End note in books: "About the Type"

I’ve noticed the recent practice of including, at the end of a book, a little note about the type it was printed in. Here’s a typical one:

About theType

This book was set in Scala, a typeface designed by Martin Majoor in 1991. It was originally designed by a music company in the Netherlands and then was published by the international type house FSI FontShop. Its distinctive extended serifs add to the articulation of the letterforms to make it a very readable typeface.

Well, thanks. I was wondering about those extended serifs. But where did this come from - who decided that, after reading a 700-page novel, we’d be dying to know about the font as opposed to the paper or binding or design? This is by no means a universal thing, but I don’t recall seeing it until perhaps the 80s.

It’s called a colophon, and they’ve been around for a really long time.

Hey, I’ve just been quite tired recently, that’s all.

Oh, hey, you’re, uh…you’re looking great! Really. For your age, I mean.

I’ll just be going now.

I see you’ve finally recovered from the making of that Clash music video, then.

You remember? “Serif don’t like it”?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in a book more recent than around 1960. But, like the OP, I’ve always been curious about it. What determines whether or not it is included? Does it appear only when the publisher is really in love with it, and wants it to be more well known? Or does copyright law require it in certain cases?

Wikipedia has a lot of info about WHAT a colophon is, but very little on WHY.

Darn… I have to go pick up my geek card now.

I like colophons … I think it’s interesting to see who makes all these fonts (you know, all the millions that aren’t cutesy as hell and don’t belong to Microsoft) and where they’re all from.

Just popped in to say that I love typefonts and am always curious about them. I love reading colophons.

Lovely, but your link seems to refer to a colophone as either the printing information at the beginning of the book, opposite the title page (“First printing: November 1949”, etc.) or the printer’s mark (“Simon and Schuster” and the little guy sowing seeds). What I am talking about always appears at the end, and is, perhaps, a special species of colophon just about the type.

On the contrary, my impression is that this is a relatively recent practice, but I’m happy to be corrected. The example I used is actually from 2010.

But why pander to the font-freaks, who surely can either recognize a type by sight, or know where to look them up?

Sez here that the guy who introduced the “A Note on the Type” colophons in modern printed books was one William Addison Dwiggins, a book designer for Knopf in the early 20th century.

Other sources also indicate that this practice was basically a Knopf phenomenon, although I’ve seen it in a number of works from other publishers (usually small and specialized) as well. The practice has certainly not died out, at least among small publishing houses.

I also love the “Note on the Type” info, and wish more publishers provided it more consistently.


As a sidenote, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more bookish name than “William Addison Dwiggins”.

Funny, I just encountered this for the first time too. I’m reading “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, and the colophon (new vocabulary word!) says:

This book was set in Requiem, a typeface designed by Hoefler Type Foundry. It is a modern typeface inspired by inscriptional capitals in Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi’s 1523 writing manual, Il modo de temperare le penne. An original lowercase, a set of figures, and an italic in the “chancery” style that Arrighi helped popularize were created to make this adaption of a classical design into a complete font family.

Alrighty then.

I would like to know about paper and bindings and design.

Wisegeek has a fun little article with a little more info on the history of the colophon, but little on why it’s still used.

Actually, it’s very difficult to know professional type fonts. Many of them are specialized fonts designed specifically for a firm to have particular qualities. I don’t know of any easy sources to look them up.

There are tens of thousands of fonts, as well. There are thousands of font families. Most of the fonts mentioned in colophons are modern variations of older fonts that might be recognized from a family but not as a specific name or designer. Only the most insider specialist would possibly recognize these by sight.

I’ll have to check when I get home, but I’m pretty sure that all the Harry Potter books have a colophon. At least the American versions. If I’m not mistaken, it’s usually in the shape of a diamond.

I guess I’m just surprised that a number of people have mentioned that they’ve only recently come across them.

The Harry Potter books do have them. They’re the first colophons I remember coming across.

As a data point, I recall seeing “This book was set in Caslon…” and such annotations in the early 1960s in books from the 1940s and 1950s.

Yes, it died out as a practice in the 1960s, probably, and seems to have been revived recently.

To my delight, but then I’m the guy who in 1978 wrote a letter to the publisher of his college economics textbook to find out what typeface it was set in. (Trump Medieval, still a favorite).