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book review: Sign Painters

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Just got a review copy of Sam Macon (a film director who is producing the film side of this film/book project) & Faythe Levine's terrific new Sign Painters from my friends at Princeton Architectural Press.

If you want the two-word version, it's “Wow - buy!”

This book is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in lettering - either machine or hand-set or painted. It is jam-packed with hundreds of big, full-color illustrations. Each section is an essay by a different contemporary signpainter and letterer, including luminaries such as Nick Barber, Gary Martin, Caitlyn Galloway, Ira Coyne, Josh Luke, and of course my favorite, the great teacher, letterer and typeface designer John Downer, all giving excellent advice to new letterers, rules to live by, and dropping brush-lettering science with every sentence.

An addendum includes plates from Charles Wagner's great Blueprint Textbook of Sign & Showcard Lettering, just as useful today as when it was written at the turn of the 20th century.

I am not a signpainter - in fact, even after taking a dozen lettering courses, trying my hand at various types of calligraphy and showcard lettering and other varieties of hand-work, I'm a disgrace to the entire establishment of alphabetarians - but I am a metal, wood and digital typesetter, and I love letters. Even though I'll never set anything as beautiful as the hand-drawn work shown here, I'm immensely inspired by it, and my own (mostly digital) work will be informed by what I've seen and read in this volume.

I recommend this very highly for everyone interested in display lettering, whether type or handmade. I usually check books like this out from the library, read & digest, and return. My bookshelves are finite and already overfull. But this one is a keeper, and I want to have it around to refer to for many years. Plus, at only $15 on Amazon (marked down from the usual $25), it's cheap for what you get.

I look forward to seeing the film that accompanies the book!