*** Shady Characters by Keith Houston


Typography nerds, proceed directly your favorite library or bookstore and pick up  Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks. I suppose grammar nerds will also enjoy its discussions of commas, dashes, and even the humble period. My personal favorite symbol is the manicule, the pointed finger I like to use when I write business plans and whose name I  discovered while reading this book. The author seems to know all Western languages, alive and dead, and can bring together effortlessly the dark secrets of Eric Gill (of Gill Sans fame) and the habits of monk-copyists, the joined history of £ and #,  early computer symbols versus early Greek symbols, and contrast the hyphenation rules of Gutenberg (none, really) and those of modern typesetting programs (many, some of which I had never even thought about). I loved this book. And for those of you who may hesitate to commit to a full-length book about typography, each chapter stands on its own very well. Pick your favorite pilcrow, diple, or obelisk (yes, all typographical marks, two of which you undoubtedly know and see frequently) and go to town.

You can find more book reviews about typography here and here.

 

 

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