Typeface credits in books

Queneau's picture

Hi all,

I've been wondering about the following. I always like it when the typefaces used in a book are mentioned in the credits. It gives credit to the design and the designer and saves me a lot of Whatthefont sessions ;-) But what if one were to use a typeface that has a different name than the original (I'm thinking for instance about several Bitstream and URW typefaces that had to change the name for copyright purposes). Would you credit it Optus or Optima, Gill Sans or Humanist 521?

Queneau's picture

And would it be legal if you credit Humanist 521 as Gill Sans? Would that make it a copyright infringement?

Mans's picture

I would give credit to the name of the font that I use, regardless if it is a derivative of another typeface or not. There are usually subtle differences in the cuts that you don’t want to attribute to the wrong font. Then there are more difficult cases of high-quality derivatives that are now just as established as the original typeface (such as Sabon based on Garamond).

I don't think you’d be guilty of copyright infringement just by giving the wrong font name, but you’d probably do Gill Sans a disservice. If you can’t stand for your chosen font, you’d better not name it at all.

Christopher Adams's picture

In my view, a typographer's greatest debt is to the type designer, with consideration to the type foundry or the rights-holder being only secondary to that.

If the credit for the typeface is shuffled among the copyright notice and publication data, expediency calls for naming the font with precision and accuracy. For example, Set in Humanist 521, as the case may be.

If, however, you can afford the luxury of including a colophon (let us call the thing by its name), then you have ample room to give the original name of the face, its designer and history, and, lastly, which foundry released the version used here, and when.

Your question is not one of legality, but ethics. Which formulation pays the greatest respect to the type designer, without lying to the typophile?

Queneau's picture


I agree with you that the Colophon option would be best. I didn't consider the differences in the cuts. Accuracy is important. I have a book credited as 'set in 11 pt Garamond', but more accurately it is set in ITC Garamond. This makes quite a difference...

BeauW's picture

I've seen a few Colophons in which the typeface is mentioned by name, with an addition of which historical font it was inspired by. I see no reason why one couldn't do the same thing for a font inspired by a more recent typeface.

Christopher Adams's picture
As an additional datum, in one of his books Robert Bringhurst formulates it this way:
The text face is Dante, designed by Giovanni Mardersteig.
The titling face is Comenius, designed by Hermann Zapf.

The colophon also names the designer, the compositor and the printer, and appears on the verso of the last page of the text, followed by a blank leaf. There is no mention of which cut he used.

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