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44 Between the lines

Old letterpress type

I know a little bit about typography. My maternal grandfather was a typesetter of the ink-on-the-fingers, letterpress book variety. Because of him I have long known the meanings of words like colophon and cursive, ligature and loupe. Because of him the printed page, books ... they really matter to me.

I also know a little bit about designing for the web. If you can't see a fancy-pants hand-drawn title font up top yet then you're reading this in Trebuchet, a humanist sans serif typeface that references medieval monastic texts. Like all good body text typefaces it's inconspicuous ... it doesn't distract you from what the words say. The title font has already drawn you in and persuaded you to stay, the body font's job is to offer you a comfy chair and put the kettle on.

And if you are reading this in Trebuchet then it's Pupcat that's still shouting for your attention here. A playfully retro typeface that, much as I love it, methinks I'll retire ... something a little more grown-up, if still a tad whimisical, will be required post revamp. If I weren't so darn time-poor I'd have sorted it already.

I was taught to think about type, so I do. Whenever I read a book I'm aware of it. I revel in its variety, its myriad visual textures ... I guess I'm a type geek. And a book lover. Real books, books made of paper, with pages that turn. And best of all old letter press books in which the type has a tactile texture too. Second hand book shops are a kind of heaven if you're me. If that's true for you too then watch this, I don't think you'll regret it :)

EPILOGUE: The Future of Print from EPILOGUEdoc on Vimeo.

Image source:


  1. Oh my goodness Annie, be still my beating heart. Words are unable to describe what joy this post has brought to me. I know the short film will fill up my senses, thank you so much xox

  2. I'm more than a bit obsessed with all things type, all things word in fact, although I don't know much about any of it. But oh how I love it. The photo is wonderful too, all those beautiful letters. I'm looking forward to seeing your blog revamp and your choice of font. I had a wonderful book from the library a while back all about different fonts, I loved it! A really lovely post Annie, thank you.

  3. I love messing with font. I'm all about the visual feel and mood.

  4. Oh yes I can tell you are a font of all web knowledge, Annie. I'm tinkering with my own at the moment but sadly have no real clue .. wish you were here to sort me out :)
    I know I'll enjoy your filmy link, it'll just have to wait till I have a bit more time.

  5. I see a few more of your blog updates here by the way! I love printing, I have some old printing plates that I need to work out how to frame, so you have inspired me that I really must do something with them this year. They are important! I love old books as you say where you can feel where the type has been pressed into the paper, not just lasered on or however they do it nowadays. I love your posts Annie! xx

  6. Knitting and books ~ my two favorite things!

  7. I do love vintage type and books. There is something so charming and inviting about them! Have a lovely week! xo Heather

  8. Thanks for highlighting an important subject, and for providing a thoughtful and encouraging video link about it, Annie! For five years my husband and I owned a new/used bookstore in Saugerties, NY, on the west bank of the Hudson River. The Booktrader was would have loved it as we did. It is no more, but E-Books can not replace the printed word on paper.

    In the last few years before my husband died four years ago, he purchased a Kindle and used it every day. He loved to read and the Kindle allowed him easy access to titles that would have been impossible for him to borrow or buy as hard bound books during his last days of ill health.

    Today, I used a Kindle book on my iPad for a class I am taking at church. I still prefer paper and for text books I like to be able to write in my personal notes in the text. I have not mastered typing notes or accessing them in the e-book format yet.

    But I believe that there is room for both bound books and electronic books. Each has a place. When we moved from NY back to the West Coast we moved so many books our moving van swayed back and forth like a pioneer prairie schooner :) But even though I have given many of those books away...I keep buying others because books to me are a vital, enduring art form, a source of information, entertainment and beauty.

  9. loved the link Annie and also your comments Gracie and agree with every word. I love books in any form, the convenience of my kindle, but oh, that book smell, you can't beat it! Julie x

  10. Touching all the right spots with this post, Annie. I adore not just printing fonts but have been a life-long dabbler in calligraphy too. And an ex-bookseller. I love technology and what it allows me to do and to see and to find out, but rarely read an e-book, much preferring the printed page. I have yet to watch all the video, but be sure, I will. And am getting quietly excited about the unveiling of the new blog format. Much love, Axxx

  11. I have to admit that I do not think a lot about types and fonts, but I do love books and being married to a book-lover with a taste for old books means that they breed like rabbits in our house.

    I have to admit, though, that growing older my eyesight it not what it used to be. This is why I have a kindle too, which is convenient as I can set the type size to a much larger one, which makes it easier to read for me.

  12. I love looking at different fonts. I love calligraphy and I am a book lover
    Julie xxxxxxxxxx

  13. Nothing quite like a 'real' book, admittedly I'm not much of a reader but I do love my craft, cookery and nature books.
    My son studied graphic design or visual communications as it was called at university and is very into his typography. He's quite critical about how things should look which is why he is in charge of my blog revamp!!
    Happy weekend Annie,
    V x

  14. Well Annie, I've just had the loveliest half an hour, drinking my fresh coffee and watching this delightful little film. Just wonderful. Before the girls came along I spent many, many hours revelling in secondhand bookshops, I love everything about them. The smell, the hushed sounds, the feel of the books and of course the array of colours and designs. I had rows and rows of books, on history, travel, feminist ideals, everything but novels! The books have mainly gone now, very little space and with a growing family....but I still love the book shops, just don't visit as often! :) x

  15. Oh Annie, now I'm going to spend the whole day wishing I ran a secondhand bookshop - something akin to the one in Black Books (although I suspect I am too much like Bernard - I'd certainly need to vet customers before parting with books...) - but I remember the advice about how to become a millionaire - start with two million and open a bookshop.

  16. Annie
    Simply, you always make me think. I like that!

  17. I am Font Woman! I love WORDS. Typeface. Text. I love to READ and WRITE and use lettering on my quilts. Poetry, stories, songs, plays, I am in love with words. I love how I recognise the handwriting of friends even before I have opened the envelopes.
    A lovely post, Annie, and I have watched about a quarter of the film, needing a little more time to do it justice. I shall return! It is so encouraging to see bookshops surviving. I do own a kindle, but it will never replace books for me. Lxx

  18. What a fun post to read. I'm a lover of books and the printed word. May it live strong :)

  19. I've just skimmed the video and it looks really interesting, I shall sit and watch it through when I have a little more time. I love books, I could happily spend a full day in a book shop.

  20. Thank you, Annie, for this very special post.

    The film is beautiful, filled with a graceful pace, enticing images of books and book shops and printing equipment and wise gentle folks.

    I'm also a fan of the printed page, and love the page at the end of a book that describes the font or fonts chosen by the book's designer.

    Last autumn, The New Yorker magazine, known over the years for having a particular design, changed its look. New in this "case" is definitely not better. I don't know a single subscriber or regular reader who is happy with this change. If you have access to a print version of The New Yorker, I would love to know what you think of its new face.

    Again, many thanks. xo

  21. I haven't watched the film yet, I'm waiting to share it with my husband, who loves typeface and fonts. He's reading a book on the subject right now, which is he says is excellent, The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. I don't know whether you're familiar with it but he bought it used. He will enjoy the film, I'm sure. We both love books as well. I have such fond memories of visiting an old Victorian-era library when I was a child. I like to sit in the library stacks as often as possible because the old book-smell is strongest there.

  22. I'm a total book-lover with a house crammed with far too many books, yet I've also bought an e-book reader which allows me access to the riches of the Gutenberg Project. Ultimately, for me the content is more important than the format. That said I love browsing second-hand bookshops and spent a happy and productive hour in one recently with my youngest grandson.

  23. Oh Annie. You always hit to the very core. I loved the video -- I'll even admit to a tear or two in the eye. I found it interesting near the end where one man said "We have to construct a future where the book has value". I think the future of books will take care of itself. There is too much to love in real books and happily, they aren't even close to disappearing, as was predicted when e-readers first came out. I don't think I'll ever be able to read a book on a reader, but I do understand those who can.

    We're lucky enough to have an amazing used bookstore here locally. Thanks for the reminder that I'm due for a visit. Parts of that video made me want to chuck all this internet stuff and go bury myself in books. But then I realized that I wouldn't have the pleasure of discovering beautiful blogs like this one. Thanks for ANOTHER beautiful post!

  24. I'm a fellow bibliophile, but I must confess to the fact I have been having an illicit affair with my Kindle for the past three years. There is a certain feeling of power holding that device in my hands, knowing it is loaded with multiple bookshelves worth of reading. No worries though - the bookshelves are still groaning at the Hammond house, and don't appear to be getting any lighter since I got my Kindle.

  25. what a wonderful thought provoking post and film. I'm a little sad now and I had to go and stand next to my eight floor to ceiling bookcases and rub a few spines, I will never ever stop buying books and popping into every second hand bookshop that I can looking for just one more book. It's a hard life but someone has got to do it , haha

  26. I love this post - my Dad was a letterpress printer. I have inherited his little press that he used at home (although unfortunately not his wonderful trays of type) but sadly he got ill and died before he could show me how to use it properly. One day I'll teach myself to use it.

  27. What a great post! I adore books and typefaces! I took calligraphy back in college and I actually have a Master's degree in library and information science! Yes, I LOVE books with pages that turn, and I could get lost for an entire day in an old used book store! I even had a small online business selling used books for 5 years... until things like Kindle finally closed me down *sigh*
    Hey, don't know if you've been over to my blog for the most recent post but I've moved my blog home to wordpress... yep, finally took the leap. I hope you will follow me over to my new home...
    Hugs for now my sweet blogging sister,
    Beth P

  28. If you haven't yet visited it, then you must put on your to-visit list! When I start a book, the first thing I check is whether it was typeset by - we used to live in Falkirk, so it's good to see a "local" firm doing so well.

  29. Annie this was such a lovely post. From the moment I remembering entering my first second hand book shop as a teenager, they have always been somewhere I seek out. I can spend hours in, it would be wonderful to own or work in one! I enjoyed watching the film too and can only hope that reading a proper book will be around with us for ever. I was in the middle of writing a post about my Christmas books so hope you don't mind if I link it to your post too.
    Sarah x

  30. I'm also very attuned to font and type and design, and back in the pre-digital age, spent many hours hand-lettering, and drawing alphabets with pen and ink.
    I think the easiest way to visually share this feeling with someone who hasn't thought about it much, is to spend a little time at a "junk" store, going through a box of old watches. Ah, those beautiful faces!

  31. I'm no expert on typefaces, but I suspect it is to the eye what fabric is to the touch. Somehow you just know when it's right.

  32. More and more true book lovers are coming forward with this valuable reminder that books are for keeps ... electronic books are not. I love my books, and always have. Have loved opening up new books and old books, and the first thing I do is flip the pages under my nose and inhale the scent of the pages. The old books have captured smells from several homes and several owners ... how wonderful is that? My mother passed along some of her very special books to me ... a couple that she received from her primary school teacher in the 1930s ... such treasures to me. I loved the video, especially the beginning with the wonderful visuals through second-hand bookshops. Of course, it being filmed in Toronto is great too ;) Wendy x

  33. dear Annie,
    first i want to thank you for your sweet comment on my blog
    thank you!
    and now i read here about books and fonts and saw the video
    besides toughing and looking through a book i always smell it ;^))
    i love books, letters, letterpress and even did a bookbinding course
    one of my dreams is making my own book....
    and now i have this beautiful letterpress from 1967 and enjoy printing with it
    but knowing that your grandfather was a typesetter, wow....
    how much i could have learned from him....
    wishing you a fine weekend
    Patrice A.

  34. Happy memories of my mum searching for books in a second hand bookshop in Brighton for my brother at home with glandular fever.
    I love seeing customers at the charity shop I volunteer in find just the right book - sometimes an old gem.

  35. Love this. My father in law was trained as a printer and there's a long history in music publishing and printing on that side of the family. We're not involved in it anymore but I do get a thrill when I see an old score with my surname on it!

  36. For christmas I gave my granddaughter a copy of three of my favourite books that I had read when I was her age. I wrote in them " this was one of my favourite books when I was your age, I hope you enjoy reading it too". I tied them up with a big ribbon and put them under the tree.
    She may love them like I did, she may not…!
    But one thing I do know, it's a much more personal gift than giving her an i book!
    I really enjoyed reading this post and watching the film.

  37. loved the film…but then, they were preaching to the choir here…..yes, i have a kindle (the account of which got messed up early on and downloaded books have gone to la-la-land so must be read off my computer….although I can read books my hubby downloads to HIS kindle--on mine), but no, I hardly ever turn it on. Give me a beautiful book any day….actually, I'll take a battered paperback over an e-book. (I confess, though, I'm a sucker for a good audiobook now and then.) happy weekending, Annie!!!

  38. Oh yes, I love old books and have lots of them around our home...I love nothing better than a browse around an old book store too...the was a little gem on the village green close to where we live but sadly it finally closed along with our small local yarn shops...
    Looking forward to seeing your revamp Annie,
    Happy Sunday!
    Susan x

  39. I loved this post, and the picture at the top! I have always read a lot and have loads of books....too many really, and am always adding more, old and new ones. I also like to be able to read on my Kindle, as I can access a book that way so quickly, and it's great for travel or to take an otherwise big thick heavy book about with me in my bag. I love fonts and text too, and like to see it used in designs, textiles and paintings. Looking forward to seeing your new-look blog, Annie, I am sure it will be a pleasure to visit. (Off to read one of my new Christmas books now :))
    Wishing you a happy week.
    Helen xx

  40. Goodness me, this post has taken me back! I worked in print for many years from compositor to colour-negative separation and four colour print runs. Ah me, those were the days.

  41. I hear you here. Will never ever give up my books. And I love an old beat up book that others have enjoyed over and over.

  42. Annie, love your design and typo sensibilities. Can't wait to see the new site......and it's a blogger site? Wow do you know coding also tinkering......mmmmm New Year clear out......

  43. Looking good so far Annie! I am like you. I love type too. And books. :) Happy New Year by the way. I hope it will be a good one for you.
    Deb x

  44. A nice cup of tea....that I know about as my grandfather was a tea taster :) I love books too and although I know not a lot about fonts - I do know that I appreciate ones like you describe. With a cup of tea, perfectly brewed, milk, no sugar.



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