In 1902 The Grolier Club mounted an exhibition called One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue were a major success. To this day people refer to books distinguished by inclusion in that show as milestones in the history of writing in the English language. The show spawned a series of Grolier Hundred books, including one hundred books famous in early American literature, science, medicine, twentieth-century fine printing and children’s literature. Each of these six compilations has become a key reference in its respective field.
One hundred books famous in typography seems like a natural topic for a Grolier Hundred. The Grolier’s mission is to “foster the study, collecting, and appreciation of books … their art, history, production, and commerce.” What could be more essential to the production of books than printing type? Therefore, what subject would be more suitable for the next Grolier Hundred than typography? Following the format of the six previous Grolier Hundred exhibitions, this selection presents milestones in the development and study of this important field.
Typography is an art essential to the book (though not all books). It has a long and distinguished history, beginning with Gutenberg’s ingenious development of a system for reproducing texts, through new technologies such as hot-metal line casting, phototype and the digitally generated type of today. Along the way numerous practitioners, such as Garamond, Baskerville, Bodoni and Zapf, have raised the work of type design and typography to the level of a fine art. In addition, there is a rich trove of volumes relating to the study of typography, including classics such as Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, Enschedé’s Typefoundries in the Netherlands, Updike’s Printing Types, Morison’s Four Centuries of Fine Printing, and numerous other volumes.
Through almost six centuries many individuals have raised the practice of typography to the level of a fine art. It has been studied intensively, if not exhaustively. An overview of this important art, encompassing its history and study, is what we endeavor to display with these one hundred prime examples.