By Peter Dawson
672 pages, hardcover, $45
Published by Black Dog & Leventhal
Peter Dawson’s The Essential Type Directory is not as much of a typeface listing as it is a compendium to explore new faces and wax nostalgic over old favorites. Tobias Frere-Jones observes in the foreword that “if we used all the same type, that choice would be meaningless and we’d lose the chance for expression.” This 672-page tome gives the reader more than 1,800 typefaces to peruse and garners appreciation for Dawson’s careful curation of them. Samples originate from moveable type through modern digital creations—from the classics to the trendy, and the refined to the quirky—presenting a depiction of a “typographic time capsule” within the included selections.
The book is divided into serif, sans serif, display and script, then categorized into primary styles. Before you think that it’s solely page after page of black-and-white alphabets accompanied by their brief histories—which it is, partially—know that the pages are intermixed with enlightening, in-depth foundry, designer and font profiles. Examples of the typefaces in use in colorful specimens give the book pops of vibrancy amongst the sea of letterforms. If you’re looking for a specific typeface, it’ll be hard to find it without knowing the exact categorization; however, the three indexes—one each for designers, foundries and typefaces—make it easier to locate. If you’re looking to discover type anew, just open to any page to start exploring. In Dawson’s words, “the book is a celebration of the craft, innovation and beauty of these letterforms.” —Denise Bosler