Looking For 17th Century Spanish Typeface

Duncan MacLeod's picture

I'm looking to replicate a (fictional) book printed in mid-seventeenth century Spain, and can't seem to find any info on the typefaces used there during that period.

Most examples I have found look similar to Caslon, but his types weren't produced until after 1722. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Duncan MacLeod's picture

Thanks, that's a nice typeface, but not quite what I'm looking for.

Here's some examples for clarification:


Not quite as close to Caslon as I initially thought, but pretty much a standard Roman(?) of the period.

Bendy's picture

Hmm, closest I can think of would be Inigo Jerez's Quixote, not available for general licensing. (Shown towards the bottom of his homepage.)

Something like Livory or Espinosa Nova might work?

Duncan MacLeod's picture

Close, but they're not quite "right." Just to clarify; I'm not necessarily looking for a completed font. I pretty much figured that I would need to make the font myself - I was just looking for some info on what typefaces were being used in that area at that time.

Now that I'm looking at fonts, Garamond’s letterforms look pretty close, and they were produced at the right time. Were they being widely used in Spain c. 1650?

Garamond Example Image

I basically just need a jumping-off point. The font will need to be pretty distressed, so I'll probably end up making my own version of whatever typeface it is.

The reason I'm being a bit fussy is that the book in question won't have any identifying printer's marks and is located as to time and place by internal typographical evidence only, so it needs to be fairly accurate. If I could find a typeface produced exclusively in mid-17th Century Spain, that would be perfect, but I don't want to get my hopes up.

Pretty much anything that will "pass" as period correct with the correct letterforms will do. I know I'm asking a pretty odd question, so thank you all for your patience. ;)

Duncan MacLeod's picture

Oops, no, my mistake. Garamond might be about a hundred years early. Don't mind me.

riccard0's picture

Garamond might be about a hundred years early

As long as it’s not a hundred years late, it does’t mean it wasn’t in use (after all, it’s still in wide use ;-)

Anyway, GLC (http://new.myfonts.com/foundry/GLC/) could have something for you.

Or, right time, wrong place:

charles ellertson's picture

How about Espinosa Nova? Cut by a Spaniard who just happened to live in the New World for a while, where he started a printing operation. I figure both the old & new worlds can claim him.



Cristóbal Henestrosa did a wonderful job with the revival. Very nice font that prints well.

kentlew's picture

Printing in Spain in the 16th, 17th, and even 18th centuries was largely influenced by the French & the Low Countries.

Religious printing in Spain was held in monopoly by Christophe Plantin (of Antwerp) and his heirs for centuries. The types of Plantin-Moretus — cut by the likes of Guyot, de Sanlecque, Granjon, and Le Bé — undoubtedly influenced other Spanish printers heavily.

(cf.: http://www.fontbureau.com/blog/mike-parkers-story-type-8/)

Iñigo Jerez’s Quixote, mentioned by Ben above, although a stylized interpretation, is not far off the mark, I would think.

If you’re looking for more information about the period, you should consult Updike’s Printing Types, Vol II., Ch. XVI “Spanish Types: 1500–1800”. Although Updike is not infallible, nor without his biases, his overview is valuable nonetheless.

kentlew's picture

> If I could find a typeface produced exclusively in mid-17th Century Spain, that would be perfect

There really weren’t any type founders of significance in Spain before the mid 1700s. Most of what you’re seeing in your exemplars would have been imported from France or the Netherlands, as previously noted.

If you’re intent on a truly Spanish type, by a Spanish punchcutter, following those Dutch models, then you might look at the work of contemporary Portuguese type designer Mário Feliciano. He has done historical revivals (not all of which have been released) based on the works of Spanish punchcutters Espinosa, Pradell, Gil, Merlo, and Rongel.

But again, these punchcutters were all working a century later than your target.

Duncan MacLeod's picture

My thanks to each one of you for your thoughts and suggestions. They are all appreciated, but I would like to respond to a couple of folks individually:

As long as it’s not a hundred years late

Ha, ha, you're right of course! :)
Gilles Le Corre's (GLC) fonts look great, perfect for all my oddball "period" printings. I myself have made a period correct 1770s American Colonial "Caslon Pamphleteer" font, so I can appreciate all of his hard work. I'll keep his fonts in mind for future projects.

Regarding the Fell types; I had thought seriously about using them, but wasn't sure if they would have been used in Spain at that time, hence the posting here for clarification.

Thank you so much for all the historical info - that's exactly what I was looking for. The recommendation for Updike’s Printing Types is especially welcome; I hadn't heard of that before. I'll be spending this weekend reading both volumes! His notation right at the beginning of Ch. XVI explains well why I was having trouble tracking down relevant information:

English authorities for the history of Spanish typography from 1500 to 1800 are few. There appears to be no readily accessible survey of Spanish printing for the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, even in Spanish... In English there is little in the way of a continuous narrative, though Mr. H. Thomas's paper on The Output of Spanish Books in the Sixteenth Century (Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, Sept., 1920) may be consulted with advantage for this period.

Your comment about there not being any type founders of significance in Spain before the mid 1700s was also summed up nicely by Updike:

For Spanish printing, the seventeenth century was a discouraging period. The types in use were chiefly roman; the first edition of Don Quixote being printed from uncouth, old style roman fonts.

That pretty much explains it. I also found this passage amusing:

Spanish books of this period are much like the wretched productions of the Italian press—with congested title-pages, composed in letters too large for the page, ill printed, and decorated (or at least supposed to be) with badly executed typographical ornaments. The type was generally a crude old style roman letter.

Ha! Perfect! That suits my lack of book design skills perfectly! Sloppy, badly executed productions are my specialty! ;)

Thanks again for everything, folks. That gets me on the right path, indeed.

charles ellertson's picture

Kent, If this is the same man, Antonio Vázquez de Esponosa fits the bill -- he died in 1630, after all. I *think* this is the man who's work Cristóbal Henestrosa modeled Espinosa Nova on. It is actually a bit early -- a 16th century font, and the fonts have a Venetian quality to them.


You can argue things seven ways from Sunday. I like Espinosa Nova because after my inevitable kerning work & a few other touches, I think the fonts both set and print well, esp. on an uncoated sheet. They may be a touch light with coated stock. (I haven't yet seen anything printed with Espinosa Nova on coated stock. One coming, from University of Texas press.)

Whether or not this meets Duncan MacLeod's "immortal goal" is another matter.

Duncan MacLeod's picture

If this is the same man, Antonio Vázquez de Esponosa fits the bill... I *think* this is the man who's work Cristóbal Henestrosa modeled Espinosa Nova on.

I think you may be referring to another Antonio de Espinosa; Check Here

Espinosa Nova is a beautiful font - but that's the problem in relation to this particular project. If I were printing something shiny and new, Espinosa Nova or Inigo Jerez's Quixote would work nicely, but unfortunately I need something more sloppy and rough, like the examples I gave above.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

@Ben, Charles and Duncan: thanks for your kind comments about Espinosa Nova.

Just for clarification, Antonio de Espinosa died in 1576 in Mexico City, so it can’t be the same man.

BTW, there is yet another Spaniard printer with a similar name in 18th century: Antonio Espinosa de los Monteros.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Regarding the type: I don’t know how historically accurate you must be, but I’d go for the Fell Types, as Riccardo suggested. Other two good options are 1592 GLC Garamond or 1689 GLC Garamond. The three of them are not too far from the typefaces used in Spain in that period.

John Nolan's picture

Your should have a look at Storm's Regula 2009.

The "old face" cuts are free!

Duncan MacLeod's picture

Hmm... The name Antonio Espinosa must be the John Smith of seventeenth century Spain. :)

Awesome suggestions here; again, thanks to all! I should be all set to try a couple test prints and make a final choice. I knew I came to the right place.

@Cristóbal: Thanks for the suggestions. I think it will come down to either the Fell Types, a grungy Garamond, or Regula 2009 that John pointed out above (I'm leaning toward the Fell Types). I'll have to see just how much distress is needed, but the period is just about right on any of them.

Thanks very much, everyone. I have a good idea now which direction to take, and I learned some new stuff; It's a twofer!

mike_duggan's picture


just one more suggestion, not sure if useful

James Mosley's picture

I’m sorry – this information is a bit late, but these titles by the Catalan historian Albert Corbeto, two of which have just reached me, are worth looking for:

Tipos de imprenta en España. Valencia: Campgràfic, 2011.

Daniel B. Updike, impresor e historiador de la tipografía. Valencia: Campgràfic, 2011.

The first is a general overview of type in Spain, which may be the first thing of its kind. Certainly the most comprehensive and carefully researched.

The study of Updike deals with his fascination, which became almost an obsession, with Spanish books and culture generally, and it includes a translation of the chapters on Spanish types from Printing Types, with a long introduction and a commentary. Updike put together one of the best collections of early Spanish type specimens made by any private collector, and he went on adding to it after the first edition of his book was published. They are now among the Updike materials in the special collections of the Public Library at Providence, RI.

If you want more detail, there is Albert Corbeto’s list of early Spanish type specimens:
Especímenes tipográficos españoles: catalogación y estudio de las muestras de letras impresas hasta el año 1833. Madrid: Calambur, 2010.

A knowledge of Spanish will help, obviously. But there are plenty of images, many of them not published elsewhere. All recommended.

Bendy's picture

'History of the Book' on Flickr has some interesting images from Luis Sanchez (Madrid) from around 1595, taken in the Amsterdam Special Collections, which seem to show some Granjon influences. Sadly the punchcutters haven't been identified, but you can get a glimpse of early Spanish typography.

EDIT: Possibly also useful, their Iberian printing collection.

GLCfoundry's picture

Hi there, thanks a lot for your interest about our foundry…

We think that the following font : "1584 Pragmàtica Lima" may be right :
It was inspired from the set of fontfaces used in Lima (Peru) by Antonio Ricardo to print in 1584 the first publication ever printed in Southern America : a four page leaflet in Spanish untitled "Pragmàtica sanciòn" with the information about the new Georgian calendar of 1582 who was not yet communicated to the colonies. We have used a copy from one of the genuine documents sent by a Spanish correspondent.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Hey, I wasn’t aware of this 1584 Pragmatica Lima font. As far as I know, this is the first revival of the types used by Antonio Ricardo. And, since Ricardo worked a brief time in Mexico before going to Lima, I feel somehow connected to him. Good to know about this.

John Hudson's picture

I love the fact that the Espinosa Nova family includes a rotunda.

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