Beginnings in type revival

Over the course of research on Renaissance fonts, I ran across some interesting material put out by the Dutch Type Library, including a book on reviving a Rosart typeface (see The Rosart Project) as well as another (see Reviving Type) outlining two revivals, one a Garamont typeface, the other a typeface by Miklós Kis.

These in turn led me to the blog of Dr Frank Blokland where I discovered that I could download his thesis on Renaissance type standardization.

I read the thesis through once, finding it very enlightening, then turned to the other two books. I’ve just finished going through the thesis a second time, this time taking careful notes regarding salient points, and am now going through the other two for the second time with the same intent.

I learned that the earliest metal type was produced in 1470 by Nicolas Jenson, a French punchcutter who may have learned to set type from Johannes Gutenberg. Adobe has produced a fairly faithful revival of the typeface with an extensive repertoire of fonts, but it doesn’t really please me all that much.((It’s just a little too similar to handwritten manuscript in some respects (consider the lowercase ‘e’, for example) and the proportions of capitals are not as elegant as they might be.)) I much prefer Monotype Bembo Book (an improvement over their earlier Bembo, which can be viewed through the same link), a revival of the 1495 typeface of Francesco da Bologna (a.k.a. Griffo) as used in Pietro Bembo‘s De Aetna (available here), but it is deficient with regards to those Renaissance characters which have fallen into disuse, such as long S.

I am therefore considering my own typeface project, either

  • a revival of Griffo’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (facsimile downloadable here) 1499 typeface, or
  • an ‘inspired by’ creation of my own. There are a few commercial revivals of this typeface (search ‘Poliphil’ on but the most faithful (by Adobe) is, again, deficient, and I think I would learn a lot making the attempt myself. If I don’t go through with it, I could always consider Flanker’s Poliphili, which comes close and is to be had at a reasonable price. The advantage of doing one’s own revival, of cours, is that there are no licensing strings attached!

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