Typeface Review


Reviewed by Rob Keller on January 25, 2012

Frequently delving into the typographic past, Mark Simonson can masterfully translate the look and feel of vintage designs into a modern context. This time around, he has outdone himself with his gargantuan type family, Bookmania.

This aptly named design was inspired by various versions of the Bookman typefaces released throughout the last century. These designs had a strong run in the early 20th century, fell out of fashion, rebounded in the 1960s and ’70s with photo type, and have again been in a semi-hibernation for the last few decades. Simonson’s version of Bookman is primed to bring this design back into the mainstream.

I should give full disclosure here and confess that I’m not at all a fan of revivals, and I’ve never really particularly been fond of Bookman – which is a testament to how wonderful I find Bookmania. I’d attribute my appreciation to the amazing quality and scope of Mark’s work. He did not simply copy the curves of the past; rather, he undertook a significant revival by conducting proper research. He dug through the cornucopia of once available Bookmans and analyzed what worked and what didn’t to help inform decisions for his interpretation.

Mark largely reverse-leapfrogged Ed Benguiat’s very different ITC Bookman (the version most of us are familiar with) to go back to the original, “handsomer” versions that did not yet have proper digital incarnations. He sieved through the numerous swash possibilities, picked out the best existing models and added his own to the mix. Then he included every 21st century typographic nicety that one could ask for: multiple sets of numbers, stylistic alternates, ligatures, small caps, swash small caps, and italic swash small caps. Of course, there’s also an extensive range of accented letters with all features.

In the end, Bookmania gives relevance to a classic design making it perfectly usable by modern design standards. The family consists of five weights, italics (sloped as in the originals), and an astounding 3177 glyphs per font! Its combination of historical research, intelligent design, and comprehensive features makes this the one Bookman to rule them all!

Rob Keller is a type designer living in Mumbai, India. You can see his work over at Mota Italic and at his blog at You Should Like Type Too.

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