Font suggestions: 15th-century Rome and beyond

Anna Waldon's picture

I would appreciate your ideas on suitable fonts for a project to do with the history of art and architecture that is set in the 15th-century Rome but also extends to the Christian Orient, for example to Armenia and Ethiopia.

The output will be both for the screen (moving images and interactive) and print. I am hoping for a selection of options, something simple and readable for text/headings and something more old-looking/idiosyncratic for maps and images. The body text font will need to have extended pro features.

Apart from the font names, any links to the pictorial references pertaining to this period would be great too.

Thank you for the suggestions...

Anna

hrant's picture

You might look at Rimmer's Cadmus*, Carter's Sophia** and Stone's Basalt***. But those are all caps-only. There's also Sava****. Just don't use an uncial, or Lithos!

* http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/rimmer/cadmus/

** http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/fontbureau/sophia/

*** http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/stone/basalt/

**** http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/adobe/sava/

The there's Candara (which is screen-optimized as well).
http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/ascender/candara/

hhp

hrant's picture

I'm realizing that those might all be too East-looking. If Rome needs to be more central to the style you might look at Meridien, which got a much-improved revision lately. Its rather large x-height would help your screen legibility. And you might match Vendome to it for funky titling: http://www.myfonts.com/search?search%5Btext%5D=Vendome

hhp

Anna Waldon's picture

Thanks for these ideas.

I think something originating in the 15th-century would be best. Or the ones that were in standard use at that time because of course references to the Antique times were often made at then to improve status and the Antique objects (e.g., columns and capitals were routinely pilfered for new buildings). I am especially interested in the cases where precursors of a font are known and/or have been discussed. E.g. like in the case of Bembo (which I suspect would not be so good for the multimedia side of things).

Cadmus and Sophia refer a little too much to the Classic Greek lettering with Sophia openly acknowledging its 6th-century Greek origins (which is indeed too far from target). Basalt is quite nice even though it is a “fantasy” font according to Stone himself. Maybe I can consider it given my on-screen needs, he certainly thought it would be ubiquitous if the Antique Rome used computers. This also gives me an idea that maybe I could use chiseled lettering for the major headings, calligraphic lettering for media inscriptions and a printed type for the texts… Or it might end up being too much.

Vendome is pretty nice, I have not seen it before...

Paradigm is also nice and is the right period especially given that Sweynheym and Pannartz are said to be the first printers in Rome.

Lots to think about…

hrant's picture

This might sound strange coming from a font freak, but I think you're being too historically literal if you insist on the design originating from a specific time period. Unless the work is specifically for the highly typographically aware, the historical accuracy you gain will probably result in a bigger loss: functionality. I think it would be a pedantic limitation of your choices more than an instance of design sensitivity. This is especially valid due to your screen quality needs.

hhp

Anna Waldon's picture

Very true but this is also a comparative art history project where the visual impression of everything contributes to the argument. So, mixing in some relevant fonts, perhaps only in some places, would make sense.

blank's picture

Anna, I think Hrant is right. Using period fonts in a contemporary text to support the image is going to result in a boring looking book and most people aren’t going to get the reference anyway. I could see them working on the cover, on the title page and in chapter openers, but doing the whole book that way will likely produce a pretty stuffy book.

Anna Waldon's picture

OK, thank you for the advice. I'll think about it. It is not a book. It is a multimedia piece with some printed matter supporting it. So, there are many opportunities for display types to be graphically significant and to unify the other visual content that is quite eclectic. I know it is impossible to explain well without showing more or less ready images. But the suggestions so far were very helplful.

charles ellertson's picture

Using period fonts in a contemporary text to support the image is going to result in a boring looking book

Not if they were good typefaces. But the type "of the time" was used to put ink on paper. Laid paper. Wetted paper. Letterpress. With abbreviations. Etc.

Merlo is one nice contemporary reinterpretation "of the time" for book-size text. Probably not for multimedia.

It is not a book. It is a multimedia piece with some printed matter supporting it

I don't believe the 15th century Romans had what we term "multimedia." There goes the possibility of literal representation. See above for the use of type of that period. *Lettering* would be a different matter.

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't subscribe to the "what people who don't know any better think is about right" modus operandi.
The best work satisfies everyone, authentic enough for the most demanding critics, with a lively common touch to boot.
Authenticity can't be literal, as Charles points out (we don't even use the same alphabet as then).
The main thing is, any 21st century adaptation would stem from 15th century sources, not anything subsequent.

hrant's picture

> The best work satisfies everyone

Ridiculous.

> stem

The trick of course is nailing down what
that should mean in a given context.

hhp

Anna Waldon's picture

Developing this theme, I am thinking of something simple-looking for most of work but maybe something very large-scale for decorative effect. Do you have any suggestions on Carolingian-influenced, humanist Italian scripts? I know of Luminari* but am hoping for more. Especially, as I say, for large-scale use...

I guess I could just cut some out of the images and blow them up. Might be even nicer. but I also have some map/image inscriptions in mind as I mentioned before.

Some references:

http://www.ibiblio.org/expo/vatican.exhibit/exhibit/b-archeology/images/...
http://personal.us.es/tallafigo/humanistica%20_archivos/image005.jpg
http://85.88.3.173/elements/resources/Image/Bilder/Degree1.jpg
http://www.idehist.uu.se/distans/ilmh/Ren/niccoli-hand.gif
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/70/Caroline_2.jpg

* http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/canadatype/luminari/

Manlio Napoli's picture

Maybe you could like Silentium.

Nick Shinn's picture

Nick: The best work satisfies everyone.

Hrant: Ridiculous.

Why not aim high?

hrant's picture

High is what you have to be to aim for any totality.

A design is only ideal for one person at one instance.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

A design is only ideal for one person at one instance.

No, you're equating *person* with *designer*. Big difference.

And even for *designer* it isn't true. I've always believe that when producing a fine print book, reaching the end is a matter of exhaustion rather than completion.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Most of the times the by-product of an ideal design, in the sense that it completely satisfies the designer, is that other people appreciate it too. At least, that is my experience. (Joy transcends!)

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Nick Shinn's picture

High is what you have to be to aim for any totality.

Works for me.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

When aiming high you risk overshooting. Aiming low most certainly misses the target. Seems clear to me what to do: Aim straight and when in doubt aim a littele bit higher.

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Nick Shinn's picture

Bert, straight isn't the same kind of thing as high or low.

**

The most popular types are often the most critically acclaimed.
I don't know how high Carter, Frutiger and Zapf aim, but I would suspect they try to satisfy both typophiles and Joe the plumber.

Clint-Anglin's picture

Anna,

Have you considered Incognito & Terra Incongnito?

evanbrog's picture

Maybe Centaur. This is Bruce Rogers' redesign of a Nicolas Jenson font--Jenson lived in that same time period you're referring to, in 15th century italy (venice i believe). Centaur itself is classified as a Venetian Renaissance font. It's a personal favorite of mine. Absolutely gorgeous.

http://www.fonts.com/findfonts/hiddengems/centaur.htm

It's certainly a font that works well for copy, if you have a lot of information as in a book. But, it alwso works well for display and caption. It's the font used for the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.
Check the top of this page:

http://www.metmuseum.org/home.asp

Katharina's picture

From an absolute laywoman: Will there be pictures with lots of antique text in your project? Then a typeface imitating antiquity might make an odd combination - not quite the same, digital as opposed to handwritten or printed with primitive presses.

paul d hunt's picture

Something from Sumner Stone,
probably from the Stone Print, Cycles, Arepo, SFPL series (any of these can be mixed and matched), or maybe Magma.

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