The Manual of Typography

best-selling introduction to type and good page design

This book appears regularly in the Top Ten list of typography manuals – and rightly so. Although The Manual of Typography began life as one in a series of general introductions to arts and crafts, it has established its reputation on the strength of its scholarship, clarity, and beautiful presentation. McLean covers all the basics. First comes a brief historical survey; then the issues of legibility; practical considerations of paper types and composition methods; book design; and what he modestly calls ‘jobbing typography’. There are notes, a list of material suppliers, a brief index, and an excellent list of further reading. It’s easy to see why this book has become one of the standard texts on its subject.

The design of the book is based on a simple three-column grid, with a subtle rhythm of graphic illustration. This varies from full page blow-ups of a single letter design to marginal examples of icons, logos and glyphs accompanied by explanations of a scholarly density.

Yet despite craft origins, it’s a text which unites a profoundly sophisticated sense of taste with the practical aspects of typography. He ranges from the balance of page layout in art-books, to the nuances of letterspacing in railway timetables. From the analysis of six versions of the same font, to recommendations for clear systems of book illustration captions. It stops short of the computer age – but the range of reference and the elegance of the illustrations make this a must for anyone in visual presentation.

Almost every page of this book is a visual delight. Do yourself a favour. If you want to discover the the delight, the subtlety, and the craft of typographical presentation – this is the place to start. Whilst fashions in grunge and distressed type styles have come and gone in the last ten years, this book has remained in print and become a classic.

© Roy Johnson 2003

Ruari McLean, The Thames and Hudson Manual of Typography, London: Thames and Hudson, 1980, pp.280, ISBN 0500680221

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