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Just My Type: A Book about Fonts


Just My Type: A Book about Fonts Cover

ISBN13: 9781592406524
ISBN10: 1592406521
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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As I stood on a train bleeding from what would later be classified as a thirteen-centimeter stab wound, I wondered what to do. It was May 1985, and I had just jumped on to a London Tube train as the door closed, shutting out my attacker, but not before he had slashed my back. The wound stung like a very bad paper cut, and I had no idea how serious it was, but being a schoolboy at the time, embarrassment overcame any sort of common sense. So instead of getting help, I decided the best thing would be to sit down and go home, and so, bizarrely, that is what I did.

and#160;and#160;and#160;To distract myself from the pain, and the uneasy feeling of blood trickling down my back, I tried to work out what had just happened. My assailant had approached me on the platform asking me for money. When I shook my head he got uncomfortably close, looked at me intently, and told me he had a knife. A few specks of spit from his mouth landed on my glasses as he said this. I followed his gaze down to the pocket of his blue anorak. I had a gut feeling that it was just his index finger that was creating the pointed bulge. Even if he did have a knife, it must be so small to fit in that pocket that there was no way it could do me much damage. I owned penknives myself and knew that such a knife would find it very hard to pierce the several layers that I was wearing: my leather jacket, of which I was very proud, my gray wool school blazer beneath it, my nylon V-neck sweater, my cotton white shirt with obligatory striped school tie half knotted, and cotton vest. A plan formed quickly in my head: keep him talking and then push past him on to the train as the doors were closing. I could see the train arriving and was sure he wouldnand#8217;t have time to react.

and#160;and#160;and#160;Funnily enough I was right about one thing: he didnand#8217;t have a knife. His weapon was a razor blade wrapped in tape. This tiny piece of steel, not much bigger than a postage stamp, had cut through five layers of my clothes, and then through the epidermis and dermis of my skin in one slash without any problem at all. When I saw that weapon in the police station later, I was mesmerized. I had seen razors before of course, but now I realized that I didnand#8217;t know them at all. I had just started shaving at the time, and had only seen them encased in friendly orange plastic in the form of a Bic safety razor. As the police quizzed me about the weapon, the table between us wobbled and the razor blade sitting on it wobbled too. In doing so it glinted in the fluorescent lights, and I saw clearly that its steel edge was still perfect, unaffected by its afternoonand#8217;s work.

and#160;and#160;and#160;Later I remember having to fill in a form, with my parents anxiously sitting next to me and wondering why I was hesitating. Perhaps I had forgotten my name and address? In truth I had started to fixate on the staple at the top of the first page. I was pretty sure this was made of steel too. This seemingly mundane piece of silvery metal had neatly and precisely punched its way through the paper. I examined the back of the staple. Its two ends were folded snugly against one another, holding the sheaf of papers together in a tight embrace. A jeweler could not have made a better job of it. (Later I found out that the first stapler was hand-made for King Louis XV of France with each staple inscribed with his insignia. Who would have thought that staplers have royal blood?) I declared it and#8220;exquisiteand#8221; and pointed it out to my parents, who looked at each other in a worried way, thinking no doubt that I was having a nervous breakdown.

and#160;and#160;and#160;Which I suppose I was. Certainly something very odd was going on. It was the birth of my obsession with materialsand#8212;starting with steel. I suddenly became ultra-sensitive to its being present everywhere. I saw it in the tip of the ballpoint pen I was using to fill out the police form; it jangled at me from my dadand#8217;s key ring while he waited, fidgeting; later that day it sheltered and took me home, covering the outside of our car in a layer no thicker than a postcard. Strangely, I felt that our steel Mini, usually so noisy, was on its best behavior that day, materially apologizing for the stabbing incident. When we got home I sat down next to my dad at the kitchen table, and we ate my mumand#8217;s soup together in silence. Then I paused, realizing I even had a piece of steel in my mouth. I consciously sucked the stainless steel spoon I had been eating my soup with, then took it out and studied its bright shiny appearance, so shiny that I could even see a distorted reflection of myself in it. and#8220;What is this stuff?and#8221; I said, waving the spoon at my dad. and#8220;And why doesnand#8217;t it taste of anything?and#8221; I put it back in my mouth to check, and sucked it assiduously.

and#160;and#160;and#160;Then a million questions poured out. How is it that this one material does so much for us, and yet we hardly talk about it? It is an intimate character in our livesand#8212;we put it in our mouths, use it to get rid of unwanted hair, drive around in itand#8212;it is our most faithful friend, and yet we hardly know what makes it tick. Why does a razor blade cut while a paper clip bends? Why are metals shiny? Why, for that matter, is glass transparent? Why does everyone seem to hate concrete but love diamond? And why is it that chocolate tastes so good? Why does any material look and behave the way it does?

Since the stabbing incident, I have spent the vast majority of my time obsessing about materials. Iand#8217;ve studied materials science at Oxford University, Iand#8217;ve earned a PhD in jet engine alloys, and Iand#8217;ve worked as a materials scientist and engineer in some of the most advanced laboratories around the world. Along the way, my fascination with materials has continued to growand#8212;and with it my collection of extraordinary samples of them. These samples have now been incorporated into a vast library of materials built together with my friends and colleagues Zoe Laughlin and Martin Conreen. Some are impossibly exotic, such as a piece of NASA aerogel, which being 99.8 percent air resembles solid smoke; some are radioactive, such as the uranium glass I found at the back of an antique shop in Australia; some are small but stupidly heavy, such as ingots of the metal tungsten extracted painstakingly from the mineral wolframite; some are utterly familiar but have a hidden secret, such as a sample of self-healing concrete. Taken together, this library of more than a thousand materials represents the ingredients that built our world, from our homes, to our clothes, to our machines, to our art. The library is now located and maintained at the Institute of Making which is part of University College London. You could rebuild our civilization from the contents of this library, and destroy it too.

and#160;and#160;and#160;Yet there is a much bigger library of materials containing millions of materials, the biggest ever known, and it is growing at an exponential rate: the manmade world itself. Consider the photograph opposite. It pictures me drinking tea on the roof of my flat. It is unremarkable in most ways, except that when you look carefully it provides a catalog of the stuff from which our whole civilization is made. This stuff is important. Take away the concrete, the glass, the textiles, the metal, and the other materials from the scene, and I am left naked shivering in midair. We may like to think of ourselves as civilized, but that civilization is in a large part bestowed by material wealth. Without this stuff, we would quickly be confronted by the same basic struggle for survival that animals are faced with. To some extent, then, what allows us to behave as humans are our clothes, our homes, our cities, our stuff, which we animate through our customs and language. (This becomes very clear if you ever visit a disaster zone.) The material world is not just a display of our technology and culture, it is part of us. We invented it, we made it, and in turn it makes us who we are.

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Art Needleman, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by Art Needleman)
Excellent discussion on type and how it affects our lives. Without type, there would be nothing to read.
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Brittney, September 12, 2011 (view all comments by Brittney)
As a self-taught graphic designer, I found this book to be a great resource. While it succeeds wonderfully in examining the history and origins of fonts, what impressed me most was just how entertaining Just My Type was - a quality I find some design books lack. I especially loved the chapter on 'worst fonts in the world' - I really hate Papyrus.
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(2 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
tutu, September 7, 2011 (view all comments by tutu)
Full disclosure: I am one of those people whose pulse races when looking at -- or reading about -- fonts. So this book was a romance and a thriller in one for me. I love reading about the provenance of each font, the teeny, tiny differences, the anecdotes, the flubs. I learned that I like the Bembo font.

I can only imagine the conversations about what type to set the book in (Sabon) and how hard the checkers had to work to make sure each font sample was correct. Yikes!
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Product Details

A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing
Garfield, Simon
Miodownik, Mark
General Reference
Writing Skills
Applied Sciences
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
bandw art throughout
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Arts and Entertainment » Art » Design History
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Featured Titles » Culture

Just My Type: A Book about Fonts Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 464 pages Gotham - English 9781592406524 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Printed type is no mere neutral conveyor of ideas but an artistic medium in its own right, with psychological, social, and even sexual overtones, according to this lively romp through the history of fonts. Garfield (The End of Innocence) surveys fonts from Gutenberg's dour Gothic and the elegant classicism of Garamond to the childlike faux-naïveté of Comic Sans, now so widely used for everything from medical brochures to tombstones that a movement has arisen to ban it. Along the way he revisits the sometimes lurid lives of the great typographers — incest and bestiality included — and explores the legibility of highway signs and the subliminal messaging of presidential campaign fonts. There's much pop psychology here — heavy, angular fonts seem male, apparently, while thin, curlicued ones are female — and a lot of engaging connoisseurship that occasionally goes overboard, especially when comparing look-alike modern sans serif fonts: you have to strain at gnats to distinguish the ubiquitous corporate cordiality of Helvetica from the 'slightly softer and more rounded tone' of Arial. Regardless, Garfield's evocative prose — Cooper Black is 'the sort of font the oils in a lava lamp would form if smashed to the floor' — entices us to see letters instead of just reading them. Photos. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Whether you're a hardcore typophile or a type-tyro, there's something here for you: be it the eye-opening revelations of Eric Gill's utter and complete perversity, or the creation of the typeface that helped Mr. Obama gain entrance to the White House."
"Review" by , "There is even a photograph of a quick brown fox literally jumping over a lazy dog. What a clever, clever book."
"Review" by , "Did I love this book? My daughter's middle name is Bodoni. Enough said."
"Review" by , "With wit, grace and intelligence, Simon Garfield tells the fascinating stories behind the letters that we encounter every day on our street corners, our bookstore shelves, and our computer screens." Michael Bierut, Partner, Pentagram Design, New York, and author of Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design
"Review" by , "Simon Garfield reveals an invisible world behind the printed word... the lives of the designers and the letters they've created have never been more clearly detailed with so much flair."
"Synopsis" by ,
An eye-opening adventure deep inside theand#160;everyday materials that surround us,and#160;from concrete and steel to denim and chocolate, packed with surprising stories and fascinating science.
"Synopsis" by ,
An eye-opening adventure deep inside the everyday materials that surround us, packed with surprising stories and fascinating science Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does a paper clip bend? Why does any material look and behave the way it does? These are the sorts of questions that Mark Miodownik is constantly asking himself. A globally-renowned materials scientist, Miodownik has spent his life exploring objects as ordinary as an envelope and as unexpected as concrete cloth, uncovering the fascinating secrets that hold together our physical world. In Stuff Matters, Miodownik entertainingly examines the materials he encounters in a typical morning, from the steel in his razor and the graphite in his pencil to the foam in his sneakers and the concrete in a nearby skyscraper. He offers a compendium of the most astounding histories and marvelous scientific breakthroughs in the material world, including:

    • The imprisoned alchemist who saved himself from execution by creating the first European porcelain.

      • The hidden gem of the Milky Way, a planet five times the size of Earth, made entirely of diamond.

        • Graphene, the thinnest, strongest, stiffest material in existenceand#8212;only a single atom thickand#8212;that could be used to make entire buildings sensitive to touch.

        From the teacup to the jet engine, the silicon chip to the paper clip, the plastic in our appliances to the elastic in our underpants, our lives are overflowing with materials. Full of enthralling tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, Stuff Matters will make you see stuff in a whole new way.

"Synopsis" by ,
The New York Times bestselling author of Just My Type and On the Map offers an ode to letter writing and its possible salvation in the digital age.

Few things are as excitingand#151;and potentially life-changingand#151;as discovering an old letter. And while etiquette books still extol the practice, letter writing seems to be disappearing amid a flurry of e-mails, texting, and tweeting. The recent decline in letter writing marks a cultural shift so vast that in the future historians may divide time not between BC and AD but between the eras when people wrote letters and when they did not. So New York Times bestselling author Simon Garfield asks: Can anything be done to revive a practice that has dictated and tracked the progress of civilization for more than five hundred years?

In To the Letter, Garfield traces the fascinating history of letter writing from the love letter and the business letter to the chain letter and the letter of recommendation. He provides a tender critique of early letter-writing manuals and analyzes celebrated correspondence from Erasmus to Princess Diana. He also considers the role that letters have played as a literary device from Shakespeare to the epistolary novel, all the rage in the eighteenth century and alive and well today with bestsellers like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. At a time when the decline of letter writing appears to be irreversible, Garfield is the perfect candidate to inspire bibliophiles to put pen to paper and create and#147;a form of expression, emotion, and tactile delight we may clasp to our heart.and#8221;

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