An independent archive of typography.

Edward Tufte books

Contributed by Blythwood on Nov 4th, 2016. Artwork published in .
Edward Tufte books 1
Source: © Edward Tufte. License: All Rights Reserved.

Most people wouldn’t commission a custom font for their book to be printed in. Then again, statistician and data visualisation expert Edward Tufte is by all accounts a perfectionist. His earliest books were set in metal Bembo; for later books, unsatisfied with the first digitisation, he commissioned a custom digitisation, ET Bembo, co-credited to Dmitry Krasny and Bonnie Scranton. Gill Sans is also used in tables and headings. Generally Tufte’s books are laid out with carefully spaced notes and references at the side of the page rather than in footnotes at the bottom.

Tufte’s digitisation has been open-sourced as “ET Book”, although a limited character and feature set mean you’d have to be quite determined to use it yourself. Bembo Book or JY Aetna would for most professional users be a better option, I think. (His employer Yale has followed suit, commissioning a version from faculty member Matthew Carter.)

His cartoon parodying PowerPoint (available as a poster) uses the comic book font Wild and Crazywhich I found for $29 on the internet … [it] also comes with a nice set of thought balloons.” It does look nice, though the version on MyFonts has no accented characters (or even a dollar sign), so a redesign might be necessary if translations are planned.

Tufte’s wife, graphic design professor Inge Druckrey, is also interested in human perception of letterforms — check out the Beethoven poster in those links.

Visual Explanations. Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative was first published in 1986.
Source: Edward Tufte via "Subtle Landscape" blog. License: All Rights Reserved.
Envisioning Information (1990)
Source: Edward Tufte via License: All Rights Reserved.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1992, second edition 2001)
Source: Edward Tufte via Fallen Angel and Rising Ape. License: All Rights Reserved.
Edward Tufte books 5
Source: Edward Tufte via Graham Jenson. License: All Rights Reserved.
Edward Tufte books 6
Source: Edward Tufte. License: All Rights Reserved.
Edward Tufte books 7
Source: Edward Tufte. License: All Rights Reserved.
Edward Tufte books 8
Source: Edward Tufte. License: All Rights Reserved.
Edward Tufte books 9
Source: Edward Tufte. License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Bembo
  • Gill Sans
  • Wild And Crazy




Artwork location

3 Comments on “Edward Tufte books”

  1. The Tufte books have the most beautiful, handsome and properly black Bembo I have ever seen. I remember I was nearly brought to tears when I opened Visual Explanations – I have been looking at feeble type on screen for too long.

  2. I think so too – they really capture the quality of Bembo printed on metal in classic books.

    It’s worth noting, though, that Stanley Morison felt that Bembo was a little darker on the page than he preferred, according to the Barker biography. Then again, given that he liked the Fournier and Bell designs and Perpetua, he may have liked designs more spindly than most.

  3. @Blythwood Not surprising. I surmise that feeble, high-contrast type courts a certain “modern” illusion, given the fact that he wrote Towards an Ideal Italic and lead Jan van Krimpen down that path too.

    It’s also worth noting that the ET Bembo on GitHub (now ET Book) does not come with any OT features or even kerning data.

Post a comment