Books about typography used to be sober, high-minded, elegantly produced affairs, which worked their way chronologically from Gutenberg to Eric Gill via Garamond, Plantin and Baskerville; and more often than not they were written in the days of hot metal, when any publisher worth his salt could tell his em from his en. Just My Type is a very different animal, and a good deal livelier. Simon Garfield covers the ground, but his approach is circuitous rather than historical: he reminds old-timers about John Bull printing sets and the revolutionary implications of Letraset, but is equally well informed about iPods, ‘theme park fonts’ (he is scathing about the hideous typeface designed for the 2012 Olympics), and the care taken by Messrs Obama and McCain to choose typefaces which seemed to reflect their characters and aspirations during the Presidential election campaign.
It soon becomes apparent that the tens of thousands of typefaces available to printers and computer-owners have two contradictory jobs to perform – being the soul of discretion in one incarnation, and a huckster in the next. Garfield reminds us that the elegance and clarity of Bembo, designed