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A Short History of the Printed Word

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  134 ratings  ·  9 reviews
This classic book will inform the layman and delight the typophile. Here is the history of printing from the earliest alphabets, through the evolution of the printing press, the contributions of great printers and typographers, and twentieth century graphic technology. A new chapter by Robert Bringhurst takes up this short history where Chappell leaves off, covering the mo ...more
Paperback, 315 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Hartley and Marks Publishers (first published January 1st 1970)
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Thinking With Type by Ellen LuptonJust My Type by Simon GarfieldA Short History of the Printed Word by Warren ChappellShady Characters by Keith HoustonCounterpunch, 2nd edition by Fred Smeijers
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Chris Lockhart
May 25, 2009 Chris Lockhart rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: graphic designers, font lovers, typophiles, web designers, digital media students
Shelves: art, writing, history
A very fast and interesting read, though somewhat dense. Chappell moves through the history of printing fairly quickly. Information is arranged chronologically and logically, in order to tell the story. However, the presentation still makes it come across as well-organized facts and occasional anecdotes. So, at times, it can be a little dry. There are hints of interesting stories regarding the people, but these are sacrificed in favor of getting the facts straight. Regardless, I enjoyed it and t ...more
Sep 07, 2008 B-MO rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: serious artists dealing with type
Like another reviewer, I felt the author droped a lot of names and dates....history, but very little analysis of the history....

I feel like I have a greater understanding of why type has certain characteristics, but that the book has givin me this information in a somewhat shallow form....

It could have been much more useful if, for instance, when speaking about calligraphers banding together to prevent printing from being able to take-off in the West for almost a century, it mentioned how they w
Joey H.
This was a pleasant surprise. For a textbook on a subject in which I have little to no interest, this was shockingly readable. I had no problem reading it cover-to-cover, which is likely a credit to the writing style and the blend of text with charts, diagrams, and illustrations. If you care about typeface and fonts and types of ink/paper etc, this book is probably a 5. One warning: some of the language is a bit dated because the book is from the 1950s. . . I tightened up a bit when the author d ...more
I thought this would describe HOW the printed word has evolved over time - the mechanics of printing and typography. But it really just focuses on the WHO and the WHERE - who the major typographers and press owners were, where they operated, how they interacted, and what they printed. There are many images that show individual pages from prominent books across the ages, but I would have liked to see more how and more why or evaluations of printed pieces. Overall, this was a VERY boring read, and ...more
Lewis Weinstein
This well-written history was a quite useful source for me when writing my first novel, THE HERETIC, where my Jewish converso characters meet with Gutenberg, learn how to make a printing press and type, and become the earliest printers in 15th century Spain.

The Heretic
Beautifully written and designed. Excellent illustrations. By God, this book made me want to jump up and cut type!

I read this for a class in the history of writing, and I enjoyed it. I wish the author appreciated blackletter a little more, but so it goes. Also, this book focuses on Europe and America; those looking for a global history of print may not be satisfied.
Nov 24, 2012 Deborah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: librarians, book fiends
Recommended to Deborah by: professor
Excellent Book on the history of books, paper, and printing.
This was the text used during my History of Books and Printing class in Grad School and it is so informational in a very readable and likable way. It does not read as a text book. I just had to get a copy for my own collection and research.

Reviewed on Amazon March 2, 2010
Ambrose Miles
Lots of information on the history of printing complete with illustrations. Dated, however, as the book was written in 1970. All the important printers and illustrators are written about. Lots of names and styles. I love this stuff.
This is THE book for printing history. Why had I never heard of it before? Why? why?

It's excellently concise, well exampled and very readable. THE book.
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