To the Best of Our Knowledge

Since you’ll be at home tomorrow anyway, hopped up on leftover miniature chocolate bars that you couldn’t pawn off on discerning neighborhood kids, tune in to Wisconsin Public Radio to hear To the Best of Our Knowledge: tomorrow’s program will be about fonts. Join me, Tobias Frere-Jones, and Matthew Carter for an hour of typography, either on the air or online. Other guests include Kitty Burns Florey discussing handwriting, Tracy Honn on the work of the Silver Buckle Press — and discussing the Amazon Kindle, one of my favorite people, Nicholson Baker. —JH

Books as Furniture

Years ago, I walked into a used book store in Chicago, and beheld an astronomically unlikely thing: a run of pristine leather books, each stamped “caslon” in gold letters, each in a typeface of a different vintage. These were type specimen books from the Caslon foundry, and to see them in such quantity was a singular experience. Type specimens are usually accumulated individually, painstakingly, and expensively, from antiquarian specialists or the occasional flea market. Only rarely do they surface in sets, and when they do it’s usually at a private auction, not on the shelf behind the counter at a bookshop that also sells gum.

Noticing the tag marked “sold,” I asked if perchance they’d gone to a fellow type designer. The shopkeeper replied that they had not: they’d been sold to one of the store’s regulars, a philistine decorator who’s always on the lookout for clean leather bindings, for use simply as a background texture in someone’s living room.

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