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By Erik Spiekermann, Jürgen Siebert & Mai-Linh Thi Truong

In this second edition of FontBook, the previous two volumes have been combined into one monstrous hardcover book with a new structure and organization boasting a collection of 4,850 type families and packages (that's 24,500 individual fonts). Count 'em if you want-I'm just taking their word for it. Likewise, the accompanying paperback Style Finder, was revamped (now an index by alpha) and redubbed FontFinder.

The bonus is a sixteen page special available in English, German and French. One highlight is an interview-style conversation between Erik Spiekermann & Adrian Frutiger about a handful of Frutiger's more notable typefaces over the years. There are also several articles on various type-related topics intended to add value to the book, but only achieve this slightly. The articles range from the very useful (albeit brief), "Font Management", to the very inane, e.g.-"Type Olympics" and "Trivial Typography". These sixteen pages would have been better used as an annotated bibliography to point readers to other more comprehensive works on these topics.

The samples are efficiently organized and informative. A typical showing consists of up to eight different features. First, there's the FontShop reference number, which identifies the manufacturer with a one to three letter code e.g.- ITC (International Typeface Corp.), or FB (Font Bureau). However, some of the codes are a bit cryptic: TWC (T-26), C (Agfa), or K (MacCampus). Consequently, you'll find yourself repeatedly flipping to the Manufacturers index until you become more familiar with the codes. Next, the platform(s) it's available for and historical info such as the year it was created and by whom is listed directly behind the reference number. Below the entry name (which may be the family, package, or a single font) is a header display of the basic character set (upper & lower case letters, numerals, some accented letters and a few symbols). The complete character set, omitted for spatial considerations I'm sure, is unavailable. This is unfortunate since what a character set may consist of can vary from foundry to foundry. A solution for this would be to feature full character set displays at the FontShop website. Following the header, a text sample is provided and in the case of multiple weights a sample of each is provided & identified by weight or style name. Last, three types of footnotes are used: (1) to indicate alternative availability from a manufacturer or as part of a different set; (2) similar & related fonts; and (3) if the font is available in a compilation pack.

What I venture to say is missing from this edition of FontBook, is that FUSEd spirit in FSI's progressive step in navigating the complicated--some might say controversial--issue of classifying fonts. I'm talking specifically about their 1998 catalog and the current version of their website. Where instead of the four nowadays inadequate standard classifications of: Serif, Sans Serif, Script and Display, the FontFont library is served up in the unexpected categories; Typographic, Geometric, Amorphous, Ironic, Historic, Intelligent, Handwritten and Destructive--plus pi & symbols. The last section of FontBook covers the experimental FUSE fonts. Granted some of these handles are more apparent than others, (Typographic?) but it's good to see someone making the attempt. 

--Delve Withrington,
October 14, 1998

FontBook: Digital Typeface Compendium (2nd Edition)
Authors: Erik Spiekermann, Jürgen Siebert & Mai-Linh Thi Truong
Publisher: FontShop International [June 1998]
ISBN: 3-930023-02-4
Binding: Hardcover w/ FontFinder (Paperback), 1429pp, 6 1/2" x 12"

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