I am interested by books focused on the history of (La)TeX from philosophical point of view. That is to say: no textbook, no introduction to LaTeX for beginners but books describing the model of the software1, comparing this model to others, trying to analyze its evolution through time, the community, ...

Do you have any references (not only books; it could be websites or unpublished papers)?

1. I am not sure if we can call LaTeX a software. And this is the kind of debate I am interested to read about.


4 Answers 4



That's a tall order and there aren't many books that would fit (and none perfectly that I know of). But here we go:

  • Knuth: Digital Typography. Interesting set of papers by Don written about typesetting and his thoughts on it.

Papers and talks

Probably some papers in old tugboats available from tug.org, again it might be difficult to find them in the mass of technical papers. There are several related papers in the DocEng conferences. But finding the right ones will probably be a challenge --- at least most of the older ones are available freely on the net e.g. epodd papers.

Some taped conference talks. You find links to them on the LaTex project web site, e.g. Here I mention two but perhaps there are a few others.

  • Chris Rowley: A brief history of LaTeX — with a prediction: video via River Valley TV
  • Frank Mittelbach: Windows of opportunity: A (biased) personal history of two decades of LaTeX development — Are there lessons to be learned?: link

Some papers of mine deal with some aspects of LaTeX history, see downloadable papers at Research Gate. e.g., LPPL history, Guidelines for future TeX extensions, The Pursuit of Quality and perhaps a few others.

There was a paper on Leslie's birthday on history of LaTeX by Chris Rowley "The LaTeX Legacy", which gives some interesting insights, but to my knowledge this is unfortunately only available at the ACM library.

Some partially related papers

  • Alexandre Gaudeul: The (La)TeX project: A case study of open source software (Barbara mentioned that already).

  • The TUG interviews. Some of them are surely giving a lot of insight into the history and evolution of TeX/LaTeX et al but it will be difficult to distill. By the way, most of them are available as a neat (non-free) book directly from the TUG website.

  • Rosemary Sasson: Computers and Typography only marginally related but contains a lot of the thoughts that have influenced Don and others at the time.


You may also want to look at The Computer Science of TeX and LaTeX, by Victor Eijkhout. I'm not sure if it qualifies as a philosophical treatise -- actually, I'm pretty sure it doesn't! -- but it contains neat gems here and there on issues of design and implementation that go far beyond the usual style of intros to LaTeX (and TeX).


I think that "Computers and Typesetting" by Donald Knuth would be crucial in spite of being a 5-volume-set of books by the TeX creator himself.

Alternatively, and far more easily digestible, I recommend a set of:


In Literate Programming (D. Knuth) there are a few articles about the development of TeX which include a complete listing of all bugs found and an overview over the development phases. Your local university's library might have a copy.

  • Somewhere available via texdoc there is Knuth's development log for the project. I saw it once upon a time, but it's lost to memory. Perhaps someone knows where it is. Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 22:41
  • 1
    look in the Knuth folder.
    – FUZxxl
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 22:49
  • Got it! texdoc errorlog I didn't get your tip until know, @FUZxxl, but it would've led me there. Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 22:57
  • 1
    Yeah, one of the articles in Literate Programming is that log printed out.
    – FUZxxl
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 22:59

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