Ever since getting hold of their pretty catalogue a while back, I liked the books by Hermann Schmidt publishers in Mainz. Unfortunately most of their stuff is as pricey as it is pretty and I’d have a hard time arguing that I need it in any reasonable sense of that word. So I’ve been trying to look at some of their ‘smaller’ and cheaper books for intermediate entertainment and the 70 page volume Schriften Erkennen (recognising typefaces) didn’t disappoint.
Recognising typefaces is a tricky thing. I’ve loved doing it for ages but since I stopped working with them regularly I find it increasingly hard to do. In addition to that I always lacked the ‘professional’ classification of typefaces. While I may recognise letters on paper, I’ll strugge finding the ‘correct’ name. Even more so as the classifications used in English language traditions differ slightly from the strange German one. And the terminology differs greatly. Recently I geeked out about typefaces with a French friend, just to learn that they have yet another set of terminology in French.
The Book Schriften erkennen focuses on the German classification, complete with names and numbers, gives descriptions, and presents examples. These are authoritative, yet short and readable, making it easy to understand the differences both visually and historically - which may aid remembering things. Between chapters they squeeze double pages on topics related to the font family just discussed. Say, about the different typefaces leading to today’s Garamonds, and examples of how those Garamonds differ or, similarly, the many Helvetica rip-offs.
While the book was created from a student’s diploma thesis back in the 1980s, it has been updated to include more current typefaces as well. Where ‘current’ probably was some time in the late 1990s as more modern typefaces are missing (Possibly discussing Georgia which is extremely common on-screen these days might be interesting; mentioning Hoefler Text Text might be as well; as would be discussing Palatino Sans when the topic of typeface ‘clans’ is mentioned; finally, I guess, the ubiquitous Arial would be mentioned along with the Helvetica rip-offs.)
A pleasant read with surprising depth in both explanations and example images for the few dozen pages it consists of.
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