Glyph* (book review)

I picked up Glyph* by Adriana Caneva, Shiro Nishimoto, and Anna Davies hoping to learn a little trivia about typographic symbols. Beyond an interest in all things language-related (and a love of trivia), I value books like these because I hope they make me a better editor. Writing and editing are not exact sciences, and I like the idea of building up a reservoir of learning that helps me make the choices I do.

Photo of the book coverThis book surprised me. It’s tiny—the size of my hand, and just 97 pages—but it’s thorough. I know now that an exclamation mark is also called an “admiration mark, screamer, shriekmark or bang,” and might derive from io, the Latin word for joy. (Write “I” and “O” vertically, and what do you get? I love this.)

This attention to detail extends to the book design. Most chapters are two facing pages divided into three visual chunks: white space, text and glyphs. Neon orange headings and tables reinforce this organization, and the bright color scheme matches the subtle quirkiness of the factoids. For example, did you know that “bracket” comes from the French word for codpiece (braguette) and the Latin word for breeches (braca)? In other words, ( ) = pants.Photo of a book page

Huge kudos to writer Anna Davies for her elegant, poetic writing that magically fits in-depth content into bite-sized chapters. Writing about the @ sign, she says, “There is something appealing in the aesthetic of the first letter of the alphabet, embraced in a womb of its own making.” There is something appealing to me about a beautiful little typography book that reads like a haiku.

Glyph* by Adriana Caneva, Shiro Nishimoto, and Anna Davies was published in 2015 by Cicada Books Unlimited and is available at my favorite bookstore, Powell’s.