Of Type and Time: the naked letter and the parasite: my new ebook about typography


cover design final

Typography arouses passions, and has been doing so for more than 500 years.

From the very beginning of moveable type, there has been debate about what is the “ideal” letterform, and printers through the ages have made arguments for different styles of letters. Gutenberg based his type on the national handwriting of the time, while his student Jenson went back to the 9th century to base his first roman type on the Caroline minuscule. The Caroline (or Carolingian) minuscule has a history itself, dating back to the Roman half-uncials of the 3rd century. Uncials, minuscules: names for different kinds of letter. Minuscules are what we call lower case, but the phrase lower case itself only dates back to the invention of printing.

This new ebook, Of Type and Time is a critical investigation into debates concerning type design, with a focus on legibility and the endless search for the “perfect” letterform. Originally produced as a Master of Arts dissertation in Critical Theory, this updated and revised text links the discourse around type to ideas about noise in communications and cultural movements, including Arts and Crafts and Modernism.

The theoretical approach is based on the work of French polymath Michel Serres and his work on noise/interference in communication. I try to relate the endless arguments about type legibility (how easy it is to read) to Serres ideas about essential noise within communication systems. I also point to a solution to the argument about what exactly is the “perfect” letterform.

The 2013 version of the text has been changed to reflect some of the changes since 1996, when it was first written, and the illustrative material has been enhanced.

The book is available now on the Amazon Kindle store.

Here’s a link to the Amazon US store. The book is also available (in English) in other territories.