Ruari McLean

Thames and Hudson, ISBN: 0500680221  Publisher

coverThis is a curious book, part tutorial, part cookbook, part personal war stories, including the author’s pet tools and techniques.  It was obviously designed before computers were commonplace and many sections dealing with hot metal type or phototypesetting are completely obsolete nowadays.

The beginning has a decent introduction to the history of typography and typefaces.

The middle part concerns itself with working around the constraints of metal or copyediting before word processing systems became commonplace. If nothing else, it should give us a renewed appreciation of how much tedious labor computers save us, such as not having to count characters to find out how many pages will be required.

The final part on layout for stationery, books and magazines is pretty good, but not very systematic, and carries the same war story flavor as the section on recommended tools.

All in all, this book has some interesting information, but I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to produce beautiful documents out of his desktop publishing setup. Robin Williams’s “The PC is not a typewriter”, Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographical Style” or even Donald Knuth’s books on computers and typography are better choices in this respect.