Palatino: The Natural History of a Typeface
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By Robert Bringhurst
This book is an argument, and a convincing one, that artists who create letters can, and should, be judged by the same standards and held in the same esteem as composers who write music and artists who paint on canvas. Bringhurst asks the question, “Can a pen stroke or a letterform be so beautiful it will stop you in your tracks and maybe break your heart?” In this groundbreaking, seminal and totally original book, he answers the question: “It can.”
In the spring of 2015, the world lost one of the great practitioners of the graphic arts of the past century. Hermann Zapf, born in 1918, died in his sun-and book-filled studio in Darmstadt at the age of 96. As a book designer, type designer, an advocate, a teacher and above all, as a calligrapher, the world has seldom seen his equal. And the book here described will probably share that distinction, for in these 296 pages, the author, poet, polymath and fellow type traveller, Robert Bringhurst, does full justice to Zapf’s genius. He takes as his theme Palatino, probably the most widely known and used of all Zapf faces, and traces its development, with all its infinite permutations, and often invisible refinements through a long and fascinating history. But if Palatino provides the tenor, the variations and permutations, the imitations and conflations—from hot metal, through the brief interlude of film setting and finally into the digital world—provide the musical descants. Bringhurst has orchestrated all the parts; included with the text are over 200 illustrations of design sketches, working drawings, smoke proofs and test prints, matrices, foundry and Linotype patterns, all printed in five colors.
If you want background on Palatino, it is all here, in encompassing detail: a fully illustrated account of the typeface and its extended family—foundry and Linotype, Michelangelo, Sistina, Aldus, Heraklit, Phidias, Zapf Renaissance, PostScript Palatino, Palatino and Aldus Nova, and Palatino Sans. And more. Much more. More than you would believe existed.
“Palatino” is more than a type nerd’s delight or an ode to a great typeface. In telling the story of Palatino from foundry type to digital type, Mr. Bringhurst has in effect recounted the technological history of type in the 20th century. His book is an elegant and methodically thorough investigation of how technology has influenced design, positively as well as negatively, seen through the lens of a single typeface. Whether one likes Palatino or not, Mr. Bringhurst’s book is an instant classic.” – The Wall Street Journal
Designed and typeset by Robert Bringhurst
Published by David R. Godine, 2016
Printed in an edition of 1,000 copies
Hardcover, 200 pages, full color, 5.56 × 9 inches