Books: Vintage Typography. Part 1

It’s time to move the conversation about typography into the library for a couple of posts. We’ll browse for good old books that can guide, train and inspire. Today we kick off with a few books that focus on vintage typography and design. Let’s see if retro is indeed the new modern:

Vintage Commercial Art and Design


It might not sound like typography focused, but this versatile volume contains the essential typographic elements for creating ads with an authentic 1890s-1920s period flair. As you’ve probably guessed already, the designs are inspired by Art Nouveau. The book  comprises highlights from sign-painting manuals which include borders, frames, typography, and a host of other images. Plates from the sourcebooks depict the material in its original usage. The great bonus for those who need all this in electronic form too is that the book comes with a CD-ROM that includes JPEGs of all images.

Custom Lettering of the 40s & 50s


Remember the times before computer dominance, when hand-drawn fonts were the highlight of television, comic book and promotional design? Probably not, but this book will help you fill that gap with… 4,500 examples. Edited by Rian Hughes, an award-winning graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist, logo designer and typographer who has designed record album sleeves and worked in advertising and for i-D magazine, has combed the archives of custom lettering to bring together literally thousands examples of inspiring and enlightening hand-lettered fonts from the 40s and 50s. You’ll see that these letters display a distinct air of retro cool, but are old enough to be rarely seen in print today. However, they should inspire anybody who works with letters or is interested in the way they look.

New Vintage Type: Classic Fonts for the Digital Age


The book promotes itself as the authoritative guide that will help you choose, use, and understand great vintage type. And, to a certain extent, it is about the power of vintage type in the modern times. Nowadays typography uses vintage type in ads, book and magazine design, movies, and everywhere words convey meaning. ‘New Vintage Type’ is a rethinking and rediscovery of old and classic typefaces for today’s modern needs. Hundreds of lively and one-of-a-kind examples from around the world are gathered here, organized into five historically and stylistically grouped sections: the Victorian Age, the Woodtype Era, Art Deco Style, Modern Movement, and the Eccentric Movement. This book can work as a graphic designer’s guide to choosing and using vintage type for maximum impact.

Elegantissima: The Design and Typography of Louise Fili


Do you know Louise Fili? If not, you’d better start reading. The American graphic designer has been an inspiration for designers around the world since the 1980s, when she raised the bar on book cover design, creating close to two thousand jackets as art director for Pantheon Books. She’s known for her lavish and elegant typography, often hand drawn, which helped advertise and market such well-known brands as Sarabeth’s, Bella Cucina, Jean-Georges, and Good Housekeeping, among many others. Elegantissima is the first monograph on her work. It covers the breadth of her nearly forty-year design career. A must-have for graphic designers. Those interested in advertising, food, restaurants, Italy, and books are welcome to join the club.

  • Nice list! I’m a type book fanatic and haven’t seen a couple of these.

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