London Kerning now available!

If you recall that last November, I went to London for a week and researched the heck out of 19th and 20th century printing history, visited archives and museums, and met with a bunch of people to write a book? The ebook version of London Kerning: Typographic Perambulations around a City That Remembers is now out! You can purchase a copy for $5. It’s 76 pages long and heavily illustrated with photographs I took along the way.

The print edition started shipping in early March, and almost immediately sold out, but you can order copies from a second printing that ships in early April 2018. Order the print book here.

You can read more about the book, download an excerpt, or read the introduction

And see two sample page spreads from the book below.

Chromatic Type

I've posted my first patron-exclusive item at Patreon, where you can help directly support by work by pledging as little as $1 a month (you cancel at any time). Here's the start of the post:

When we think of the past, we often imagine it in black and white. Seeing early color photos or ones that have been realistically colored often jars the way we perceive historic events. The same is true with type and printed works of the past. We think of 19th century and earlier letterpress-printed works as being largely in a single color, and that color is black, sometimes with accents in a second color. Occasionally we’ll see a fancy example of multi-colored printing, but it stands out from that period. Any full-color images typically would have been printed by lithography and added later (“tipped in”) on blank pages reserved for the purposes.

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But type could be parti-colored! (I’m sneaking in a favorite word, somewhat out of fashion: parti-colored means having or being made from two or more colors.) Printers relied on chromatic type, which was designed as sets of interlocking pieces for each letter or character. Each set could be printed separately in a unique color. When all the overlapping pieces of letters combined in a final print, you had the individual colors plus additional colors created by overprinting.

In a world of largely black-only printing with splashes of color, chromatic type could look spectacular.

Read the rest on Patreon!

Relaunching a Patreon campaign to write and talk about type, printing, language, and a lot more

I spent a good portion of 2017 writing about type, typography, printing, letterpress, design, and language, and how they all interact. I’d like to write more about this in the coming years, and I can do so with your support. I’ve relaunched a Patreon campaign focused entirely on these topics, so I can write a combination of work that’s either exclusively for patrons or that patrons get first access to. Beyond writing and photographic essays, this may include a podcast, audio and video interviews, and books, depending on the level of support I’m able to achieve.

There’s a limited amount I can find a home for in fee-paying publications, and in my research, travel, and practical work last year, I uncovered hundreds of stories past and present that I’d like to tell and have piled virtually and physically around me. This research also led me to an idea to produce a video explaining six centuries of printing, and for three books beyond the two type-related recent ones I’ve written and produced. (London Kerning, the latest, will be out in an ebook version next week if all continues to go well, and then in print about a month later. You can pre-order or back at a Patreon level that includes it.)

This last year, I honed my letterpress printing skills and printed a book on a letterpress, wrote dozens of articles about the history of printing and related current topics—like “font detectives,” who testify about forgeries in civil cases and criminal trials—and traveled to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Wisconsin, as well as to London, where I visited the printing library and archives at the St Bride Foundation and The Type Archive, both remarkable collections that are unfortunately barely open to the public.

You can support my Patreon campaign at all sorts of levels, starting at $1. (If you read about the Patreon kerfuffle around fees last year, the company walked this entirely back and returned to its previous sensible system, which I was glad to hear.)

Visit the Patreon campaign, and you can read more about my intent, what I plan to write with your support, and the kinds of rewards available. You’ll also find links to a number of stories I wrote about type and the like in 2017.

Thanks very much for your support, as always!

My Talk on Six Centuries of Printing and My Year in Residence

As the wonderful culmination of my 2017 designer-in-residence position at the School of Visual Concepts, I gave a talk at the school last night. I covered the entire history of printing and my book-printing project, all tied together with the notion of imitation and creation and duplication. You can watch the talk on YouTube. It was an amazing year and I'm looking forward to new adventures in 2018!

2017 in Review

At the end of a year, I often like to summarize what I accomplished in it, because it goes by so fast it’s hard to realize how much I’ve gotten done at the time. This year was quite busy!

In January, I ran a Kickstarter to fund a project I carried out as Designer in Residence at the School of Visual Concepts (SVC) to print a letterpress book of my work. It funded quickly, I printed the book in the summer, and just mailed out 30 of the limited edition of 100 several days ago. It’s called Not To Put Too Fine a Point on It.

You can get an ebook version of this set of reported and researched articles on type, printing, and language directly from me. The ebook version is expanded to 10 from the 6 articles and essays in the letterpress edition. (Download a PDF excerpt.)

As part of this work, I went from someone who had had experience with letterpress printing to a reasonably competent not-quite-beginner at it. I’m pleased with what I learned and the projects I was able to create.

This residency led me to pitch and write many articles about design and type at several publications and launch another project:

I carried out a lot of other work, travel, and tasks, too:

While this seems like a lot, even to me who did it, it's still only a fraction. I also wrote somewhere around 300 other articles for Macworld, TidBITS, the Economist, and other publications, as well as kept an active blog on my letterpress book’s progress.

What’s in store for 2018? A few features are already on my plate for January. Finishing the writing of London Kerning and producing and having it printed. Seeing if a large book project I envision is feasible. Launching a Patreon to write more deeply and consistently about type, printing, and design. Producing a print version of an ever-larger version of the collection above. And likely writing hundreds more stories of all kinds!

Thanks to everyone who provided moral, financial, emotional, and other support this year! Despite the world burning down around us, I felt buoyed and was able to assert myself artistically in a way I haven't before in my career. My heartfelt thanks.

New book on typography, language, and printing!

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I’ve got a new book out! It’s a collection of 10 researched and reported articles I’ve written over the last two years about the history of punctuation, the future of letterpress, and much more.

The first six chapters are part of the letterpress book I printed this year, and the book was one of the items I committed to make as part of that project. You can download an excerpt that contains a full chapter.

It’s 116 pages long and comes as a bundle of PDF, EPUB, and MOBI. Get your copy here!

Here’s what’s in the book:

  • Nothing Is Lacking: The earliest uses of marking a page as intentionally leaving something out.
  • CAPITAL CRIMES: Why we SHOUT with UPPERCASE. (Included in excerpt.)
  • The Ten-Millennium Safe: A web site plans for the far future.
  • The Quibble with Online Quotes: Will the Internet kill off curly quotes?
  • Look Askew: Slanting type is like stealing sheep.
  • Noto Bene: Google builds a massive typeface to represent all the languages of the world.
  • You Can’t Quote Me on It! Email and forums ape an ancient textual device in marking quotations.
  • A Font of Type: Walt Whitman was a printer, and this poem has deep roots in his background.
  • What a Relief: While letterpress seemed destined for the junk heap, it's making a surprising comeback.
  • A Crank Turns a Letterpress: Your author spent hundreds of hours walking a carriage on a press back and forth and thinking about what it meant.
 What does this mean?! Download the excerpt to find out.

What does this mean?! Download the excerpt to find out.

Erik Spiekermann invents digital letterpress

You might know Erik Spiekermann from his prolific work in advertising, as a graphic designer, as a typographer, or as a writer. Now he's a letterpress printer. He’s put a year and €150,000 euros ($180,000) into creating a streamlined process to go from digital to letterpress. His method may sound familiar: I did something similar to print my book this summer. But Erik and his colleagues have taken this several levels further. Here’s my write-up at Medium about how he’s making a deep impression.


Pre-order London Kerning

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The crowdfunding campaign for London Kerning, a small book I’m researching and writing about type design, signage, and letterpress printing in London, went very well! I raised twice my goal, all of which goes towards covering the expenses for my trip and printing a small edition of books.

The ebook will ship in January 2018 and the print edition in February 2018. You can place pre-orders for either version or a discounted bundle via this page!