A 16th Century book

rdesa's picture

Hi, all

In a previous post, at 'General discussions', I downloaded two samples of a 16th Century book.

I don't want to take up too much space in this forum, so please check it here (you'll have to scroll down a little):


As far as I can see, it looks like Garamond; but then, many late 16th Century and early 17th Century books are not very different.

Furthermore, is anyone able to provide me with information about the printer?

Thank you for your attention,

Rodrigo de S

rdesa's picture

Hi all:

I must confess I am a little downcast by the lack of responses to this thread.

To speak the truth, I have a great difficulty in telling apart 16th-17th century types. They all seem to be based on the same model and I honestly cannot tell the difference between, say, an Collines type from a Garamond one.

To complicate matters further, most of the Iberian 16th Century typography was based on that kind of design because the printing is so irregular - I often think revivals of these kind of types to be totally impossible.

Even if I can tell, at a glance and without looking at individual letters, most modern text types (sometimes even foundry variants of the same design, but that takes a little longer) when looking at a 16th Century book I find that terribly difficult - impossible, really. It is almost as if I had to try to gess the difference between Galliard cc and Galliard based on a page printed in a 150dpi inkjet printer.

Does anyone here have that feeling or did I post this thread in the wrong place?

Remember, I'm new here, so have a little patience while I understand the forum rules.

Rodrigo de S

Mark Simonson's picture

I think the problem may be that most of us here don't know much about identifying early printing types as opposed to 20th century and later.

rdesa's picture

Dear Mark:

Yes, that is probably the reason: I've been reading the posts in the various threads and the forum seems to be constituted by actual professionals (unlike me: I'm just a dilettante with a keen interest in books and types).

rdesa's picture

I know that this thread is out of place, hence the lack of responses.

But I would like to tell people about my recent experiments.

I browsed - attentively - through a lot of 16th and 17th century books. I withdraw what I said about the great similarity of ancient fonts. They are subtly different, sometimes rather different from each other. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the Garamond kind of proportion and form was very widespread during the 16th and early 17th century.

Moreover, the wearing of the metal and the quality of paper and ink introduce very pronounced modifications in type made from the same matrices. This makes identification difficult.

As you know, 16th Century based types survived well into the 18th century in Iberia (that's Portugal and Spain). As I speak I have in front of me what seems to be a big version of Granjon's Galliard, published in Antwerpen in the first half of the 17th Century. But the Iberic type designers favoured what we now call Garalde up to the technical changes that appeared in the late 18th Century.

I know this is not very interesting for the majority of the forum members, but it just may interest someone (although the persistence of the Garalde types in Iberia is a well known fact).

Rodrigo de S

jmc's picture


I suppose your informed about the work of your fellow countryman Mario Feliciano, specially his earlier fonts. I think they were based on Updike samples and have the feeling your looking for.

Recently Andreu Balius did a digital version of a Pradell font, and perhaps is interesting to have a look at


I have designed and produced a font based on some of the letters cut by Ger

rdesa's picture

Dear Jos

jmc's picture

Hi, Rodrigo,

The Spanish printing house _tf_ published some years ago a magazine which shows three faces designed by M

rdesa's picture

Dear Jos

rdesa's picture

What I meant by the conservative nature of Iberian typography may be seen here.

You will find an example of the Ascendonica italics (the origin of modern day Galliard italic) and its roman companion in a book published in Lisbon in 1650.

raph's picture

Rodrigo: thanks for posting the Iberian example. Those are some really beautiful letters, although I think it will be more challenging than usual to make a revival due to the rather extreme variations between multiple impressions of the same letter.

By the way, I have most of the Berner sheet at 1200 dpi. Follow the links from levien.com/type/berner/, then take off the "_sm". Be warned that files that large may well bring your computer to a grinding halt.

I'm in the process of moving the archive to tug.org, on which I won't have to worry so much about bandwidth, so all of the files will have high-res links.

Hope you still find it useful.

P.S. I understand Robert Slimbach is now working on an optically scaled version, to be called Garamond Masters if memory serves. It will probably be the definitive version when it's released, but fortunately there is lots of other good stuff from back then. I'm partial to the work of Guillaume LeBe, myself.

hrant's picture

> I have most of the Berner sheet at 1200 dpi.

From the facsimile in Dreyfus, I presume?
If so, how close is that in texture and color to the original?

> It will probably be the definitive version

But will it have the terminal Northern California cuteness finally exorcised? We'll see.


raph's picture

From the facsimile in Dreyfus, I presume?
If so, how close is that in texture and color to the original?

Yes, from the Dreyfus. Sorry, I should have made that clear. I'm not sure how close it is to the original, not having seen it myself, but from what I can see it looks like an extremely careful an accurate reproduction. It certainly beats the reproduction in "A View of Early Typography", which suffers further from being reduced.

But will it have the terminal Northern California cuteness finally exorcised? We'll see.

Hey, I'm in Northern California! But I see what you mean. Let me put it this way: I'm not going to let the Adobe Garamond discorage me from working on my LeBe.

hrant's picture

> Hey, I'm in Northern California!

I meant Slimbach. I'm sure he's much cuter than you.


rdesa's picture

Dear Ralph:

Thank you for the explanation. I have downloaded
a few samples. They make it very clear that Clau-
de Garamond was actually searching for regularity
which the Slimbach versionconveys rather well.

I must say I am not very critical on Slimbach's
work. If one prints text in 12 points we do get
the kind of dignified regularity a good Garamond
printed page offers.

Now, I agree it is a little too soft and not so
stately as true Garamond. But it is, I believe, by
far, the best modern day version we have.

I know about the masters version, and I am eagerly
waiting for it. But I fear it will not be much
different in terms of overall blandness.

As far as I know, Monotype is working on a similar
project involving Bembo. But it was meant to
appear this year and we are close to the end of
it. So perhaps they abandoned the project.

Concerning leBe, I never really saw a good photo
of it. But, as you say, in those days, there was
no shortage of good designs.

As a matter of fact, it strikes me that most
typefaces are variations of the same basic idea.
Of course Tory's faces are different from
Garamond's, but Garamond, leBe, COlinnes, all seem
to base their work on the same design.

I really think the proliferation of quite differ-
ent typefaces is something that really began at
the 20th century. Before that - say, in the 19th
Century - all types were more or less close to
the Didones; in the 17th Century most books look
more or less the same: printing differences are
more a matter of quality of type design and,
perhaps above all, of ink, paper, and pressing
quality than type design.

Concerning the particular type I illustrated, you
are quite right: what seems to have happened is
that there was some confusion and many different
designs were joined (for instance, consider the
variations on the [ o ]. Even the Ascendonica is
heterogeneous. There are many examples of foreign
gliphs - not in the example I have shown,
perhaps, but throughout the book.

If I find something of interest I will post it.
Old typography really is a fascinating matter.

Thank you for the replies.


Miss Tiffany's picture

Consider all of this a flow of thought and question it.

The beauty of this time period is that the type was being cut by a handful of individuals. (Maybe two hands) And they all influenced each other. From the 16th to the 17th centuries the type became more and more affected by not only the punchcutters but the paper and further the world happening around them. The more baroque and neoclassical the higher quality the paper became and so the little details in the type could really show. It isn't only about the intrinsic qualities of the type, but also the extrinsic affects the world had on the type.

Just some random, not very organized thoughts.

I think this thread could have more discussion, potentially, if it were in the GENERAL DISCUSSIONS area. Would you like it moved Rodrigo?

Miss Tiffany's picture

Moved to GENERAL DISCUSSIONS --- Discussion of 16th Century Types

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