Typeface with Wild Beauty

cedarwolf's picture

Hey, folks. I am new at book design, and working on a self-published nonfiction book. The subject matter is partly about indigenous people and the wild, and I'm having a hard time settling on the typeface.

If you had to pick a bookface that exemplified wild grace -- not the grace of a ballerina, but the grace of a mountain lion, dirt and burrs and all -- what would you suggest? To me, it seems like there should be a slight edge to it, just a bit rugged, in its tone if not its actual forms.

-The book has a high word count, long stretches of text: needs to read comfortably for the long run.
-No subheads. I don't really think I need a bold weight at all. It would be nice to have something with a light or display weight.
-I prefer humanist models, though I wouldn't say that's absolute. Not a big fan of high-contrast faces.
-A face that is decently tested, and has something of a track record already; I am totally not qualified to be making a whole lot of adjustments.

Any thoughts appreciated, any questions welcomed.

Thanks! Have fun with it.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

A wild animal, you say?

oldnick's picture

Edgy, yet refined, and a decent range of weights...


cedarwolf's picture

Great -- interesting stuff.

For me, Chaparral is definitely powerful, but not what I'd call graceful. It's more like a linebacker.

I'd been thinking of Beorcana, so I like the suggestions of Hiroshige Sans and Lucca. I might be more drawn to the standard Hiroshige (from what I can tell on screen, which isn't a hell of a lot). Lucca has a lot in common with Beorcana, but I like the greater angularity of the italic. Very new!

Has anyone seen Beorcana on paper in an extended setting? I know there's a book of poetry out there, though I haven't seen it in person. I'm interested in impressions of its readibility.

I'm also considering Maiola, Seria, and maybe Romanée. I don't know if the last two have that feral touch I'm looking for, but they have their own grace.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Sorry about the cryptic post. I was going to suggest our Satyr (and Faunus). Your description sounds just like Sindre when he talks about it. Here’s a sample of it in use, and below one of the posters we made for it.

Maiola is a wonderful typeface. Very fitting for the brief. I couldn’t find a digital Romanée. Care to point me in the right direction?

hrant's picture

Satyr would be so good here, I'm tempted to use the P-word (perfect).


charles ellertson's picture

Romanée in digital form won't print. You'd have to use metal. If you want something similar, use Trinité.

You really seem to want to bring the Italian Renaissance into your book...I'd sorta, kinda put Beorcana in that category as well.

Unless the typeface is more important than the story, with the typeface selection, you want only a whiff, a very subtle hint, almost unnoticed. I once suffered through a noir detective story set in Palatino...it was never very comfortable. Similar with The Pacific, all the gritty ugliness of World War II brought to you via Adobe Jenson (again with the Renaissance).

If you're going to force me beyond generalities, I'd say take a look at Huronia, now available in two places


or probably from Ross himself, at


hrant's picture

Romanée in digital form won't print. You'd have to use metal.

Or you could print the digital version (isn't there one?) letterpress (with photopolymer plates). But to me at least Romanée is about as fauve as JvK himself...

BTW Alex, if you get bitten by the type bug hard enough you might consider showing up to this: http://www.typecon.com/archives/2187


charles ellertson's picture

BTW, if this is self-publishing, your troubles are just starting. You're going to need print-bind work. In my somewhat less than humble opinion, printing with the offset press is still superior to any xerographic technique, at least for text.

Offset short-run book production now goes down to as few as 500 copies, maybe less. Short-run book printing is a specialty.

You'll want to use a house sheet, for cost reasons. Probably that will be Gladfelter's Natures Natural, most places stock that. Unless you have a lot of images, and they are extremely important, avoid a white sheet like the black death.

Considering all the inevitable compromises, the "best" short-run printer I know of now isn't in Michigan, but North Carolina. Long way to ship to Oregon.

Call the University of Washington Press, and in the production department, ask for Tom or Pam. I'll get you last names if you need them. As quickly as possible describe your project -- esp. number of copies needed, and ask them for a short-run printer they'd use. If it's Thomson-Shore, that's back to Michigan. OK, but get two other quotes. Include Edward Brothers/Lillington (North Carolina) in the quotes. Sheridan will be cheaper, but how should I say this, they "work best" with experienced people?

If Washington can recommend someone on the west coast, consider that printer carefully, it will save you a bunch in shipping costs.

Frode was (maybe still is) a typesetter. If you prefer his font to Huronia, just tell him what sheet (paper) you'll print on, and he'll advise you as to the best weight of the fonts to purchase. Trust him, he will know.

If you prefer Huronia, what you get is just fine for an uncoated sheet, printed offset.

John Hudson's picture

Oh yeah. Huronia. Good call.

nicolacaleffi's picture

"it seems like there should be a slight edge to it, just a bit rugged, in its tone if not its actual forms. / needs to read comfortably for the long run. / I prefer humanist models / It would be nice to have something with a light or display weight."

Seems to me like a call for Verdigris, a contemporary rendition in the Granjon / Sabon lineage:


Some reviews by an actual user of the typeface:



And a pdf with some text settings:


cedarwolf's picture

Wow, great suggestions.

Satyr: amazing. In one sense, with all the curves, it seems kind of soft, and my feeling for wild grace is that the face might be a little harder, leaner. But the other opposition here is between the straight lines of industry and modernity, and the arcs of the earth. (The irony isn't lost on me that I'm looking for something wild in one of the most detailed and machined of the arts.) I'm going to have to sit with that one for a while.

Huronia: Y'know, I never looked too closely at that face before, but now it's starting to show me something. Nice nominee.

Trinité: Oh, I thought about it. Just the price on narrow face, regular weight roman & italic: well, I'll see if I can get some charitable contributions towards a poor, deserving book project. I actually hadn't looked for a digital Romanée yet, and if it's not available, that's fine, I'm not wedded to it.

On mixing Italian Renaissance with the subject, I'm not set on a humanist face, I just tend to like the proportions. And the subject of the book really goes back before printing, back before writing even, so there's no "appropriate" historical connection. It's kind of a fun challenge, really: how to evoke a wild world, not draw undue attention to the typeface, and try to foster an illusion that's it's not really being printed at all...

And Charles, thanks for all the info on printing the thing. I don't look on the design as troubles, but I'm prepared to beat down the printing if it so much as looks at me cross-eyed. Or maybe whimper in a corner, I don't know yet. I had to read your post three or four times just to make sure I understood what you were telling me. The initial print run will probably be around 1000 copies, and I'm intrigued to look at printing it offset; not so intrigued to be working with a printer across the country, I'm usually a little more hands-on. I'll have to do a lot more research; I may have a few more questions, if you're willing.

Thanks, everyone.

charles ellertson's picture

The initial print run will probably be around 1000 copies, and I'm intrigued to look at printing it offset

??? How not? Unless things have changed radically in the past year -- which I doubt -- with 1,000 copies, your unit cost will be significantly lower with offset printing. Your quality will be significantly better, too.

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