Getting real vintage fonts (for Linux/TeX/GIMP)?

michael_s's picture

I am interested in mid-20th century typography and design, and am looking for a good, representative collection of faces from the era, from 1937's Coronet up to about Nov 1963: Murray Hill, Futura, Park Avenue, Balloon Extrabold, Gillies Gothic Bold, etc.

I use Linux exclusively: GIMP for Web-based graphic design and TeX for print-based typesetting. I want to use the fonts primarily in GIMP, for Web work, but I'd also like to be able to use them occasionally with TeX, for the purpose of printing cards, letterheads, and the like.

Can anyone recommend a source for these fonts, and a format (PostScript Type 1, TrueType, etc) that will work for me?

speter's picture

For use with TeX, I stick with Type 1, although you can use TrueType and with some pain, OpenType as well. Installing the fonts for use with TeX is not trivial, but it isn't quite so bad, if you read the excellent TeX font installation guide.

As for where to buy the fonts, I usually buy from Adobe, Linotype, FontShop, etc. Avoid the generic rip-offs, though.

michael_s's picture

Thanks, that's exactly the information I was looking for!

I prefer to use Type 1 because they seem to work easy in X; once installed, GIMP and other applications just magically have them.

Most foundries only seem to offer Mac and Windows options. I suppose Type 1 fonts for Windows on CD or downloaded will work on Linux?

Just found some of the beautiful old faces I'm looking for available from Happy to see them but guess I'm a little surprised at the prices for some of these 70-year-old typefaces. A single 4-font family will set you back $80-100---the cost of doing business for a commercial publication, surely, but it seems a little impractical for hobbyists and free-lance part-timers!

I'd love to see them sold in packs, like how Font Diner does it. They sell new fonts with a "retro" aesthetic---I haven't tried them yet but the quality seems good, and you can get about a dozen for $30.

speter's picture

Yes, you will want the PC Type 1 fonts.

For buying Linotype faces, often the more you buy, the cheaper the prices. (Just add more to your cart, and the prices update.) Unfortunately, that's not the case with all the fonts, though. I'd love to get Optima Nova, but not enough people are beating down my door with freelance jobs for me to afford it.

dan_reynolds's picture

Michael, we have some sales on larger families here:
They are still pricey, but I think that the cost is a good one for the number of weights one receives.

Also, we have some Value Packs. These prices vary depending on the theme and on the fonts themselves:

We don't offer discounts for amateur use,* but we do have a 30% discount in place for students. And as Steve mentioned, we offer bulk discounts on individual weight purchases.

Sometimes, when a new value pack is released, its initial sales price is only around $30. If you sign up for the Linotype newsletter, you can get these special announcements mailed to you every month.

Or, you can periodically peruse the News section here on Typophile. We post all of our LinoLetters here, too, if you don't want more e-mail.

*A font license doesn't expire. If an amateur buys a font, and turns into a professional later, he still has all of his old fonts at his disposal!

porky's picture

>We don't offer discounts for amateur use,* but we do have a 30% discount in place for students [...] *A font license doesn't expire. If an amateur buys a font, and turns into a professional later, he still has all of his old fonts at his disposal!

What happens to the font licenses when the student graduates?

dan_reynolds's picture

I knew that I was going to get slammed on this

hrant's picture

> What happens to the font licenses when the student graduates?

Upon graduation, the licensor has to pay all prorated past fees retroactively. It's like a loan, you see. It Pays to Stay in School. Literally.

No part of this message is serious. Except this part.


michael_s's picture

Dan, appreciate the links. I took note of the many themed Value Packs, and wonder if Linotype would ever consider releasing Packs of fonts collected by time period?

I'd like to improve my collection with a concern for quality and authenticity over quantity---but this being an amateur operation (at least for now, anyway), I'm on a tight budget. I have the basic PostScript printer fonts, all of the fonts that come with teTeX, and some of the extra CTAN fonts. Can anyone recommend other sources for obtaining good Level 1 fonts---particularly mid-century---on a budget?

I keep reading about the Bitstream 500 font CD and the 250 font CD, and they're recommended in both the comp.fonts FAQ and the Linux Font HOWTO, but these CDs no longer appear to be available by Bitstream, nor do they show up used on eBay.

One source I did find that offers a collection of type scanned from vintage sources is the HPLHS Prop Fonts CD, and I wonder if anyone here has seen it.

dan_reynolds's picture

Michael, we are always trying to group together good new value pack ideas (I even have sketches for at several ideas sitting in a pile on my desk right now). If you have any specific ideas of typefaces that might fit together into one package, I'd love to hear them. Feel free to e-mail me; I'll pass the message up the line and see what I can do.

dan [at] typeoff [dot] de

Thomas Phinney's picture

I haven't seen the retail product, but the free fonts I've seen from HPLHS are of truly abysmal quality. There's a complete lack of understanding about baselines, sidebearings, and other fundamental things in font development.

Too bad. I had hopes for those fonts, and HPLHS does so many other cool things. First time I heard their "Shoggoth on the Roof" CD I almost wet myself laughing.


michael_s's picture


That's too bad---the collection looked so promising! Andrew Leman, who put it together, is a prop designer who also sells (via a collection of vintage font props called E-phemera---but I liked the look of the HPLHS collection better...

Thomas Phinney's picture

I'm sure that his props are very cool. Certainly some of the stuff I've seen on the HPLHS site leads me to think so. I'm just saying his fonts are really not very good, though it depends on the use one is going to put them to (using them for props would not be crazy).

Are you doing this stuff for some sort of RPG or LARP?


michael_s's picture

No, not using it for an RPG although I'm impressed by the elaboration they've done for those games as detailed on that Lovecraft site.

I'm looking for these fonts primarily for Web design at the moment, although letterhead and a print logo is also in view.

As for the "vintage" aspect, my study is the ideals and design aesthetics of that time in Western civilization that predates the ruinous counter-culture. The idea is not to be simply "retro"---mimicking the relics of a frozen moment of the past, as viewed from the present---but to apply those principles to elevate the present situation.

michael_s's picture

Surprised that noone mentioned House Industries, which I just discovered while researching this thread. Their new Ed Benguiat collection and other offerings contain perhaps the most archetypal of mid-century modern type design!

Miss Tiffany's picture

That's odd ... Ed Benguiat, I don't think, qualifies as Mid-Century Modern type design, perhaps late-late mid-century.

Although I do think the Neutra Family

Miss Tiffany's picture

But even then the thread states that they are looking for REAL vintage. House Industries type doesn't qualify as it is all new type, even if they have paid homage to past periods.

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