True Origin of Palatino

NathanNearing's picture

I remember while reading Letters of Credit, Walter Tracy makes a comment that the credit given to Giambattista Palatino as the reason for Zapf naming his typeface Palatino is most likely wrong. Tracy says that Zapf was most likely refering to the city of Palatino, not the calligrapher.

I'm just wondering if what I recall from the book is indeed accurate, and if so, does Tracy's comment hold any water?


Reed Reibstein's picture

There's only one reference to Palatino I can find in Letters of Credit, and it doesn't say anything about the name. Maybe this edition is different, but I can't find any references at all to Zapf, either. Are you sure you have the right book?

NathanNearing's picture

Oh yeah, I remember Tracy talking about it. I have a hardcover edition, one of the ones set in phototype Sabon. I'll go through it again and post when I can confirm/deny my original post.

Christopher Adams's picture

Robert Bringhurst tells it this way: That Zapf's original name for the face was Medici, but after consulting with the Stempel Foundry, they eventually settled on the name Palatino. (He insinuates that this was for purposes of marketing.)

Bringhurst continues that the name merely »alludes« to Palatino the calligrapher, as it is not based on any of his designs.

I don't gather that Palatino is a city; rather, it is a hill in Rome.

riccard0's picture

I don't gather that Palatino is a city; rather, it is a hill in Rome.

Indeed. One of the seven:

kentlew's picture

Well, Zapf himself has written, “. . . named after the Italian writing master of the sixteenth century in Rome, Giovanbattista Palatino, a contemporary of Michelangelo and Claude Garamond. (I hope Palatino may one day forgive me in heaven and give me his blessing for using his good name for my typeface).” [Alphabet Stories by Hermann Zapf, pp. 22–23. (Rochester NY: RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press)]

But Zapf never claimed that the design was based on any calligraphy by Palatino.

NathanNearing's picture

Ah yes, it was Bringhurst I read. Whoops. Rather large error there. Thanks guys for jogging my memory! I find this sort of thing rather interesting.


Christopher Adams's picture

Zapf offers the same explanation on the Linotype website, viz. «The type Palatino is named after the Italian writing master of the 16th century Giambattista Palatino. I hope he will forgive me once a day in heaven and give me his blessing in using his good name. I had no intention of disturbing his fame.»

Nick Cooke's picture

When in Rome visit the Forum Romanum.

The Palatine Hill is where the Emperors lived and it overlooks the Forum Romanum where the plebs lived. I noticed two distinct inscriptional styles there, maybe the first instance of branding ever. The Forum Romanum has many examples of lettering that we can recognize as Trajan, while up on the hill is the other style we can recognize as Palatino.

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