Reading List

The following is not an exhaustive list, but offers some starting points for learning more about ghost signs, the history of signs and the craft of signwriting. Links are given to those books that have been featured or reviewed on this website. Please search for the titles to find buying options in your location, and always support local bookshops where possible.

If you have any suggested additions then please contact me with details.

  • General Primers

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    These books contain good quality narrative texts that will serve as an introduction to the relevant topics before moving onto anything more advanced. In the case of Advertising & Public Memory, this is aimed at a more academic audience.

    Ghost Signs: A London Story (2021) by Sam Roberts and Roy Reed

    Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America (1989) by Wm. Stage

    Advertising & Public Memory: Social, Cultural and Historical Perspective on Ghost Signs (2017) eds. Stefan Schutt, Sam Roberts and Leanne White

    Signwritten Art (2005) by A.J. Lewery

    De la Pub Plein les Murs (2010) by Emmanuel Collet et al [French text]

    Les Murs Réclames: 150 Ans de Murs Peints Publicitaires (1986) by Bruno Ulmer and Thomas Plaichinger [French text]

    Tekens aan de Wand: Geschilderde muurreclames in Nederland (2012) by J.J. Havelaar and P. Nijhof [Dutch text]

  • British, American and Irish Locations

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    These books are focused on ghost signs, and other forms of (non-painted) historic signage, in locations across the UK, USA and Ireland. They vary greatly in the extent of their narrative content with some almost exclusively image-based.

    UK & Ireland Cities

    Ghost Signs of Bath (2016) by Andrew Swift and Kirsten Elliott

    Ghost Signs of Dublin (2014) by Antonia Hart and Lunn Nalty

    Fading Ads of Gloucester (2014) by Chris West

    Liverpool Ghost Signs (2012) by Caroline and Phil Bunford

    Ghost Signs: A London Story (2021) by Sam Roberts and Roy Reed

    Fading Ads of London (2014) by Helen Cox (reprinted in a new edition in 2019 as Fading London)

    USA Cities

    Fading Ads of Birmingham (2012) by Charles Buchanan and Jonathan Purvis

    Fading Ads of Chicago (2019) by Joseph Marlin

    Fading Ads of Cincinnati (2015) by Ronny Salerno

    Fading Ads of Detroit (2018) by Robert C. Allen

    Fading Ads of Milwaukee (2020) by Adam Levin

    Fading Ads of New York City (2011) by Frank Jump

    Fading Ads of Philadelphia (2012) by Lawrence O’Toole

    Fading Ads of St Louis (2013) by Wm. Stage

    The Writing on the Wall (2006) by Ben Passikoff

  • Other Locations

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    These books are focused on ghost signs, and other forms of (non-painted) historic signage, in locations beyond the UK, USA and Ireland. They vary greatly in the extent of their narrative content with some almost exclusively image-based. They are in English unless indicated otherwise.

    Amsterdam

    The Curly Letter of Amsterdam (2016) by Remiro Espinoza and Rob Becker [English and Dutch text]

    Argentina

    Fileteado Porteño (2005) by Alfredo Genovese [English and Spanish editions available]

    Berlin

    Karbid: Berlin – From Lettering to Type Design (2013) by Verena Gerlach et al [English, French and German text]

    Denmark

    Danske Skilte (2018) by Jakob Engberg [Danish text]

    France

    Anciennes publicités murales (2006) by Marc Combier [French text]

    Typos en Liberté (2007) by Marc Combier and d’Henri Mérou [French text]

    Italy

    Signs of Italy (2015) by James Clough

    Kratie (Cambodia)

    Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie (2012) by Sam Roberts

    Lisbon

    Cidade Gráfica: Letreiros e Reclames Lisboa no Século XX (2017) by Rita Múrias [English and Portugese text]

    Melbourne

    Characters: Cultural stories revealed through typography (2011) by Stephen Banham

    Mexico

    Bardas de Baile: Mexican Wall Painting (2013) by Patricia Cué

    Montreal

    Sur les Murs (2012) by Réjane Bougé and Michel Niquette [French text]

    Munich

    From Asam to Zrenner: Tracing the Legacy of the Munich Sign Painter Karl Blashke (2013) by Oliver Linke [English and German text]

    Santander (Spain)

    Santatipo: Memoria tipográfica de los rótulos comerciales de Santander (2020) by Federico Barrera Garaña

    Shanghai

    Uncovered Signs in Shanghai (2020) by The Type [English and Chinese text]

    Vienna

    Ghostletters Vienna (2016) by Tom Koch [English and German text]

    Warsaw

    Warszawa: Polish Neon (2008) by Ilona Karwińska [English and Polish text]

    West Africa

    Chez Bonne Idée: images du petit commerce en Afrique de l’Ouest (1990) by Jean-Marie Gibbal and Denys Riout [French text]

  • Sign, Lettering and Signwriting History

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    These books range in their content, but cover areas of interest to those researching the wider realm of public lettering, including signwriting. They feature historic signs beyond just those painted on walls and other surfaces.

    Signs: lettering in the environment (2003) by Phil Baines & Catherine Dixon

    London Street Signs (2020) by Alistair Hall

    The Art of Street Jewellery (2006) by Christopher Baglee & Andrew Morley

    Designage: The Art of the Decorative Sign (1998) by Arnold Schwartzman

    Fascia Lettering in the British Isles (1978) by Alan Bartram

    Shopfront Elegy (2016) by Vici Macdonald

    A Nation of Shopkeepers (1981) by Bill Evans and Andrew Lawson

    Signs and Wonders: The Spectacular Marketing of America (1998) by Tama Starr and Edward Hayman

    Lettering on Buildings (1960) by Nicolete Gray

    Words and Buildings: the art and practice of public lettering (1980) by Jock Kinneir

    A History of Lettering (1986) by Nicolete Gray

    The English Lettering Tradition: from 1700 to the present day (1986) by Alan Bartram

    Neon World (1999) by Dusty Sprengnagel

  • General Advertising

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    Advertising in Britain: A History (1982) by T.R. Nevett

    The American Billboard: 100 years (1991) by James Fraser

  • Mainly Pictures

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    These books have very limited, or no, narrative text and will therefore be principally of interest to those seeking visual material related to ghost signs and other forms of historic signage.

    Letras Recuperadas (2020) by Juan Nava

    Walls (1977) by Deidi von Schaewen