. 58 The Goudy Type Family by American Type Founders; no. 74 Early Korean Typography by Sohn Pow-Key; no. 80 Petri Bembo / De Aetna; no. 86 Twentieth Century Type Designers by Sebastian Carter; no. 88 A Miscellany of Type by John Randle; no. 94 Into Print by John Dreyfus; no. 98 Typology by Steven Heller and Louise Fili; and no. 100 A Grammar of Typography by Mark Argetsinger. Although not famous, some are definitely important.
9. The Oxford English Dictionary defines typography as “The art or practice of printing.” Moxon, somewhat tautologically, describes a typographer as someone who “can either perform, or direct others to perform from the beginning to the end, all the handiworks and physical operations relating to typography.” In 1924, Daniel Berkeley Updike wrote “the best rules for planning work [printing] are general rules, and rules for the mind rather than for the hand”. In “First Principles of Typography” (1936), Stanley Morison famously defined typography “as the craft of rightly disposing printing material in accordance with specific purpose, of so arranging the letters, distributing the space and controlling the type as to aid to the maximum the reader’s comprehension of the text.” The latter part of his definition injects a moral aspect to typography, something which previous writers had not contemplated.
10. Fertel is no. 21 on Kelly’s list, but Smith and MacKellar are missing, along with other key books in this lineage such as Harpel’s Typograph, or Book of Specimens by Oscar Harpel (1870) or Manuel Français de Typographie Moderne by Francis Thibaudeau (1924). A good overview of the history of typography from Fertel to Hermann Zapf is L’Effet Gutenberg by Fernand Baudin (Paris: Editions du Cercle de la Librairie, 1994). For a discussion of Smith and his importance see James Mosley’s Typefoundry post of 2007. Kelly includes Typographia, or The Printer’s Instructor by John Johnson (1824) as no. 39 on his list, but it has less actual typographic advice than Smith despite its two volumes of over 700 pages each. The importance of understanding the rules of spelling, hyphenation, punctuation, and so on for compositors was emphasized by Theodore Low De Vinne who devoted one volume of his four volume set The Practice of Typography solely to the subject. Correct Composition (1901) is subtitled “A Treatise on Spelling, Abbreviations, the Compounding and Division of Words, the proper use of Figures and Numerals, Italic and Capital letters, Notes, Etc.”.
11. The closest Rogers came to explicitly describing his views on typography are the random comments gathered by James Hendrickson in Paragraphs about Printing (New York: William E. Rudge’s Sons, 1943).
12. The key texts during this decade are: “Elementare Typographie” (the October 1925 issue of Typographische Mitteilungen) by Jan Tschichold; Die neue Typographie (1928) by Tschichold; “First Principles of Typography” by Stanley Morison, originally the entry for “typography” in the 1929 Encyclopedia Britannica and then revised in volume VII of The Fleuron (1930) before being issued as a stand-alone text (1936); Beatrice Warde’s speech “Printing Should Be Invisible,” given to the British Typographers’ Guild at the St Bride Institute in London, on October 7, 1930, which was subsequently published as “The Crystal Goblet” in 1932; An Essay on Typography by Eric Gill (1931); and Typographische Gestaltung by Tschichold (1935). Partly due to his self-imposed restrictions, only Die neue Typographie (no. 59) and An Essay on Typography (no. 67) appear on Kelly’s list.
13. Fournier’s definition of typography is in the first volume of his Manuel Typographique (1764), p. xxij.
14. The ten books I have singled out as being about the practice of typography, wholly or in part, are: no. 21 La Science Pratique de l’Imprimerie by Martin Dominique Fertel (1723), no. 39 Typographia, or the Printer’s Instructor by John Johnson (1824), no. 47 The American Chap Books by Will Bradley (1904–1905), no. 59 Die neue Typographie by Jan Tschichold (1928), no. 67 An Essay on Typography by Eric Gill (1931), no. 70 Designing Books by Tschichold (listed as n.d. but 1951), no. 75 Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type by Geoffrey Dowding (1954), no. 92 Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst (1992), no. 93 Stop Stealing Sheep by Erik Spiekermann and E.M. Ginger (1993), and no. 100 A Grammar of Typography by Mark Argetsinger (2020). In discussing Designing Books, Kelly does refer back to Die neue Typographie.
15. For a detailed listing of the cross-references in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography see the comments about each entry.
16. If Kelly had taken a broader linguistic approach to typography he would have had to include, at the least, examples of Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese. Daniel Bomberg (c.1483–c.1549), credited as the printer of the first Mikraot Gdolot (Rabbinic Bible) and the first complete Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, would have been a logical choice for Hebrew. His editions of those books set standards of pagination and layout that are still in use today. See The Jewish Encyclopedia. Choosing examples of East Asian scripts is more difficult without advice from experts in those areas since general Western sources focus on first instances of printing with moveable type, rather than on notable examples of typography. (For example, see Chapter 5 of the online UCLA History of the Book.) Any instances of the latter would most probably be from the 20th or 21st century. The same is true of Arabic typography. (See “The Enigma of the First Arabic Book Printed from Movable Type” and “Early Arabic Printing: Movable Type and Lithography”.) It should also be pointed out that non-Latin typography involves fewer elements than Latin, Greek or Cyrillic typography since the scripts are non-alphabetic and do not include such things as capitals, small capitals, lowercase, and italics.
17. The exceptions are Aldus Manutius (nos. 5–7), Claude Garamont (nos. 14 and 16), Giambattista Bodoni (nos. 33 and 35), Stanley Morison (nos. 56, 57, 57A, 66, 69, 76, and 78), Frederic W. Goudy (nos. 58 and 68), Jan Tschichold (nos. 59 and 70), A.F. Johnson (nos. 61 and 65), John Dreyfus (nos. 66 and 94), Harry Carter (nos. 66A and 79), Hendrik D.L. Vervliet (nos. 66A) and 97), and John Randle (nos. 83 and 88). Bruce Rogers (nos. 12A and 51), American Type Founders (nos. 55 and 58), and Jack Stauffacher (nos. 72 and 85) also appear more than once even though their names are not part of both entry titles. Maybe Kelly’s quota explains why Palatino: The Natural History of a Typeface by Robert Bringhurst (San Francisco: The Book Club of California, 2015) is conspicuously missing.
18. The colophon of One Hundred Books Famous in Typography is surprisingly sparse for a book whose subject is typography. It identifies the type and its designer (Palatino nova by Hermann Zapf), paper (Cougar Opaque), and Kelly as the designer and typographer. There is no mention of the printer, no short history of the typeface, no details of the typography such as point size and leading, and no comments on typographical details such as widows, paragraph indents, and the use of small capitals.
19. The definition of a widow has been debated for a long time. Some define it as a single word (or a few words) on a line at the end of a paragraph, while others have defined it as a last line that is roughly 20% the length of its measure. I prefer the latter definition and based on it, counted 102 widows in the text, including thirteen of one word (or a fraction thereof). Although widows are routinely vilified on typography websites and in many contemporary books on typography, the best typographers such as Tschichold and Hochuli have always understood that they are inevitable. Detail in Typography: Letters, Letter-Spacing, Words, Word-Spacing, Lines, Line-Spacing, Columns by Jost Hochuli (Wilmington, Massachusetts: Compugraphic Corporation, 1987) is a short but highly regarded text on typography—despite the fact that it is riddled with widows (twenty-eight in forty-four pages). In Hochuli’s view, good letter- and word-spacing is more important than finding ways to eliminate widows. Tschichold, although acknowledging that widows (Hurenkinder or “whore’s children”, in his words) create ugly gaps in a text block, considered the methods proposed to eliminate them, such as asking the author to rewrite the text or adjusting the text block, unacceptable. See “Whore’s Children and Cobbler’s Apprentices” [1951] in The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design by Jan Tschichold (Vancouver, British Columbia and Point Roberts, Washington: Hartley & Marks, Publishers, 1991). Neither Hochuli or Tschichold, address widows that involve word fragments such as those on p. 106 (“ton’s types.”); p. 138 (“cent Bible (no. 1).”); p. 166 (“ed paper.”), p. 218 (“ject.”) and p. 242 (“phy.”) which I find wholly unacceptable since they destroy the even texture of the text block far more than any adjustments to word spacing would. (Ironically, the widow on p. 242 above occurs as part of the text about no. 92 The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst.) Tschichold, in dismissing the idea of asking the author to revise the text to eliminate a widow, never considered a situation such as One Hundred Books Famous in Typography where the author and typographer are one. With a little effort Kelly could have revised his texts to remove the thirteen single-word and partial-word widows.
20. “Typesetting without indention makes it difficult for the reader to comprehend what has been printed.… While blunt beginnings seem to create a uniform and consistent impression when compared with normal typesetting, this impression is paid for with a serious loss of comprehension,” Tschichold wrote in “Why the Beginnings of Paragraphs Must Be Indented. See “Why the Beginnings of Paragraphs Must Be Indented” [1950] in The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design by Jan Tschichold (Vancouver, British Columbia and Point Roberts, Washington: Hartley & Marks, Publishers, 1991), p. 107.
21. See the second revised and enlarged edition of The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst (Vancouver, British Columbia and Point Roberts, Washington: Hartley & Marks, Publishers, 1999), p. 48 (3.3.2). The abbreviations that are set in full capitals are ATF, ITC, P22, OEM, RIT, URW, FUSE, and CMS. Only ATF and ITC appear regularly and, given their context, there are good reasons to not set them in small capitals.
22. Although I cannot speak for every book that Kelly has designed, all of those I own or have handled in libraries have single-column formats in which the size of the type has been adjusted to create a readable page. This includes those such as The Noblest Roman: A History of the Centaur Types of Bruce Rogers in which sidenotes have been extensively employed.
23. Kelly’s design is a near duplicate of The Typographic Book. Not only does it match it in measure, words per line, lines per page, and type size, but also in widows. Although The Typographic Book has indented paragraphs, it too is chock-full of widows (forty in sixty-six pages, with one quarter of them consisting of single words—but no word fragments).
24. Although two different papers were used for The Typographic Book (one from Grosvenor, Chater & Co. Ltd. and one from Van Gelder Zonen), the pages appear uniform due to an amazingly close match of their tints.
25. The use of double-page spreads as the basic design unit of a book may be simple, but it is effective. This can be seen in Historical Types from Gutenberg to Ashendene by Stan Knight (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2012) designed by Marcia Friedman and The Visual History of Type by Paul McNeil (London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd., 2017) designed by the author.
26. The count of 108 entries includes the eight ancillary texts. Twenty-seven of the entries have bibliographical images which consist of bookplates, inscriptions, correspondence, etc.
27. Thirty-six entries are illustrated solely by title pages or covers, and ten with title pages and additional illustrations. It should be noted that there are no title pages for eleven entries. “The history of printing is in large measure the history of the title-page,” declared Morison. (See The Fleuron: A Journal of Typography vol. 7, p. 67.) Five Hundred Years of Book Design by Alan Bartram (London: The British Library, 2001) is a rebuttal of this assertion. He shows thirty-two title pages, but only after thirty-nine double-page spreads and twenty-two single pages (most of them chapter openings). Although its illustrations are all in black-and-white, Bartram’s book provides a broader and more detailed history of typography—at least up to the 1930s, its stopping point—than does One Hundred Books Famous in Typography. It is also better written, designed and thought out. Its successor Bauhaus, Modernism and the Illustrated Book (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004) is worth reading, but less brilliant as a total package.
28. Among the other practical texts on typography that are poorly displayed are Die neue Typographie (no. 59), An Essay on Typography (no. 67), The Elements of Typographic Style (no. 92), Stop Stealing Sheep (no. 93), and A Grammar of Typography (no. 100). Possibly the most galling decision occurs with no. 70 Designing Books where the text is accompanied by the cover of Penguin’s Progress 5 (which is entirely hand-lettered) rather than Tschichold’s celebrated “Penguin Composition Rules” or an interior page from a Penguin book.
29. Two captions identify which issue of The Fleuron (no. 56) two illustrations come from and the other two captions distinguish between illustrations for Four Centuries of Fine Printing (no. 57) and Modern Fine Printing (no. 57A).
30. The only way to quickly locate an entry in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography is to use the index.
31. The full set of divisions is: “In the Beginning,” covering the years 1455–1517 (nos. 1–9); “The First Golden Age,” covering the years 1528–1683 (nos. 10–19); “The Age of Reason,” covering the years 1695 to 1818 (nos. 20–35); “Looking Back,” covering the years 1824 to 1922 (nos. 36–53); “The Machine Age,” covering the years 1900 to 1963 (nos. 54–67; “Modern Masters,” covering the years 1940 to 1983 (nos. 68–85); and “Brave New World,” covering the years 1987 to 2020 (nos. 86–100).
32. Some other anomalies are György Haiman’s biography of 17th century punchcutter Miklós Kis and Early Korean Typography as part of “Modern Masters;” So Long, Hot-Metal Men about the twilight of metal type and The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance under “Brave New World.”
33. Rearranging the titles would have required the headers with the oversize numbers to be redesigned and treated in a manner similar to the provenance information in order to avoid any potential confusion on the part of a reader seeing numbers jumping about.
34. The exception is no. 61 Catalogue of Specimens of Printing Types by English and Scottish Printers and Founders 1665–1830. The ex libris of The Merrymount Press has been placed on the recto where it partially overlaps the lower left corner of the title page, looking like paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe.
35. Each typeface occupies a single page. With the exception of titling faces like Rosewood (p. 292) and Trajan (p. 314), the display consists of capitals, lowercase, ampersand, and figures 1 to 0. For some reason the typefaces are not numbered in the same manner as the books.
36. The erratic punctuation is Kelly’s.
37. The caption for Sabon—”Sabon / Claude Garamond [sic] / c.1560 / Interpreted by Jan Tschichold. / Stempel/Linotype/Monotype / See no. 91″—is another example of garbled facts. The typeface, designed by Jan Tschichold, was simultaneously released in 1967 by D. Stempel AG, Linotype, and Monotype. Tschichold based his design on the types of Claude Garamont and Guillaume Le Bé. The sample shows the digital version from Linotype. There is no mention of Sabon Next (released 2002) by Jean François Porchez.
38. A more complete analysis of the typefaces included in—and those excluded from—”Fifty Typefaces famous in Typography” will appear as part of a future Blue Pencil dissection.
39. See A New Method of Analysing Printed Type: The Case of 15th-Century Venetian Romans by Riccardo Olocco (PhD thesis, University of Reading, 2019).
40. See note 39 and “The Jenson Roman: its mutations and spread in fifteenth-century Italy” in the Journal of the Printing Historical Society New Series 29 (Winter 2018).
41. Anne Fink, co-author of Faces on the Edge: Type in the Digital Age, is not included in the entry. This is one of several moments in the catalogue where Kelly has inexplicably ignored women as designers, authors, or editors of typefaces or books being mentioned.
42. For seven entries in the book Kelly has provided two additional references under Further Reading.
43. Kelly has a conservative, traditionalist view of typography, one that has been shaped by D.B. Updike, Stanley Morison, Bruce Rogers, Joseph Blumenthal, Hermann Zapf, and others in that lineage. This is very evident not only in the choice of items for the exhibition One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, but also in the shaping of the texts about them. It is to Kelly’s credit that a few items that do not fit his typographic aesthetic are included. Unfortunately, he does not treat them with equal respect. He allocates fewer words to their entries and studiously avoids presenting a fair or balanced account. For instance, in the text for The ITC Collection (no. 82) rather than tackle the merits (or demerits) of the enormously popular ITC typefaces of the 1970s and early 1980s—characterized by large x-heights and tight letterfit—he focuses on the company’s efforts to prevent type piracy. There is no denying the importance of those efforts, but it is inexcusable to not mention a single ITC typeface by name. Kelly makes things worse by showing only the book’s cover and not identifying the typeface (ITC Benguiat) used for the title. Similarly, he indicates his dislike of the experimental FUSE fonts by devoting nearly all of the text for FUSE 1 (no. 90) to a lengthy quotation from the “magazine” itself. There is one place where Kelly’s biases come to the fore. At the end of the text for Designing Books (no. 70), he takes a swipe at Die neue Typographie (no. 59), noting that it displays Jan Tschichold’s work “without an asymmetric layout in sight!” The exclamation point is his.
44. The factual errors in One Hundred Books Famous in Typography, as distinct from interpretive ones, are relatively few. Some are not very serious. An example of the latter is Layout in Advertising (no. 63) where Kelly mistakenly claims that W.A. Dwiggins began designing books for the Limited Editions Club in 1935. In fact, Dwiggins began his affiliation with George Macy in 1929 with Tartarin of Tarascon which was published in 1930.
45. Beatrice Warde died in 1969 as the header of no. 46 accurately indicates. Kelly’s reference is to The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance by Hendrik D.L. Vervliet (no. 97).
46. Other books could have served the purpose of displaying Garamont’s Greek types such as Robert Estienne’s third edition of the Novum Testamentum Graecam (1550) which was the first book to use all three founts of the grecs du roi and the first to use the largest size.
47. The advisory committee consisted of Robert Bringhurst, Sebastian Carter, Jason Dewinetz, David R. Godine, Steven Heller, Eric Holzenberg, Russell Maret, David Pankow, Michael Russem, and Lynne and Bob Veatch. Their credentials (presented on pp. 21–22) are impeccable, but skewed toward the same end of the typographic spectrum as Kelly. One person, besides Heller, who might have provided a broader perspective is Russem, but rumor has it that none of his suggestions, including Detail in Typography by Jost Hochuli, made the final cut. The committee’s lack of diversity extended beyond aesthetics to gender, race, and even geographic location.
48. Puzzlingly, provenance is provided for only seventy-six of the items in the book. As to the missing bibliographical information, some of it appears in the header (e.g. that Hague & Gill printed An Essay on Typography [no. 67]) and some of it is buried in the text (e.g. that Into Print [no. 94] was printed by the Stamperia Valdonega).