Acknowledgement in books

Occasionally a publisher will acknowledge the fonts used in a publication. However, more typically not. This is despite the contribution of the font to overall reception. This is so, even in cook books or art books, for example, where the font may be quite distinctive and a foregrounded design element. Are there good reason for this?


  • Joshua LangmanJoshua Langman Posts: 65
    edited March 14
    This is called a colophon, and it has been included in books going back almost to the beginning of printing (when it was somewhat different and functioned more like a copyright page). These days, publishers are likely to include colophons only if they have invested significant resources into the design and production of a book and want to call attention to these aspects of the book specifically.

    A modern-day colophon typically includes information about the typefaces and their designers, the printing method used for the book, the paper and binding materials and processes, the illustrations (if any), and credits for the book designer, typesetter, art director, production manager, print shop, etc. The colophon, by tradition, is the last printed page of the book.

    An alternative to a full colophon page is to credit the typeface and book designer on the copyright page (title verso).

    Inclusion of a colophon may vary book by book, with only the most lavishly produced books from a publisher receiving them. On the other hand, some trade publishers, notably Knopf, have a tradition of including them in all or most books. On the other hand, I was surprised to find that the Folio Society, a publisher of fine editions, apparently never includes colophons.

    When my first book was published two years ago by an academic publisher, the publisher suggested that we include a colophon. This is atypical for them, but they wanted to acknowledge my design work. Having already written it, I was happy to oblige.
  • Many colophons credit only the text face, not the display face, either to keep things simple or to limit the number of pre-written typeface credits a publisher needs to keep on hand. Then there are folks who take the opposite approach.

    This remains my favorite colophon that I've written.
  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 245
    edited March 14
    Many books are bound in signatures, and the amount of extra blank pages left can sometimes determine whether they add or remove a colophon. It's a dumb reason.
    I'm sure there's a book out there somewhere with no colophon and yet with a “This page intentionally blank.”
  • Yves MichelYves Michel Posts: 152
    All books should include a colophon listing the typefaces...
    I think this is true not only for books but also for websites or other types of publications.
  • lorcandlorcand Posts: 3
    Thank you for comments. I assume putting something in the license requesting credit is something that is undesirable? Has been tried and doesn't work? Is seen as pointless?
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    edited March 15
    It isn’t a BAD thing, but the folks actually doing the decision-making are probably a couple steps removed from whoever (if anyone) is reading the license.   :/ 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,975
    License terms need to be enforceable, which is why they are best defined in terms of usages and quantities with clearly related costs at time of purchase. What steps would you take if someone used the font and failed to credit it? Also, would you expect the credit to occur everywhere that a font is used? — on a business card?
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 792
    @John Hudson I think the next iteration of our license says something like "we ask that you please credit the font you are using wherever you include credits, including design award applications".  So, it's not a requirement, but it's there.  
  • lorcandlorcand Posts: 3
    I was thinking mostly of books, given that other design elements are often credited. 
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 839
    edited March 18
    When it comes to a publishing house crediting fonts and their designers nobody does it better than And they are designing what are possibly the most beautiful books today.
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 996
    edited March 30
    We recently introduced a more specific tag, “a note on the type”. It’s applied to cases where the note goes beyond a mere mention of the typeface’s name and designer/foundry, and also offers a brief bio of the typeface or similar.
    In my limited research so far, this tradition (and its phrasing) may have started around 1920 with the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, who included it in many books thereafter. It was often an opportunity for the typesetter to show off with elaborate layouts, and the typeface bios could be surprisingly in-depth, sometimes nearly filling a full page.
    W.A. Dwiggins was a frequent adopter of the “note on the type”, adding it to many of the books he designed. See his notes on Janson, Scotch, and his own Stuyvesant (unreleased).
    I haven’t found evidence that other publishers picked up the convention (at least with this phrase) until the 1990s.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,654
    edited March 30
    This just reminded me of a parody written by Bruce McCall that appeared in a 1997 issue of The New Yorker called "A Note on the Type." A friend of mine sent me a photocopy of it around the time it was published. You can see part of the article on The New Yorker's website, but a paywall blocks the rest. If I find the photocopy I could post it here.

    The timing of this piece fits with @Stephen Coles idea that the practice didn't become widespread until the 1990s.

  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 245
    Did it perhaps coincide with the early 20th century private press movement? And is your research confined to Anglophone books?
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,975
    edited March 30
    There is also a short story by Ron Carlson entitled ‘A note on the type’, published in Harper’s in October 1993. I have only found the opening online:

    No alphabet comes along full-grown. A period of development is required for the individual letters to bloom and then another period for them to adjust to their place in the entire set, and sometimes this period can be a few weeks or it can be a lifetime. No quality font maker ever sat down and wrote out A to Z just like that.

    It doesn’t happen. Getting Ray Bold right required five months, an intense creative period for me that has included my ten-week escape from the state facilities at Windchime, Nevada, and my return here one week ago.

    And there is an amusing if belaboured parody by Jonathan Safran Foer, from The Guardian in December 2002, entitled ‘About the typefaces not used in this edition’.

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