Book Review

FontBook, 4th Edition

Reviewed by Tiffany Wardle de Sousa on April 21, 2009

Long before there were hi-res laser printers in every design firm and PDF specimens on every foundry website, typographers discovered, compared, and selected type using specimen books.

There is too much separation from the display to the printed page for a designer to see how the curves, the straights, and the joins truly interact. The best way to review and analyze the utility of a typeface is through viewing the samples in print. Nothing can replace this.

To this end, FontBook* is a type reference worth much more than its weight in gold. And it weighs a lot! (More than six-and-a-half pounds, in fact.)

Some might say, “but it’s a book and it can’t be updated.” True. Containing font releases up to 2006, FontBook is best used in conjunction with and other online vendors for a more current view of what’s available. But the book offers insight not found online, such as the “see also” cross-references, and offset printed samples complete enough to really give a good idea of what you’ll get when you go to press.

This comprehensive reference is curated, organized, and printed with loving and tender care — a vital tool for keeping things original and fresh for each client and project.

* Update: FontBook is no longer in print. It is now available only as an iPhone/iPad app. Used copies of the print edition can usually be found at Biblio or Alibris.

Tiffany Wardle de Sousa is a typographer living and working in San Jose, California. She earned her MA in the Theory and History of Typography & Graphic Communication at The University of Reading. Active in the type community, Tiffany has written for several design publications, served as a SOTA board member, and was a Typophile moderator.


  1. sheema mahmud says:

    I would love to have this book, how could it be possible from where to buy?


  2. Typographica says:

    Right up there under the text “Buy the Book”.

  3. i got mine about 2 weeks ago after waiting since may for it to be shipped to australia, and can i say it was worth the wait (or weight :-)!!!

    this is an amazing resource for any person who reads, sees or uses type.

    i love this book.

  4. an amazing book

  5. Brendan Winter says:

    Hi fontophiles

    I’m looking for a book that i saw once but can’t find now …

    It compared fonts letter by letter — not entire font by entire font. So for example, looking at all the types of capital A’s, then lower case a’s, etc.

    Any ideas what it is?

  6. Tom Kelly says:


    There is a book called “Rookledge’s classic international typefinder” that features large sections comparing individual letters from many fonts. It is designed as a tool for identifying typefaces.

    Hope that is what you were looking for.

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