Sunday, January 30, 2011

Serifs san Serifs

Every now and then in the back of a book I'll find a little paragraph describing the book's typeface. I'm always bemused by the amount of idiosyncratic characteristics that make up a typeface. All the minute styling details that I am completely unaware of as I read come forward after I read the concluding "note on the type."

The note on the type introduces me to a covert character hiding in plain sight. The type is a character in a way. Like the characters in the narrative, the type is crafted at a particular historical moment and invested with its own personality. Some types have serifs, like the type pictured in this post (like tails), but other types don't have serifs and are a little more straight.

Each typeface is distinct from it fellows and the "note on the type" reveals this final character, which is, ironically, the first character we meet. So the next time you pick up a book turn to the back and get acquainted with the typeface. Afterwards you'll never miss it.

The images in this post were KIC scanned from Kobo Abe's Kangaroo Notebook, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1996. The novel was translated by Maryellen Toman Mori. It's an awfully interesting book about a man who inexplicably grows radish sprouts from his legs, at least from the knees down.