My aim was to write a history of the development of type, focussing not just on the aesthetic changes, but the people who created it; who they were, and what inspired and motivated them. I also wanted it to be a history that people both inside and outside the design and printing worlds could read and enjoy.
Although every work of art or piece of design must stand on its merits free from its creator, I always find the background story of the circumstances or state of mind of the artist fascinating when it comes to music, painting or novels and, while documenting its changing styles, I wanted to bring that approach to type. As I wrote in the introduction: ‘In the process [type designers] kick-started the two great technological and social revolutions that have shaped Western society in the last six hundred years. But revolution, although it was sometimes the
fruit of their obsession, was rarely their objective. Many found their passion while aiming for something else entirely. Type was something they stumbled across while trying to reach some other goal. The phenomenon of the trained designer as typographer is a relatively recent one; in the past the type designer often began by following an entirely different calling. Theirs was no creative ivory tower. They brought to their designs all the inescapable human baggage of ambition, jealousy, desire, treachery and love. And it is this baggage, informing and sometimes twisting the course of their endeavours, which makes their stories as fascinating as the letter shapes they brought into being.’
Type: The Secret History of Letters was published in hardback in 2004, and there has been a subsequent paperback edition, and Spanish and Hungarian foreign language editions.