The Natural History of a Typeface

Robert Bringhurst, a leading poet, typographer and linguist, is the 2016 recipient of the Frederic W. Goudy Award, given to an outstanding practitioner in type design and its related fields.

Hermann Zapf was one of the great practitioners of the graphic arts and Palatino is probably the most widely known and used of all Zapf faces. Author Robert Bringhurst traces Palatino’s development, with all its infinite permutations, and often invisible refinements through a long and fascinating history of variations and permutations, imitations and conflations—from hot metal, through the brief interlude of film setting and finally into the digital world. It is all here, in encompassing detail: a fully illustrated account of Palatino and its extended family: foundry and Linotype, Michelangelo, Sistina, Aldus, Heraklit, Phidias, Zapf Renaissance, PostScript Palatino, Palatino and Aldus Nova, and Palatino Sans. Included with the text are over 200 illustrations of design sketches, working drawings, smoke proofs and test prints, matrices, foundry and Linotype patterns.

But beyond that, the book is an argument that artists who create letters can, and should, be judged by the same standards and held in the same esteem as composers who write music and artists who paint on canvas. Bringhurst asks the question, “Can a penstroke or a letterform be so beautiful it will stop you in your tracks and maybe break your heart?” In this groundbreaking and totally original book, he answers the question: “It can.”

“Palatino” is more than a type nerd’s delight or an ode to a great typeface. In telling the story of Palatino from foundry type to digital type, Mr. Bringhurst has in effect recounted the technological history of type in the 20th century. His book is an elegant and methodically thorough investigation of how technology has influenced design, positively as well as negatively, seen through the lens of a single typeface. Whether one likes Palatino or not, Mr. Bringhurst’s book is an instant classic.” – The Wall Street Journal

Robert Bringhurst is a renowned Canadian author, poet, and typographer. He is the author of the best selling The Elements of Typographic Style, as well as numerous works of prose and poetry. He is also an accomplished translator and linguist and has translated works from Haida, Navajo, classical Greek, and Arabic.