Tag Archives: william maxwell

Font Hunter

John Peck in Oakland reports:

As a letterpress printer, I’ve developed an increasingly obsessive relationship with fonts—which, as the cranky old printer I will someday become would tell you, are more accurately called “typefaces.” Examining typefaces is a strange form of “deep reading” akin to pausing a film to examine a single shot. As our words (like these very ones you’re reading) are increasingly digitized into an unending flood of pixels, it’s occasionally worthwhile to look over an “analog” sentence slowly enough that the words become objects, each with their own unique visual character.

Thus, in my alternate paper-slinging role as a bookseller, I thought it would be interesting to compare the typefaces of three popular Diesel titles—if you have any of these books lying around, please feel free to examine them as well. All quotes are taken directly from the colophon of each book.

1. Cloud Atlas (paperback, Random House) by David Mitchell
“This book was set in Requiem, a typeface designed by the Hoefler Type Foundry. It is a modern typeface inspired by inscriptional capitals in Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi’s 1523 writing manual, Il modo de temperare le penne.” The classic/modern conflation seems perfect for Mitchell’s mind-bending, time-warping work, and the especially sharp serifs complement the book’s bend-till-it-breaks take on language.

2. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (hardcover, Vintage Crime) by Stieg Larsson
“This book is set in Minion, a typeface produced by the Adobe Corporation specifically for the Macintosh computer, and released in 1990.” It’s a very clear typeface, heavy enough (in this edition) to read from a good arm’s length, though somewhat crowded in the kerning they’ve used—probably necessary for a book of such magnitude and (literal) weight. The Adobe history is especially appropriate to the hacker-heroine of the Millennium Trilogy.

3. All the Days and Nights (hardcover, Knopf) by William Maxwell
This colophon has nothing less than a history of Europe in four type founders: “This book was set in Janson, a redrawing of type cast from matrices long thought to have been made by the Dutchman Anton Janson, who was a practicing type founder in Leipzig during the years 1668-87. However, it has been conclusively demonstrated that these types are actually the work of Nicholas Kis (1650-1702), a Hungarian, who probably learned his trade from the master Dutch type founder Dirk Voskens. The type is an excellent example of the influential and sturdy Dutch types that prevailed in England up to the time William Caslon developed his own incomparable designs from them.” Indeed.


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On Our Nightstand, August 17th-23rd

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
Night of the Living Trekkies
By Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall
Laugh all you want (I can totally hear you!), but it’s the best zombie book I’ve read since World War Z. And it’s hilarious. So actually, you really can laugh.

Geo in Brentwood
Riding Toward Everywhere
By William T. Vollmann
In this book, Vollmann does what he does best: immerse himself in some crazy experience so he can tell us about it. This time it’s illegal trainhopping. While it doesn’t make me want to risk my life on the rails, I do now fancy a nice little train trip up the coast.

John Evans
The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape
By Harm J. De Blij
For readers of Thomas Friedman and Jared Diamond, a nuanced global perspective which furthers, and corrects, much of their writings. Leave it to a geographer to clarify overwhelmingly vast complexities.

John Peck in Oakland
The Turkish Cookbook: Regional Recipes and Stories
By Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman
Continuing my world culinary tour with this awesome and very complete cookbook. Contains beautiful photographs of both food and regions of Turkey.

Kim in Malibu
So Long, See You Tomorrow
By William Maxwell
Maxwell might be one of the best mid-century American writers you’ve never heard of, and this book, a slim novella that packs a hefty emotional punch, is quietly satisfying. It was written as the pseudo memoir of a man recounting the events of his childhood growing up in Illinois in the ’20s in the aftermath of a local murder, and, prepositional phrases aside, conjures up such a complex inner world for his characters, I find myself transported.

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