“Just My Type,” by Simon Garfield
By Dennis Drabelle,
JUST MY TYPE
A Book About Fonts
By Simon Garfield Gotham. 356 pp. $27.50
Reading Simon Garfield’s “Just My Type” can transform your daily life into an endless quest for knowledge of the typefaces in which signs, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. are set. (Well, almost endless: Garfield limits himself to saying that there are “more than 100,000 fonts in the world.”) To get you started, the font you are reading this very moment is Miller Daily Three, used by The Washington Post for most of its stories.
Garfield seems to know everything about typefaces and what is written in them — from which one is used in the opening credits of the sitcom “The Office” (Helvetica) to the location of perhaps the worst typo of all time: in Christopher Barker’s 1631 Bible, where the Seventh Commandment reads, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Garfield also explains features of type that we, its users, can easily overlook. For instance, the ampersand — & — was originally an e linked with a t, short for “et,” the Latin word for “and.” Sometimes, the name of a typeface makes a difference in how it is accepted. The German font Akzidenz Grotesk fared well in Great Britain and the United States after its chewy, scary name was watered all the way down to “Standard.”