Looking for the best Serif font on earth

jabberjaw's picture

I need some typeophile help:

I'm in search of an incredible serif font.

I'm ready to spend some cash / i'm not looking for any free stuff.

Perhaps something a little unique, but classic?. something you'd see in a very high end publication.

Any ideas?

noftus's picture


- Thesis (TheSerif)
- Chapparral Pro
- Fedra Serif

Grot Esqué's picture

There are many aspects of incredibility but perhaps one option could be
• Adobe Garamond Premier Pro (“free” with Creative Suite 2)
• House Industries Paperback
• Freight
• Incognito + Terra Incognita

dan_reynolds's picture

Jabberjaw, your question is like asking us to name the best song ever recorded. The only answers you'll be able to get from it will be subjective. I might think that Adobe's Garamond Premiere Pro is the best serif typeface on Earth. But another poster might point to FF Maiola. Or Palatino nova, or Sabon, or a typeface from Steffan Hattenbach's MacRhino collection.

While there are certainly a number of typefaces that *I* would definitely say are not the best serif types on the planet, this wouldn't be helpful either. The best typefaces are tuned to specific periods, moods, media, environments, and printing technologies.

Are you looking for a font for corporate identity, a novel, a newspaper, a website, a logo, or something else? For each of these uses, you'll still get different answers from most Typophile posters here, but at least the answers, like the question, will be more specific and help you make the right purchase and create the best design.

matthewbuchanan's picture

Tobias Frere-Jones' Mercury perhaps? Initially created for Esquire mag.

timd's picture


Incredible serifs here, unfortunately it's free so no good to you :)

Seriously though, give us a clue as to use.

Stefan H's picture

Mission impossible I would say!

Here are some more of my own subjective proposals... ANZIANO, DELICATO and TAROCCO

Judge yourself at; http://www.macrhino.com

Termopolium's picture

If I could chose only one serif font it would be Minion. For sheer versatility it's hard to beat.

Actually if I had to chose just two fonts it would probably be Minion and Trade Gothic, a awesome twosome.

finn's picture

My 'best' is Fournier's 1764, but I suppose this is immaterial since it hasn't yet been brilliantly translated.

John Hudson's picture

I have a big soft spot for Monotype Erhardt.

ffub's picture

Try Bembo.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Geez. I can cast votes for Adobe Garamond, Minion (which I use a lot!), and Bembo that have already been nominated.

Depending on use, size, and necessity of having a bold, italic, OSF, blahblahblah, I would also add Baker Signet, Book Antiqua, Jenson, Palatino, and Stone....

Palatine's picture

If you choose not to go with Stefan H's suggestions - though Mac Rhino stuff is hard to beat (Luminance!) - you might want to look at the greatest digital version of what is regarded by many as one of the most beautiful and legible serif faces of all time, easily:

Sabon Next, Porchez's revival of Sabon.


And if you can wait long enough . . .


Palatine's picture


The only digital Bembo worth having is Bembo Book, and it's pretty good:


brampitoyo's picture

Don't forget TEFF's stuff, too!

thetypegod's picture

Definitely Scala Serif or Absara Serif.

George Horton's picture

John, is it possible to get digital Erhardt to look nearly as good as it was in metal? I have a solitary book in 13 pt metal Erhardt that proves it can be one of the very finest, but long experience of dismal Penguins set in it make me wonder whether it's the digital cut or the publisher that's at fault.

Si_Daniels's picture

The best, Times New Roman of course - thirty six billion readers and users can't be wrong!

alexhb's picture

I believe Coranto is one of the most beautiful typefaces I've seen in a very long time.

Jem's picture

I second Coranto, infact any font by Gerard Unger.

I also love Enigma by Jeremy Tankard.

typequake's picture

I can't get enough of Albertina.

ben_archer's picture

Anyone who is seriously after 'the best serif font on the planet' usually ends up having to draw their own, after all, so if you have time... or the money and the inclination, why not commission some of the good people who hang out here?

The Yale Typeface that Matthew Carter did for the university there is a case in point – commissioned as a proprietary face, it sure is nice, but you can't use it unless you're at Yale. Apparently it's based on the Aldine roman.

Would that be unique, classic and high-end enough for you?

BTW I agree with the people who have already mentioned the newer, better versions of Bembo, Sabon etc in this thread. Apart from Mrs Eaves does anyone know of a similarly overhauled version of Baskerville? I might also add Hoefler Text and Stempel Garamond to the list for consideration.

Jem's picture

Not to forget "Arnhem" by Fred Smeijers

"Like many of the most enduring modern text typefaces, Arnhem addresses the past in an intelligent way while making a contribution very much of its own time."


brampitoyo's picture

Ben, the most recent face in the spirit of Baskerville that I saw -- if the degree of completion is set aside -- is Steven Wulf's Eris Avec.

Let's hope it'll be done soon :)

timd's picture

Some Baskerville overhauls that have got some praise (I haven't used any of them extensively).



This version of Garamond is good-looking, don't know how it performs.

It would still be nice to know more about the requirements.

Thomas Phinney's picture

What are your primary uses for the typeface? Is it for a specific business or company, and if so, can you tell us about the type of business and desired image?

Those kinds of factors would certainly influence my answer; there's no single typeface that's "best" for everything.



Palatine's picture

You know, I hate to badger poor Kris about this and to single him out, but I find myself staring at this little teaser all the time:


On screen, the way it looks right there (i'm talking about the smaller point size), the face seems to have a unique softness and charm, a quiet elegance.

Anyway, this is a fun thread, and I think Jabberjaw is off looking at pdfs and staring at font samples somewhere.

One more contribution, if I may:

Dante, by Monotype: http://www.monotypeimaging.com/productsservices/cat_list_serif.aspx?type...

Dean Allen thinks Dante fared the best in terms of classics translated to digital. It's definitely a revered classic, right up there with Sabon. The italics, for example, play perfectly with the roman to achieve a very nice synergy. But I think it sets just a tad lighter than I'd like on an ink-jet/laser printer.

ben_archer's picture

Hey! Tim and Bram thank you very much for the pointers... (so many Baskervilles and such little time aaaagh). I didn't know about the Augereau either.

Christian – I agree with you about the MT Dante, the version I've seen this year from the Linotype Library is very fine indeed. I see that Dean also lists Jenson, Granjon, Elzevir, Caslon, Fleischmann, Bell, Bulmer, Miller, Centaur, Perpetua, Janson, Electra, Fairfield, and Aldus in addition to those faces already mentioned in this fun thread BUT these are text faces and Jabberjaw's still not said what they want it for...

Palatine's picture


I have alot of respect for Dean Allen. He's a purist of sorts when it comes to type and I like that. His site is what got me interested in type a couple of years ago. I wonder whether he's on Typophile.

Yes, there are a few Baskervilles out there, but I think professional opinion has basically brought it down to three that are truly worth considering:

John Baskerville (and Baskerville Ten) by StormType
Baskerville 1757 by Fountain
New Baskerville by ITC

Every time I find something particularly good about JB, I recall something equally good about, say, B 1757. I really can't decide between those three. Although it seems to me that most people here on Typophile prefer the first two I listed. I'm not very knowledgeable about Baskervilles anyway.

Mrs. Eaves, however (which is considered a play on Baskerville), is NO Baskerville, no matter what anyone tells you. ;-) If you want that low x-height whimsical charm of Mrs. Eaves but with spacing that actually makes sense (in terms of extended text), then have a look at Emigre's Tribute, which is quite a gem.

jabberjaw's picture

WOW, now I have TOO many serifs to choose from :)

Right now i'm leaning towards Mercury by Tobias Frere-Jones’. It seems to have a very bold unique quality. I need the font for headlines in a design publication. so unique is a plus.

But again… WOW, you guys are making this hard!


Palatine's picture

HTF Mercury. I see.

Well, I just made it harder. ;-)


Scroll down until you see Bald Condensed's review (he posts here, too), and read on from there. You'll learn a bit as well.


adam squires's picture


My two cents.

jbland's picture

Does anyone like Caslon, or is that just me? Totally subjective post though. Ask me again next year, I'll give you a different answer you might like better.

Sebastian Nagel's picture

"Best" ist very subjective...

If you want something "exclusive" and "expensive", you can have a look at

- Dutch Type Library
bad website, good fonts

- The Enschede Font Foundry
good website, good fonts

poms's picture

I put ITC Galliard on the growing list.

londontype's picture

I love Jannon Text Moderne from www.stormtype.com, a highly readable and stylish take on the type many "garamonds" are based on.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

I was thinking Arrus, Charter, Minion, Laurentian, Dorian, Hoefler Text & Titling, Requiem, Bohemia, Clifford, Cycles- along with Arepo, and Lazurski.


SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Oh and you may not believe it but Microsft commisioned this lovely face:


It will be free with Vista not yet though.


SuperUltraFabulous's picture

And lets not forget Classica and Classic Prestige either....:-)

brampitoyo's picture

Has anyone mentioned JFP's Le Monde Livre Classic?

Spire's picture

Mike (SuperUltraFabulous): As far as I know, Pescadero is not going to be included with Windows Vista.

However, it is already available as part of the Microsoft HD DVD Interactivity Jumpstart Package, which is a free download.

The package includes the following fonts:

  • Kootenay
  • Lindsey
  • Miramonte
  • Miramonte Bold
  • Pericles
  • Pericles Light
  • Pescadero
  • Pescadero Bold

You can see some samples and PDF specimens of the various fonts here.

mondoB's picture

My nominee for best overall serif family, with matching sans family, would be ITC Stone Serif and Stone Sans...Minion is a shade too narrow in its character proportions to be as widely usable, and its bold is just a flop. Stone has everything, in three weights with old style figures; it looks great small and even better big. And it's not overexposed at all!

Grot Esqué's picture

John, are you being sarcastic?

mondoB's picture

We know from another thread you don't care for Stone, G-E, but I've been using both the serif and sans families very happily and successfully for 15 years and can testify on its behalf...the fact that it's not "discovered" is an advantage, surely...Haarlemmer, very close to Stone, is another good option as an elegant all-around serif workhorse...

Grot Esqué's picture

I don’t think Stone is a bad typeface. But I don’t think it is particulary good, either. I’m just fed up with it. I think I’m seeing it everywhere. So I was asking if you were being sarcastic about it not being used much. I think it has been “discovered” and is overexposed, too. Maybe it’s just me.

crossgrove's picture


Stone Serif is certainly not underexposed, or undiscovered. Far from it.

Not sure why Minion's Bold would be considered a "flop" unless one is used to looking at Stone Serif Bold.

Stone Serif and Minion were designed for different purposes, so it's not very useful to compare them.

Did anyone suggest MvB's Verdigris? That's a sturdy one.

kris's picture

Sorry Jabberjaw, it hasn't yet been designed.

But I'll get right onto it.


mondoB's picture

Funny, I have seen Stone Serif very little over the years, and Minion a lot. Stone Sans is used somewhat more than Serif, though. More important, Stone Serif looks new, and a nice surprise, to my clients. For them, it's all about what works well at 9pt, instead of blooming only at 10pt or up, as so many alternatives I admire tend to.

MvB Verdigris and Sirenne Display are quite interesting.

William Berkson's picture

>works well at 9 pt.

I recently read 'Printers Type in the Twentieth Century' (library copy) which if I remember rightly is in Stone Serif. I can see that it could work very well at 9 pt, but at the larger size in that book, I didn't find it so nice.

Walter Tracy writes "For my own taste, if x to h is a proportion of acout six to ten a face will look refined and pleasant to read. If the x height if much less than that the face may be stylish but will be unsuitable for a long text. A larger x-height conduces to dullness."

I think Tracy got it right, and that Stone Serif is a bit lifeless. I see it was finished in 1987, when I think the huge x-height fashion was still in full swing.

So: suberbly crafted? No doubt. Ideal? No way. Just reading about it, I would think that Stone's Cycles would be more of a candidate.

mondoB's picture

Many of your objections to Stone Serif would be solved by an Open Type Pro version with optical sizes like display and subhead. When Stone Serif was new, typositor strips were still being used, and for that market Stone released a display weight of the book and book italic. Today, walking past a hardware store, I saw a box design that used the typositor display, roman and italic, and it was just beautiful. Can't help you with the large x-height, though: unfashionable here, perhaps, but loved to death by clients--and it's not hard to figure why. One curiosity: the Serif book weight is actually tagged "medium," which suggests there's a Serif Light stuck in Stone's desk...??

mondoB's picture

Lately, I've been reviewing Josh Darden's new Freight Text, a high-x-height serif family not unlike Stone Serif, but crisper above 10pt. Both book and medium weights are available for text, very subtly different, and both quite beautiful. This family really deserves careful consideration for workhorse use, as does Linotype's Sabon Next. Josh's website doesn't sell Freight Text very well; on the "set your own sample" page, you can try it yourself.



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