Adobe Jenson for Book Design

zrisso's picture

I'm currently designing the interior to a high fantasy novel set in a distant past, and one of my friends suggested 11 pt Adobe Jenson. I love the font for its color and the presence it commands on a page with proper, large margins.

I'd like some opinions on the font, and some alternatives other than the seemingly-standard Adobe Caslon. Are there other similarly dark fonts that you like for book text?

I'd appreciate the help!

charles ellertson's picture

Well, a fair number of people use Adobe Jenson for book text. I don't like it, which is an obvious bias.

As an aside, Adobe Caslon is not "standard" amongst designers my age. I suppose this is because we remember metal Caslon, with all the quirks that came with the different sizes. AC seems neutered.

Which brings up the matter of audience, always an important issue. All too often, a freelance designer is asked to serve two masters. One is the intended reader, the other is the client. The client, who has the final say, often gets in the way of the reader. Which brings us back to Adobe Jenson. My problem with Adobe Jenson is while the specimen is pretty, 200 pages of it is a bit much. Your mileage may vary.

* * *

You don't say what kind of "high fantasy." Who, do you think, the book is aimed at? What do you want to subtly suggest with the typeface itself? Falling back on fonts I use, Quadraat comes to mind -- but I can think of fantasy where it wouldn't work well. If you rely more on a feeling of "being old," audience again is important. For a large number of people, any of the 19th or early 20th century types "feels old." Miller might work, though a bit pedestrian for some texts -- esp. for an art director, as opposed to a reader.

Ultimately, the text itself has to sell the story. Typeface surely should not get in the way, and at best, should hint -- and only hint. If you can do that while pleasing the art director and/or marketing people, you've got a perfect job.

FWIW

Nick Shinn's picture

Oneleigh is a fantasy face, an historical fiction in its own right (as is Quadraat).
Its idiosyncrasies are modeled on those of the classic book faces such as Garamond, Bembo and Perpetua.
IMO typographers often overestimate the degree to which "quirks" get in the way of easy reading. A glyph may appear to be quirky when compared to its counterpart in other faces, but that is not a concern if it fits comfortably into its own face.

charles ellertson's picture

IMO typographers often overestimate the degree to which "quirks" get in the way of easy reading. A glyph may appear to be quirky when compared to its counterpart in other faces, but that is not a concern if it fits comfortably into its own face.

Nick, I wasn't thinking so much of a single glyph (or two), but the effect of a typeface. For example, I remember reading a Chandleresque mystery novel set in Palatino. I found it jarring me all the way through the book.

To the original poster: saying "fantasy" doesn't say enough. Condsider Lord of the Rings. If I had to pick a typeface to use for a 2010 edition, I'd pick Miller & never look back.

Another "fantasy" candidate would be Trinite (but not for Lord of the Rings.)

nina's picture

On the subject of color, this is an interesting thread:

Darker Typefaces for Books?
http://www.typophile.com/node/51171

Reed Reibstein's picture

I have to admit that an art history book I'm using for a class (Hatt and Klonk) is set in Adobe Jenson, and I constantly find it mannered and distracting. I wonder if my less type-aware classmates find it problematic, too. Of course, this could be a factor of the setting, not just the face ...

I keep on wondering if Eason would be a more pleasant alternative.

zrisso's picture

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Miller is looking like a good candidate. It has a "cleaner" look for the text. while I love Jenson, it can be tedious to read long texts in it.

Any other fonts I should look into?

Igor Freiberger's picture

Some ideas:

Adobe Arno Pro
Type Together Athelas
Storm Type Comenia Text Pro

quadibloc's picture

Poliphilus and Bembo would seem like obvious possibilities. Bembo, of course, is a fairly standard font on a lot of people's computers, while Poliphilus is not nearly so commonplace. Still, if you're going from Jenson to Aldus, then one might as well go all the way to the humdrum, and go with Garamond.

In the opposite direction... Kelmscott and Cloister Old Style are possible, but I think you would have to be adventurous to want to have a whole book typeset in something like that.

So what other interpretations of Jenson are out there? Quite a few, IIRC.

LTC Jenson is much more like Jenson Oldstyle than it is like Adobe Jenson. And there's Phinney Jenson, Nicholas Jenson SG, Hightower, even Nicholas and Goodchild.

For that matter, Centaur is widely available nowadays.

Ah; there is also ITC Golden... and Monotype Italian Old Style. So many choices are currently available.

_Palatine_'s picture

Adobe Jenson = Zzzzzz . . .

Lots of other possibilities.

Dolly
DTL Documenta (or virtually anything else from DTL)
TEFF Renard
TEFF Lexicon
Feijoa (wonderful!)
Expo Serif pro
FF Clifford
Poynter Text Oldstyle
Arnhem
Premiera OT
Mercury
Envoy (http://www.timrolands.com/Default.aspx) - Click on the link and look at the sample to the right. ;)
Comenia Text Pro

If you're really set on a classical serif, you'd be well-served by Arno Pro.

Nick Shinn's picture

Condsider Lord of the Rings. If I had to pick a typeface to use for a 2010 edition, I'd pick Miller & never look back.

Much as I love moderns, I must say that Miller is soooo wrong for Tolkein or high fantasy.

Tolkein was a mediaevalist, not a modernist or classicist.
A Goudy face, e.g. Californian, would be perfect, being likewise a work of historical fiction from a similar time period (mid 20th Century).
Goudy faces would be good for any "high fantasy set in the distant past" as that could have been his motto! -- e.g. Kennerley or Italian Oldstyle.

_Palatine_'s picture

Palatino Pro. ;)

Anziano
Delicato

Goodchild?

Kingfisher

charles ellertson's picture

Much as I love moderns, I must say that Miller is soooo wrong for Tolkein or high fantasy.

Tolkein was a mediaevalist, not a modernist or classicist.

Lord of the Rings is not abuot Tolkein's professional carrier. It s a story; at it's core, about Hobbits from the Shire.

* * *

I am constantly amazed that so many people who know about type(designers) or story-telling (editors) know so little about reading and readers.

Go ahead, flame on.

_Palatine_'s picture

My Grafton paperback edition of LOTR is set in Times.

I grew up with the Grafton set, and it read beautifully. Go figure. I didn't even notice the typeface until now.

zrisso's picture

Haha, I am more confused as to what I should set the text in now than ever. You have all given me a lot more to think about.

The text of the book is very much in the vein of LOTR, so I have that to consider. An while I love a lot of the "old looking" typefaces, I need to find something that skirts that line with emphasis on readability.

_Palatine_'s picture

Zach:

Envoy

http://www.timrolands.com/Default.aspx

Calluna

http://www.josbuivenga.demon.nl/calluna.html

(Calluna is especially readable.)

You're *supposed* to be confused. ;)

It's one of the necessary steps to arriving at a decision.

Igor Freiberger's picture

If the text is in the vein of LOTR, I think Expo Serif is a great choice. Beatiful swashes, adequate darkness and some old style elements in a not so regular glyph design. Besides this, it counts with a complete set of OT features.

zrisso's picture

Wow, Expo Serif is gorgeous! Not completely sure it would work for this book, but I love the font.

_Palatine_'s picture

Zach:

Fellow Typophile member Richard Fink and I were singing TypeCulture's praises just the other day. I've got Expo Serif and Sans Pro, and boy oh boy, does it ever set well. What a value!

You might also get some goodies in the mail after you purchase, like a letterpress broadside with a signed letter from Mark Jamra. TypeCulture's attention to customer satisfaction is personalized and second to none.

zrisso's picture

It is definitely on my shortlist of fonts to buy... which has become a somewhat longer list than the name would suggest.

Nick Shinn's picture

It s a story; at it's core, about Hobbits from the Shire.

Middle Earth was gothic, not greco-roman. The Age of Men that would kill off its magic was modern civilization, originating in Rome.

William Morris, who funnily enough was a pioneer in the creation of fantasy fiction, created a Pre-Raphaelite typeface for his kind of literature (the face was "Troy", a heavy 14th century-style roman/blackletter amalgam), but ultimately he came to accept that it was just too different a read, and favored the Golden Type (based on Jenson). Of course Jenson was Roman, but it was just about as early roman as you could get, and then the Golden Type took things a step earlier with a beefy antique veneer, and a million miles away from the Scotch Roman that is Miller.

What is the point of looking for a typeface that is suitable for "high fantasy set in the distant past", if a 19th century style like Miller or a 21st century style like Expo is OK? Why not just choose anything you like the look of, regardless of provenance? Why bother qualifying what project you're asking about a typeface for, why not just ask "What's the hot new face, Typophiles?"

In the principle of historical allusion, which was dear to the heart of D.B. Updike, the idea is that the parts of a work must be integrated in a governing historical style. So apply that principle to cross over between text and typeface, and Miller and Expo are a no go. You can throw that out the window and yet still have a considered relationship between text and typography, as in Gareth Jones take on Dorian Gray: http://www.fourcornersbooks.co.uk/Dorian.html

ncaleffi's picture

Ah, the neverending quest for the relationship between form and content - I posted a thread about that Wilde's "Dorian Gray" edition, and that matter in general: http://typophile.com/node/61383

For what counts - I never used Adobe Jenson, so I can't tell anything about its features. But if you find it nice and useful for your settings, then go with it; thought I agree that it doesn't look like the best choice for books with long periods of text.

And if we're talking about historical/contextual relationship between content and typeface, a "fantasy novel set in a distant past" seems a hard subject to find the proper font. So I suppose that any good contemporary serif will work.

jonasthyssen's picture

I recently set a Fantasy book in Stempel Schneidler, which is also in Adobe's font folio. Jenson also came up, because the book had lenghty passages in italic, where Jenson's swash capabilities would be welcome, but i ended up trashing it, in favor of something more interesting.

Nick Shinn's picture

I posted a thread about that Wilde's "Dorian Gray" edition,

Thanks, that's what I remembered it from.

...a "fantasy novel set in a distant past" seems a hard subject to find the proper font.

Why wouldn't a typeface that is an historical fiction, such as something by Goudy, be a straightforward choice?
The important thing is to avoid technological anachronism.
Ask the question, "given the world depicted in this novel, would such and such typeface have been technically and aesthetically feasible as part of its culture?"

_Palatine_'s picture

Shouldn't clarity, legibility, readability be the basis for any choice of type, and the "historical allusions" come second?

Nick Shinn's picture

Clarity and legibility yes, but readability is cultural as well as physiological. People "read" how appropriate a stye of typography is to the text, and if it sends the wrong messages, alluding to values which are at odds with the text, readability suffers. If that weren't the case, why would this thread exist?

_Palatine_'s picture

Nick:

Your point about "alluding to values which are at odds with the text" is a good one. That's interesting.

The value component of a type in relation to the subject.

charles ellertson's picture

Ask the question, "given the world depicted in this novel, would such and such typeface have been technically and aesthetically feasible as part of its culture?"

If one changes "novel" to "history" in the above, the statement would make little sense -- from the obvious that type itself may not have been available, to the somewhat more subtle that in historical description, we are always re-presenting events to an audience. How are contrary-to-fact histories so different?

William Berkson's picture

Adobe Jenson's italic is great, if that's an important factor.

As I mentioned in the thread on darker fonts, Williams Caslon looks at the same time darker and more open than Adobe Caslon (IMHO). You can see samples from its use in Boston Magazine here. It's not on the web site yet, but you can call Font Bureau and get it.

I don't think it has a strong period feel. If you want something Baroque looking, I think the Fleishman influenced stuff has that more than other classic romans. Farnham and Mercury are good ones, and DTL Fleishman is closest to the original.

Nick Shinn's picture

...the statement would make little sense...

Type may not have been available in the distant past, but if one is trying to create an atmosphere of long ago, an old type is closer than a newer one.
Morris' Troy/Chaucer type was a typographic rendering of a pre-typographic style of blackletter script. Don't you think it was "correct" for his Chaucer, more so than the Golden Type?

Sure, every historical work is written later than the events, by definition. But if one is trying to create a feeling in the reader of being immersed in another world, to the full extent that Tolkein did in plot, characterization, names and places, and even writing in an archaic manner--rather than a dispassionate historical analysis from a later date--why not also use typography that is similarly informed?

That's not the only way to do it, of course. Led Zeppelin had Tolkienesque songs that were both acoustic (Battle of Evermore) and electric (Ramble on).

ncaleffi's picture

I guess there are at least two ways here to refer to historical/contextual relationship between form and content. I'll try to articulate this the best that I can.

1. The form (choice of type or book layout) should have a direct linking to the subject of the book, or the period settings, the author's epoch, or, in a more vague way, to the tale's "atmosphere". Or to the typographical standards of that same era? So a novel taking place in late Nineteenth century England could be set, say, in a Scotch Roman type?

2. By a strictly typographical point of view, the form as a sort of meta-reference to the "genre" - so a Tolkienesque novel should be set in a type used in Tolkien's days (or in his books published while he was living).

While I find these approaches challenging, I am more and more persuaded that the best (type) choice in setting books shouldn't necessarily be bound to any historical/contextual matter. One could set an entire catalogue of books - from the Bible to cyberpunk - using the same typeface.

charles ellertson's picture

. . . I am more and more persuaded that the best (type) choice in setting books shouldn't necessarily be bound to any historical/contextual matter. One could set an entire catalogue of books - from the Bible to cyberpunk - using the same typeface.

Couldn't agree more -- as long as you are careful about picking that face. History seems on our side too. In the days of hot metal (to the mid 1960s) -- Linotype, at any rate, purchasing a new font family was about the same cost as purchasing a new car. Not something you would do for one or two books. For fun sometime, go look at printers specimen books to see how many text types they would offer.

In the photocomp days, up to and including the Linotron 202 (to the early 1990s), the cost was not insignificant, maybe 25% of the total the typesetting shop could bill for setting a book. The problem with photocomp was that while there may have been 2,000 fonts available, about 10 were suitable for bookwork. To many of the masters had not been adjusted for offset printing; too many of the masters were improperly spaced.

Now (2010), buying a font, or even a font family, is less expensive. Some foundries charge about $200 for a family, and will only sell as a package. That's about 1/5 the amount coming back for typeseting a book without images. Still significant, but not too bad, until you add the 40 hours or so it takes the comp to get the roman and italic to work as you want them to -- kerning, a few extra needed features, characters, etc. Always assuming the EULA permitts.

The problem is that even if there are 20,000 or 200,000 typefaces now available, there still aren't that many suitable for book work. Same problems -- ease of reading, printing offset, and spacing.

* * *

Allusiveness in choosing a typeface is more general. In days past, Times Roman could be used for "all books". Today, Minion. Not ideal for love poetry, agreed. but serviceable. So if,using a Linotron 202, you could choose from Trump, Times, Palatino, Baskerville, Sabon, Garamond 3 (but poor spacing), and a few others, you could pick a typeface that was more appropriate than the others for particular titles.

Things are better now, but not all that much.

Nor do we want to get into having to place a warning label on the jacket that the reader can't really appreciate the type used without an extensive study of the history of type and type designers; that while the typeface used in this book is hard to read, that is more than offset by its appropriateness.

* * *

Type designers and type users are usually different people, and will often give different answers to the original question.

Igor Freiberger's picture

I mostly agree with Nick. If you have the possibility to emphasize the historical context with a graphic element –type– it's good sense to use it. In the opposite way, for me it would become strange to set a book with a typeface which resembles a historical period very different than that referred by the text.

Of course, this is a very general approach. Many typefaces will not produce any association to a historic period except for people with knowledge on type or design. And the average reader would be unaware of these details. But as designer, I'd prefer to choose a type with some kind of link to the historical period of the text.

Nick Shinn's picture

Type designers and type users are usually different people

I don't have statistics on that, but you may be wrong.
Don't most type designers start out with typography as part of their "day job"?

Nonetheless, many typographers who don't design type do know quite a bit about the cultural and historical associations of the typefaces they use. How much anyone incorporates historical allusion into a given project is a judgement call.

_Palatine_'s picture

When in doubt, use Plantin.

_Palatine_'s picture

For a Jenson alternative that's better than Adobe's, try Cloister Old Style.

quadibloc's picture

I have not seen an edition of The Lord of the Rings set in anything but Times Roman, although I know of the existence of one that was most likely set in Caledonia due to the identity of its publisher.

I would be most happy to purchase an edition set in something such as Golden, Cloister Old Style, or even merely Centaur, if one were available. But there are few books that I would so keenly seek to savor instead of merely reading. And even for The Lord of the Rings, I would draw the line at something as eccentric as "The King's Fount"... and I would be somewhat hesitant even at a readable text type such as Troy or Chaucer.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

My first version of The Lords of the Ring in Finnish was set in condenced Garamond. It was not too bad; I think it was optically widened.

Still, next edition I bought was a hard cover.

Wayne Hammond's picture

The Lord of the Rings has had many different typesettings. The first and second primary (hardcover) editions were set in Imprint. The first one-volume paperback, and subsequently the India paper edition, were set in Pilgrim. The Folio Society edition was set in Barbou with Libra for display. As reported, the work later appeared (in paperback) in Times. The latest edition, which my wife and I edited, is in Plantin and very handsome. These are the British and American editions; in translation The Lord of the Rings may be found set in Bembo, Granjon, Palatino, etc., etc.

I've been in the position of choosing typefaces for several books by and about Tolkien, as co-author or co-editor and designer. For J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (on his pictorial art), I chose Sabon as a face such as Tolkien tended to prefer – practical, nothing fancy. I used the same face for Tolkien's Roverandom, and then again for the 50th anniversary edition of his Farmer Giles of Ham, where our introduction and notes had to harmonize with a facsimile of the original text, set in Garamond. When it came to The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, our latest book, HarperCollins expressed a preference for Minion, and Minion Pro worked very well from both practical and aesthetic points of view.

I worked as editor with Marquette University Press on the proceedings of a Tolkien scholarly conference, set in Adobe Jenson – okay, if a little fancy for my tastes for this purpose. It was a new face to the designer, whom I had to restrain from setting all italics with swashes on.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I just finished reading aloud to my daughter (over the course of a week or more) a lengthy children's heroic fantasy novel set in Adobe Jenson (Igraine the Brave). I thought it worked quite well, and was appropriate for the book. Of course, this was a children's book with a fair number of illustrations, so a fairly flavorful text face seemed just fine.

I think Cloister Oldstyle would also be a fine Jenson-inspired choice. I'm also a huge fan of Arno Pro, and I'm sure it would work well in this context.

Cheers,

T

oprion's picture

If I am not mistaken, the Children of Húrin is set quite comfortably in Garamond.

Nick Shinn's picture

... a face such as Tolkien tended to prefer – practical, nothing fancy.

Just like his writing :-)

zrisso's picture

I worked as editor with Marquette University Press on the proceedings of a Tolkien scholarly conference, set in Adobe Jenson – okay, if a little fancy for my tastes for this purpose. It was a new face to the designer, whom I had to restrain from setting all italics with swashes on.

I think I might have a coronary if I had to read Adobe Jenson in all italics partnered with swash characters.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I think Adobe Jenson is a good typeface, apart of one aspect. Instead of having a square period, Adobe wanted to accent that feature, so period is now more like a star.

_Palatine_'s picture

In my humble opinion Venetians aren't the best types for easy readability.

Plantin and Poynter Old Style Text (No. 2), for instance, just flow like water on the page while maintaining a suitably classical flair. At least this is from my experience under laser-printng conditions.

Same goes for Palatino, Documenta, Lexicon, even Dolly and Feijoa.

Thomas Phinney's picture

@Tomi:"Instead of having a square period, Adobe wanted to accent that feature, so period is now more like a star."

First, it wasn't "Adobe" but Robert Slimbach. It's not like these decisions get made by some corporate representative. It's possible that somebody else in the type group made a suggestion to Robert, but more likely it was entirely his idea.

As for whether that choice is authentic or reasonable, depending on the printing and inking, I have seen Jenson's periods look both more squarish:
http://www.nonstaticdesign.com/files/images/content/jenson-eusubius.jpg

... and more star-shaped:
http://www.noamberg.com/thesis/blowrg/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/origina...

Though even the latter sample is not quite as star-shaped as Robert's Adobe Jenson.

Cheers,

T

Nick Shinn's picture

Venetians aren't the best types for easy readability.

ITC Berkeley has been quite widely used as a text face, both in periodicals and books (e.g. Harry Potter), despite the fact it has no "sc and osf", and is a Venetian, and was designed to be primarily a display face.

The fact that it has been bundled for free might have something to do with this.

However, the simple fact is that people (typographers, their clients, readers) like it and think it reads well enough, whatever its theoretical shortcomings.

Theory is useful, but only in so far as generalizations provide a background against which the exceptional stands out.

kentlew's picture

I thought all the Harry Potter books were set in Adobe Garamond. But maybe that's just the US editions.

_Palatine_'s picture

For a Venetian (more or less) with some zip, there's Leksa:

http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/alexandra-korolkova/leksa/

Nick Shinn's picture

Here ya go, Lord of the Rings with uncials, the Anglo-Saxon letterforms appropriate to the Shire.

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