Where to buy vintage printing/type/font specimen books?

Sye's picture

Hello, I'm wanting to enhance by collection of printing specimen books but have no idea where to get them from other than lucky finds at bookstores etc. Are there any websites that sell such books?

oldnick's picture

Oak Knoll press has a good selection, generally in very good shape; consequently, their inventory tends to command premium prices.

You can—if you are patient and persistent—find good deals on eBay; however, please note that even patience and persistence are no guarantee that you will find what you're looking for at a price you're willing to pay.

On the other hand, when I was building my collection of specimen books via the eBay method, I often bought duplicates simply because the price was too good to pass up. To paraphrase Aretha: "What you want, maybe I got it." Or maybe not…

Sye's picture

Thanks - maybe I'm searching wrong because eBay is not really helping :-)

blank's picture

Amazon.com and its international brethren are a great way to get them cheap. Use terms vaguely similar to what you want and dig through page after page of search results and you can sometimes find incorrectly listed books for 2 or 3 times less than what they sell for on eBay.

Keep in mind that some stuff is much harder to find than other stuff. ATF and Monotype are easy to get because so many books were made. Pre-WII European stuff can be very hard to find, and small/obscure European foundries are really tough. The best thing to look for are large-format specimen binders from typesetting shops. I have a set of specimens like this that is just amazing; hundreds of foundry types, printed as complete alphabets in every available size.

oldnick's picture

On eBay, check Business and Industrial > Printing and Graphics Essentials > Books and Manuals.

Within Books, searches which usually yield results, if the books are available…

type specimen
specimen -hunter -days
typographic
typography

Again, persistence and patience are needed. I bought a copy of Photo-Lettering's Alphabet Thesaurus #3 for $75.00; the going price, retail, is $250.00.

bojev's picture

You can also try Booksold.com - but you need to have a clue as to possible title, company, etc

Sye's picture

Thanks everyone!

Sye's picture

Ok, So i've just ordered a few ATF books from Amazon! :-)

blank's picture

I bought a copy of Photo-Lettering's Alphabet Thesaurus #3 for $75.00; the going price, retail, is $250.00

On that note, don’t buy expensive books unless you have solid knowledge that they are worth the money. Those Alphabet Thesaurus books have some cool stuff in them, but the bulk of the content is artificially condensed/extended/slanted versions of common typefaces. Unless you absolutely must have the PLINC specimens, there are better options for your money. Likewise, a 1923 ATF specimen can be had for $100 and contains most of the better fonts that appear in the much more expensive 1912 Book.

Sye's picture

I'll post pics of what I've ordered when they arrive in the mail :-)

oldnick's picture

@Dunwich Type

The value of an item is not what you pay for it, but what it's worth to you. For me, the PLINC catalog is worth $250.00; so what I paid for it reflects an incredible value.

The 1912 American Specimen Book of Type Styles is larger—at 1301 numbered pages vs. 1148 for the 1923 edition—and contains typefaces and other material simply not found in the later edition. Again, the value is determined by what the difference is worth to an individual. I have two 1923 specimen books: one is in excellent condition; the other, not so much, but I got it for $50.00. I also have the 1912 edition in very good condition, which I got at auction on eBay for 1912 for $125.00. As a reference book, I think that it's easily worth twice what I paid for it. Just sayin'…

mkstudio's picture

I have a large collection of vintage type specimen books that I want to sell.
If you are interested please get in touch.
marakurtz@gmail.com
Thanks.

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