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Preliminary Reading List

Type, Lettering, and Calligraphy, 1450-1830

James Mosley


Preliminary Advices

There is no single comprehensive and up-to-date history of type. Only the first title given here can strictly be called essential reading. The others are worth looking for and reading selectively.

  1. Harry Carter, A view of early typography up to about 1600 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969). Facsimile reprint: London: Hyphen Press, 2002. Harry Carter (1901–1982) was one of the major historians of type, and his writing is distinguished for its clarity, scholarship, and an authority that came from his practical experience of printing, punchcutting and typefounding. This text, despite the limitation of its coverage, represents the nearest that he came to making a digest of his knowledge. Note especially the first chapter on ‘The technicalities of type’. The reprint of 2002 adds an introduction and some notes.
  2. Philip Gaskell, A new introduction to bibliography. Corrected reprint (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974). This familiar historical handbook to the making of books has a concise and reliable account of type.
  3. T. L. De Vinne, Plain printing types (New York, 1900). One volume in a series with the general title The practice of typography. Various slightly revised impressions. Although this work is mostly concerned with the 19th century, its account of the essentials of traditional type making is clear and well illustrated.

For the practice of the making of type in the hand press period the two chief sources are Joseph Moxon, Mechanick exercises (London, 1683–4) and S. P. Fournier, Manuel typographique (Paris, 1764–6). Fournier’s text in Carter’s excellent English translation would make a good start.

  1. Fournier on typefounding: the text of the Manuel typographique (1764-1766) translated into English and edited with notes by Harry Carter. (London: Soncino Press, 1930). Reprint, with new introduction: New York, Burt Franklin, 1973. It was also included in the following three-volume edition.
  2. A facsimile of the original edition in two volumes of Fournier’s Manuel typographique, 1764–6, together with a third volume containing a facsimile reprint of Fournier on typefounding, 1930, was issued by the Lehrdruckerei, Technische Hochschule, Darmstadt, in 1995. The third volume includes my own introduction and additional notes.
  3. Joseph Moxon, Mechanick exercises on the whole art of printing, 1683–4, edited by Herbert Davis and Harry Carter. 2nd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1962). Reprint: New York: Dover Publications, 1978. Moxon’s treatise, which also deals with setting type and printing, should be consulted in this critical edition.
  4. D. B. Updike, Printing types: their history, forms and use: a study in survivals. 2nd ed. (Cambridge MA, 1937). Reprints: New York: Dover Publications, 1980. New Castle DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2001. A work to be used with great caution: its positive features are that it is readable (if you can handle the ponderous jokes), easily findable (there is a good Dover reprint, and another one was published more recently). It is wide-ranging and based on extensive reading. The illustrations are excellent. Against this it needs to be said that it is opinionated (some would say seriously prejudiced in some directions), and its account of type history is now inevitably limited and in many respects outdated. The titles that follow wholly supersede Updike’s account of their subject.
  5. H. D. L. Vervliet, French Renaissance printing types: a conspectus (London: Bibliographical Society and Printing Historical Society, 2010). The entries in this comprehensive survey of the printing types made in France in the 16th century (except for gothic types or black letter) are not intended for continuous reading, but the general survey of type making and type makers of the period is worth looking at. The work is impressive for its quiet, well-informed authority, and it is as up to date as it can possibly be, thanks not least to its author’s own recent researches. The images of types are a delight. Taken with the author’s collected essays (The palaeotypography of the French Renaissance: selected papers on sixteenth-century typefaces. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2008) this publication represents the most substantial advance in type studies for many decades. The Conspectus of 2010 was distributed to members of the two publishing societies.

The course workbook will include a detailed critical bibliography.