Victoria book faces

SirriC's picture


I'm currently doing a project where I am creating a Victoria era book. Whilst it does not need to be totally faithful to the designs of that time I'd like to make sure it has the correct feel.

As you all seem to know much more than me on this forum can you recommend any good typefaces to use for the body copy of the book? I've been looking through many books in the local library to understand the style, typographical features, punctuation etc but am not sure of the names of fonts.

Also do you have any suggestions on how to recreate the look of the printed text on screen?



poms's picture

Maybe a Scotch Roman for body copy. Miller

For screen (you mean in html/php/css-pages?) you can use Georgia, a system font. Georgia used here at typophile for running text.

raph's picture

I find Miller very modern and trendy, although strongly inspired by the Scotch model. Better to go with a more literal revival, like De Vinne.

See also this brilliant blog post on the Scotch Roman family of fonts. You may be able to obtain his New Scotch font file as well.

Another one that would be great if you could get it in digital form would be Ronaldson Oldstyle (see this thread for a sample).

Caslon is another popular and historically authentic font family. According to William Berkson, there aren't any good digitizations (yet), but the Bitstream will serve in a pinch. William, if you're around: any particular reason you dislike the Adobe version? It seems technically competent to me.

Oh, and for detailed, clear instructions on how to compose a Victorian book, as well as an excellent example, by all means obtain a copy of The Practice of Typography by Theodore Low de Vinne. You can pick up a copy of "Correct Composition" for $15 from abebooks, a steal, and "Plain Printing Types" should be within your budget as well. Composition, spacing, and similar details are every bit as important as the choice of the font itself.

Best of luck, and have fun!

SirriC's picture

Thanks for the responses, I'll check out the other threads and have a look for the book suggested, might need to search online for it as it'll be hard to track down on my tiny island home!

Sorry I didn't make it clear how it'll be used on screen. The final book with be done in Flash so no worries about font limitations, however I'm going to set the text Illustrator first so I have some proper control. I may even rasterize the type so I can add some texture to create a more print like feel. It's still early days so exploring my options.

Thank you!

kentlew's picture

Caslon may be a "popular and historically authentic font family," but I would say it is definitely not appropriate for mimicking a typical Victorian-era book. The Caslon revival of the late 1800s was a distinct reaction against the typical style of the Victorian era, a turn away from the modern types of the period toward an older classic style.

You'd be better served sticking with the Scotch Modern style as discussed on James Mosley's blog (cited by Raph above).

For a good digital revival of the Binny & Ronaldson Pica Roman No. 1, you could look at Matthew Carter's revision of Monticello (available from Linotype). This is an early 1800s American interpretation of the Scotch Modern model and is a bit more rugged than some of the original Wilson or Miller models.

-- K.

SirriC's picture

Damn, I have Adobe Caslon Pro too... even if it's not the preferred Caslon version. I may still stick with that face as it was used during that period and it should hold up well on screen at smaller sizes. There are plenty of ligatures, ornamentals etc too. I'll check out the other suggestions too...


pattyfab's picture

I used DeVinne for a Victorian book once too.

Dan Gayle's picture

it should hold up well on screen at smaller sizes.
Caslon is NOT a good screen font for small sizes! It will hold up fine under print conditions at small sizes if you use the correct optical version, but for screen? No way.

The x-height is far too short and the serifs too delicate for general web use, let alone at small sizes.

SirriC's picture

I agree I'll be losing some detail and quality on screen but Caslon is not as delicate as Scotch so might be a better option. Looking at the two side-by-side Scotch has some very narrow lines. So whilst Caslon might not be ideal I think it's the better of the two. Although there is still the question of how authentic it is to the period. I'll check with client, as I don't think it needs to be totally accurate, just so long as it creates te correct feel for them. Thanks again for the advice.

Robert Trogman's picture

Oldstyle No. 7 would be my selection.

raph's picture

kentlew: thanks for the additional background. Of course, Caslon as conscious revival would have been towards the end of the Victorian era, but I think it still counts. Depends entirely on the context of the material at hand. See this TYPO-L thread for more discussion and argument that it should still be considered Victorian.

Robert: Oldstyle No. 7 is a reasonable choice, but the digitization is fairly low-fi, and the adaptation from the Bruce revival (to say nothing of the Miller & Richards original) to Linotype was also lossy, especially in the unitization of widths. It's been degraded 3 times from the original.

Has anybody digitized the "Franklin Face" of Phelps, Dalton & Co. (cut by Phemister)? It's quite pretty, and more technically refined than the Oldstyle 7. It's got gorgeous oldstyle figures too.

Update: Blumenthal's Art of the Printed Book traces the Caslon revival to William Pickering and Charles Wittingham of the Chiswick Press in the 1840's, "which marked a return to the warmer and more agreeable types derived from calligraphic sources." If that's the vibe the client is going for, I think the evidence supports the choice of a nice Caslon revival, including Adobe.

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