Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Letter Fountain

Letter Fountain
Joep Pohlen's Letter Fountain: On Printing Types, published by Taschen, is an encyclopedic reference to typography, an expanded English translation of Pohlen and Geert Setola's Letterfontein (fourth edition). At 600 pages, it's far more extensive than the slim Typographic Desk Reference, and its comprehensive scope makes it the best general typographic reference work.

However, Letter Fountain lacks TDR's clear organisation and cross-referencing. The alphabetised sub-sections and extensive appendices are hard to navigate quickly; if tabbed pages or a detailed general index were added, the book's material would be easier to access. (For a detailed account of typographic history, see Printing Types by Daniel Updike and 20th-Century Type by Lewis Blackwell; in both cases, the first and second editions are superior to the third.)

2 comment(s):

Joep Pohlen said...

Hello Matthew, You are comparing apples with bananas in your review. TDR is a very nice and very good book and is a dictionary that is composed in some other way that normally. I had to get used to it because it isn't alphabetic throughout but every part of the book is different so you have to use the index to really find something. I find it confusing because something from Anatomy & Form can also be a Term (and so on). But still I like it in its experimental and different way it is done. Letter Fountain is build up from the beginning of communication and you can read it like a book, but still find what you want through the appendices. TDR is aimed at hard users or experienced typographers because you have to know what you want to find. And also that is typical for a dictionary. Letter Fountain is aimed at students and graphic designers and lets you find things in more ways: by studying it, by reading it or find the thing you want through the indexes. But as I said in the beginning, both books are so different that you can't compare them in this way.

Matthew Hunt said...

Hi Joep,

Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.

I realise that Letter Fountain has a more ambitious scope than TDR, and in fact if I had found Letter Fountain before TDR I would not have bought TDR. I compared them because they are both typographic reference books. Also, typography is not my specialism (I'm interested in all forms of visual art/design, but specialise in film and modern art), so perhaps I could not compare it with a more equivalent text because my typographic collection is limited.

Also I should have stressed the comprehensive contents of Letter Fountain more in the review. It really is extremely useful, thorough, and detailed. I stand by my comment about its organisation, though: a comprehensive general index would be a valuable addition.