Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Geometry of Type: The Anatomy of 100 Essential Typefaces

Rate this book
The Geometry of Type explores 100 traditional and modern typefaces in detail, with a full spread devoted to each entry. Characters from each typeface are enlarged and annotated to reveal key features, anatomical details, and the finer, often-overlooked elements of type design, which shows how these attributes affect mood and readability. Sidebar information lists the designer and foundry, the year of release and the different weights and styles available, while feature boxes explain the origins and best uses for each typeface, such as whether it is suitable for running text or as a display font for headlines. To help the reader spot each typeface in the wider world, the full character set is shown, and the best letters for identification are highlighted.

256 pages, Paperback

First published November 6, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Stephen Coles

2 books38 followers
Stephen Coles (he/him) is Editorial Director & Associate Curator at Letterform Archive, a nonprofit library and educational center in San Francisco, where he co-curated the exhibition Strikethrough: Typographic Messages of Protest. As an editor and community builder who seeks to connect font makers with font users, Stephen co-founded the websites Fonts In Use and Typographica, and wrote the book The Anatomy of Type. Previously, he was a creative director at FontShop, and a member of the FontFont TypeBoard.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
163 (41%)
4 stars
146 (37%)
3 stars
62 (15%)
2 stars
16 (4%)
1 star
2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Rachel.
241 reviews3 followers
January 20, 2013
Who cares whether a typeface has a binocular "g," ball terminals, a closed aperture on the "a" and "e," or ink traps?

I do, I do!

Who really thinks fonts can have a "clean, sensible demeanor," a "sweet, almost dainty nature," "a perfect balance of function and beauty," or "frilly lace"?

Me again!

Who delights in phrases like, "Minion is perhaps the most vanilla of serif typefaces"?

Oooh, pick me!

If you are interested in fonts (and their history and function and elements), browse this work of art. If you're not...definitely don't.
Profile Image for Owen.
82 reviews29 followers
March 27, 2013
Not nearly enough detail in the narrative, and while the huge showings of sample words are great—and Coles correctly points out the unique design details—there's no other sample setting, no showing (and usually not even a mention) of other styles in the family, no examples in use.... I would have rather seen that level of detail (on more pages per face) and fewer faces in the book. Yes, there were quite a few new designs included (new to me, new overall—some I think even date from as recently as 2012), but all I really got is a list of faces to check out more thoroughly elsewhere. And if the point was to highlight great recent work, then why include the old stuff? One of the book's arguments is that type design happens in a particular context, but the book itself provides minimal information about that context (cultural, historical, functional, economic, and let's not forget visual).

I'm left thinking that this book will be most useful for type designers: as a catalog of tricks and quirks, with some discussion of why and how they work for the eye, and in what media. There are so many different ways to shape a serif or a terminal, so many variations of stress angle and stroke weight—there must be millions of combinations still untried.
Profile Image for N.J. Ramsden.
Author 6 books17 followers
July 28, 2014
Beautifully presented examples of 100 typefaces, mostly contemporary, some classic, along with pointers to their identifying or noteworthy features. A useful and interesting guide, neatly disguised as a coffee-table browser. It doesn't pretend to be anything more than that, so don't expect a detailed commentary, or mathematical breakdowns of fine design elements - overall, very pleasant and a good accessible reference.
Profile Image for Aldo Campos.
Author 1 book5 followers
December 26, 2016
Do I love this book. The little details highlighted on each type is inspiring. The background for them also helps you to comprehend the type better. This book will be enjoyed by all typography nerds out there.
Profile Image for rei.
53 reviews
January 30, 2020
6 reviews
December 28, 2020
Wonderful book. Of all my type books (have quite a few now), I’ve probably looked at this one the most. It’s a pleasant experience examining the enlarged letters and reading Stephen’s notes. And where else is a typeface described as having “debonair swagger”?

My only wish is that it had a paragraph or two of text set in each typeface, to get a better sense of the texture and rhythm of the type. It is quite fascinating how typefaces can have a completely different effect when enlarged.
Profile Image for Michael.
15 reviews2 followers
January 24, 2013
Excellent history of typeface design and selection of examples. Only complaint: for text faces, samples of running text (at ordinary point sizes) would have been useful.
Profile Image for Mike.
175 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2014
I don't know why in so fascinated by type. A pleasing font soothes my inner person.
Profile Image for Meg Pilcher.
59 reviews2 followers
July 25, 2016
This was a great introduction into the world of fonts and typefaces. It didn't get too technical and was a marvelous page turner due to page after page of diverse and nicely described fonts.
Profile Image for Diana.
39 reviews3 followers
September 18, 2017
If you are facing the daunting task of being judged by your peers in a friendly font quiz over wine and cheese, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for H James.
298 reviews23 followers
April 6, 2022
Compared to other books of similar scope—notably Tony Seddon’s contemptible Essential Type The Anatomy of Type is focused, competently designed, and capably edited. Each typeface is presented as a single word printed enormously across a spread, annotated with leaders drawing attention to interesting details and supplemented with a full alphabet at sub‐head size and a paragraph of history and other commentary. It’s a simple format, and it works.

There are a few rough spots—at least one typeface is miscategorized; some common details are called out on some spreads but not others, leading to confusion; and some recommended uses are reductive to the point of condescension—but on balance this is an decent reference volume that I would likely have recommended upon its release. I find myself reluctant to make such a recommendation in 2022, not due to any fault of Mr Coles but the fact that so many of his chosen typefaces are now owned by private equity firm HGGC, which purchased Monotype in 2019. At the time of publication, 42 of the 100 typefaces were owned by Monotype, and given how many of the 20th century’s most famous typefaces were released by either Monotype or Linotype (which Monotype acquired in 2006), it probably took effort on Mr Coles to keep the number that low. Unfortunately, he leaned heavily on then‐independent foundries FontFont and Hoefler & Frere‐Jones (now Hoefler & Co.) and in the intervening decade Monotype acquired both—and with them 19 more of Mr Coles’s example typefaces. Certainly these designs cannot and should not be forgotten based on who owns them now, but given how badly independent type designers need a full‐court press against the blob eating their industry, I will strongly favor type references that put their work foremost. If Mr Coles were to release a second edition that pushed the ratio of conglomerate‐owned faces back down to 40%, I’d be first in line to buy a copy.
Profile Image for Vanya Prodanova.
707 reviews26 followers
September 1, 2020
Страхотна книга за всеки интересуващ се от типографи��, особено ако Ви е любопитно да научите малко повече за текст шрифтовете, които обикновено не забелязваме, но винаги разпознаваме навсякъде, където ги видим.

Книгата минава през 100 различни шрифта, посочвайки за всеки шрифт нещо интересно и специално. Щеше да е идеална книгата ако имаше повече от разсъжденията и информацията, която авторът споделя за всеки шрифт, тъй като мен откровено историята на шрифтовете и тяхното използване ми беше къде-къде по-любопитно от спецификациите на отделните шрифтове.

Хубавото е, че дори сега, пишейки тези редове, зяпам шрифтовете на екрана и си се чудя кой шрифт кой е. XD
Profile Image for Serge Pierro.
Author 1 book36 followers
May 17, 2014
Anyone interested in typography would find this book to be interesting. Each of the typefaces presented within are given two facing pages. The entire alphabet is displayed in upper and low case, along with numbers and other characters. There is a large display of the typeface with annotations on the various attributes that are unique to it. There is also a short paragraph that talks about the typeface, and some of these sections include a "Good for:" recommendation - to indicate situations in which it would be useful.
Profile Image for Elliot.
32 reviews2 followers
March 25, 2020
One of the books which you really have to get the physical copy, as you get to examine closely at the typefaces. I do wish the book showcases more usages with each typeface rather than simply displaying the alphabets. The short paragraph attaches with each type is an ideal place for that kind of thing.
Profile Image for Mitchell Kember.
14 reviews2 followers
November 1, 2014
Reading this book is great way to get acquainted with the history of typography. You'll learn how to speak about typefaces with the proper terminology, how to identify them by their features, and when they should be used.
Profile Image for Collette.
30 reviews
January 30, 2021
Great for Graphic designers and illustrators

Must check this out if your any kind of Designer, illustrator or Writer in Graphic Design. I'm really impressed with the ideals of Illustration in this book.
Profile Image for Jane.
111 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2014
Well organized and beautifully laid out. Only wish it was more comprehensive with more typefaces.
Profile Image for Sarah.
70 reviews11 followers
August 2, 2020
Great book for graphic designers and hand letters.
Profile Image for Lafcadio.
Author 5 books42 followers
April 2, 2022
I would love to have seen a whole paragraph in each typeface, but otherwise, this book is very pleasing.
Profile Image for Georg.
94 reviews8 followers
March 22, 2013
This volume does keep what the title promises, but no more than that. The complexity of type classification is not really reflected, let alone discussed. Some use guidance would have been nice, but is mostly absent.
Profile Image for Allyson.
664 reviews
April 6, 2013
I unfortunately only breezed through this quickly as unable to renew due to a "hold" @ the library. There is an incredible amount of information and great graphics with indepth descriptions of so many types and fonts and everything. Something I want to borrow again to browse through repeatedly.
Profile Image for Alex.
48 reviews2 followers
March 7, 2013
I think this would make a terrific coffee table book. The content doesn't quite have the depth I was hoping for, though.
Profile Image for Christian Herro.
16 reviews
March 12, 2013
Excellent coffee table book for anyone interested in typography. Not a ton of depth, as everything is presented in almost infographic style, but it's full of interesting bits of information.
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.