Computer Modern and Sabon?

cschroeppel's picture

Hi. Computer Modern may not be typographically perfect, but it's a good font for displaying maths (and has the most extensive support for LaTeX, as far as I know). For text, it's not the best choice, in my view. I think that Sabon (I'm using the Monotype version) is a good font to be used together with Computer Modern for math content. (Garamond is too "round", in my opinion, although I would prefer it - Garamond Stempel - for text without math content. Note: For texts that need a more personal style, I'd use other fonts, however.) What do you think about the choice?

cmr-sabon-1.jpg54.32 KB
Christopher Adams's picture

cschroeppel: I think that Sabon... is a good font to be used together with Computer Modern for math content.

Computer Modern is a Didone, and as such does not sit very well on a line of type with any other face, even another Didone such as Didot or Bulmer. A Neoclassical face such as Baskerville may work better, and there are some enticing similarities between Computer Modern and Plantagenet. The greatest difficulty you will have is matching the weight.

If Garamond does not work for you, how about pairing Computer Modern with a Garamond that is not a Garamond at all? Namely, a ‘Garamond’ that is based on the work of Jean Jannon, such as Monotype ‘Garamond’ or Simonicini ‘Garamond’?

Finally, have you considering using Hermann Zapf's Euler? That would allow you to select among Zapf's other designs, such as Aldus or Palatino, for a companion face.

The glyph coverage of Euler might not be as large as Computer Modern, but it is an eminently more handsome face.

cschroeppel's picture

Thank you for your advice, Christopher! Your observation on Computer Modern not sitting well with any other font is quite to the point. If the CM parts would not be limited to single letters, this would be probably an unsolvable problem.

Simoncini Garamond and Computer Modern looks like a reasonable combination, I'll check that out. (There might be problems with the relative weight of the fonts, difficult to say by just looking at the screen images.)

Garamond Monotype is too "lively" (too much difference in stroke widths, I guess, but I'm not familiar with how to verbalize the technical details). Aldus and Palatino have the same problem. (If you have too write rather ugly prose, and math-related texts tend not to allow excessive creativity, a lively font contrasts too much with the dry nature of the content.)

As for the Euler math fonts, the glyph coverage (extensible math characters, specialized symbols) is not as comprehensive as for the Computer Modern, so it would be a risky choice.

Plantagenet is a very interesting font, but much too heavy for Computer Modern, as far as I can see.

Christopher Adams's picture

These are two more modern faces that could make a companion for Computer Modern, and are fine for setting extended text.

Bulmer was cut in London in the 1790s by William Martin and later revived by Morris Benton.

Bell was cut in London in 1788 and widely used in America, but the numerals (not shown) may not agree with you.

cschroeppel's picture

Bulmer seems to come in different variants. The Bitstream version looks most suitable, it may be a bit narrow, however. (Are there any bold weights for that particular font.) The other variants look a bit too heavy.

New Caledonia may also be a good choice.

Christopher Adams's picture

Monotype Bulmer has a range of weights (regular, semi-bold, bold, display) and expert character sets (text figures, small caps, ligatures, fractions, etc.).

(Are there any bold weights for that particular font.)

Ask yourself, do you really need bold? In the case of Bulmer the heavier weights are surely retroactive additions to the design.

If you want a typeface that comes with a bold weight and is at all honest with itself, you should look to 20th century designs instead.

Hermann Zapf's Melior dates from the 1950s and is suitable for setting extended text.

Zapf International dates from 1977 but is more suitable for titling.

cschroeppel's picture

"Ask yourself, do you really need bold?" Titles of mathematical papers are often rather long, so the font size cannot be much larger than the text font size, so title are often set in bold letter. It's possible to use a different font for titles, of course. I don't know if I would use bold elsewhere (e.g. semibold for margin notes), but I haven't used it in the text itself for a long time.

Melior looks promising. Zapf International's serifs probably don't fit well with CM, but the font is a very interesting combination of "calm" and "lively" elements.

I have to do some other stuff at the moment, so I'll come back to this later. Thank you very much for your help! (Is there a section on Typophile for font combinations? I assume that these kind of questions come up rather regularly.)

cschroeppel's picture

I've looked at Melior. A lot of its characteristics fit well, but it seems to be too "squared" (letters like o, b, q, for example).

Michel Boyer's picture

Computer Modern may not be typographically perfect, but it’s a good font for displaying maths (and has the most extensive support for LaTeX, as far as I know). For text, it’s not the best choice, in my view.

Most of the time, Computer Modern needs to be complemented with the amsmath and amssymb fonts. A font that is more self contained and that comes with opticals (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 points) in regular and bold, is MnSymbol. Here is your sample using the minionpro package. The header is


The rest should be obvious


Scott Thatcher's picture

I'd tend to agree with the posters who suggest changing out the Computer Modern for math, rather than finding a suitable text font to match it. The difference in weight between Computer Modern and almost anything else is just too jarring to me. Of course, a beautiful mathematician once said to me, "Oh, Computer Modern---it's so spindly." After that, I could never go back.

Personally, I like looking at the Palatino/Euler pairing, especially for dry mathematics, but it is a bit informal-looking. The Minion packages look very nice to me.


Michel Boyer's picture

I have been using the Fourier package with the upright option (French mathematics, upright uppercase and upright greek letters) for years and have been quite satisfied with it. Here is how it looks:

If I wanted to keep the Computer Modern fonts for the mathematical alphabets (one advantage being that there is a matching sans serif that some use for tensors or the like), I might be tempted to have a look at Nick Shinn's Modern Suite. There is a very nice presentation document on his web site (pdf, 5.05MB). Has anyone ever tried it?


PS I should add that the mathematical latin alphabet of the Fourier package is Adobe Utopia.

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