Is There an Authoritative Reference on Fonts?

Answered by Jay Nelson, Editor and Publisher, Design Tools Monthly

Help! We’ve arrived in font hell. We’ve known we were on our way for quite a while, but up until now we’ve been able to make due with our knowledge of how fonts worked in Mac OS 9 and Windows XP. However, now that we’re using Windows Vista, Mac OS X, OpenType fonts, PostScript fonts, TrueType fonts, InDesign CS3 and QuarkXPress 7, our lack of factual knowledge has caught up with us. We’ve been searching for an authoritative reference on all this font stuff, but haven’t found anything we can trust. Can you help?

Your timing couldn’t be better. I just ran across a new book that’s the best book on font technology that I’ve ever seen. It’s called Fonts & Encodings, and was written by Yannis Haralambous (and translated by P. Scott Horne). Far from being “just” a technical reference, it clearly and concisely explains every aspect of using, editing, and creating digital fonts — including exactly how to use font editors and conversion utilities. If you’ve ever wondered ANYTHING about how our current font situation came to be, or how and why fonts work they way they do, you’ll enjoy this tome. For example, did you know that Unicode was released in 1993 and has been evolving ever since? Or that the 6,800 languages of the world use just 100 scripts, and that 60 are already included in Unicode? Or that the impressive and awe-inspiring Zapfino font in Mac OS X isn’t an OpenType font, but rather uses Apple’s arguably superior AAT format? Trust us: if you care about fonts, get this book. Besides being authoritative and exhaustively complete, it’s a joy to read. 966 pages, $60 from O’Reilly.

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