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11 Free Vintage Hand Lettering Books

December 20, 2016 by Erin Trampel Hand Lettering 0 comments

When beginning hand lettering, one of the best ways to start is to copy. This doesn’t mean necessarily re-drawing other people’s work, but having a type style to follow and compare your own drawings to helps a lot to troubleshoot any problems that you are having with wonky letter forms. These are the books that I used when starting out to help refine my lettering styles. All are free download PDFs. Some are also available in reprints, but they are all old enough that copyright laws have expired and printing them yourself is completely legal.
World of Logotypes Book

Scans of a book from the 1970s. Originally scanned by Eric Carl, includes thousands of logos organized alphabetically.


Sign Painting Course by E C Matthews 1954 

Includes various layout guidelines and lettering styles from 1954.



Studio Handbook: Lettering by Samuel Weld 1954

Almost all lettering styles, with a few layout suggestions towards the end. Very little descriptive text.


Henderson’s Sign Painter 1906

A very early sign painters book compared to most. Almost 100% art nouveau style lettering.



The Sign Painters Guide by James T. Gardiner 1871

Almost 100% text, but describes old techniques for painting on various surfaces.


The Art of Lettering and Sign Painter’s Manual 1878

Mostly lettering samples with some tips on how to draw certain lettering styles


The Art of Letter Painting Made Easy by James Greig Badenoch 1888

Focuses on grids, and step by step how to draw different lettering styles.


How to Paint Signs and Sho’Cards by E. C. Matthews 1920

Claims to have 100 alphabets and designs, but that’s probably an exaggeration. About 50/50 text and images.


Strong’s Book of Designs by C J Strong 1865 

Seems to be more of a portfolio
for the designer than a book, but has many interesting art nouveau styles



The Sign Painter: Pullman School of Lettering 1916

Talks mainly about how to paint on glass, seems to be a primer from a sign painting school.


The Signist 1903All images, no/little text.

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