Harpers Ferry Center publishes official National Park Service handbooks that provide more comprehensive information about a park and expanded discussion of concepts and issues. The authoritative texts, written for a popular audience, are based on the latest scientific and historical research. Photographs, historical pictures and documents, maps, and original art complement the texts. The books are available for about 60 park sites.
To learn more about the National Park Service handbooks we produce, and to order handbooks from the Government Printing Office (GPO), go to Official NPS Sales Publications
National Park Service handbooks are also offered for sale at individual park sites by National Park Cooperating Associations
As with the official park brochures, the designs of all new handbooks produced by Harpers Ferry Center are based on the "unigrid" format, created by designer Massimo Vignelli in collaboration with HFC's design staff. The defining elements of the format are a modular grid system for layout of text and graphics and black bands at the top and bottom of the handbook cover and at the top of the feature spreads. Two standard typefaces are used for titles and text. Standard map formats complete the presentation, helping to establish a uniform identity for National Park Service handbooks. Approximately two-thirds of the handbooks in print are in the unigrid format. Earlier titles are in several different formats. Unigrid System for Handbooks
An important element of the unigrid handbooks are two-page "feature" spreads interspersed throughout the main narrative. Focusing on a subject introduced in the narrative, they use text, diagrams, and illustrations to explain a technical process or natural sequence, bring alive a historical figure, or evoke an era. Each handbook contains a map and guide section that locates, illustrates, and describes the most important sites in a park.
Park staffs are closely involved in the planning and production of an official National Park Service handbook. Parks who want to add a handbook to their interpretive tool kit should anticipate a substantial investment of staff time and money. Planning a New Handbook