a micro-typography question

RadioB's picture


I have dozens of micro-typography books but I always seem to
run into problems that are not mentioned in any of them,
anyway that's what typophile.com is for I guess.

I'm typesetting a book that has a lot of notes, a few of these
notes come up in text that is smaller(9pt) than the main text(11pt)
because they are in the middle of a poem or quoted article. I am not using
superior figures because the typeface (Sabon) only has 1,2 and 3 what i am
doing instead is using linear figures between brackets [x].

ok my question is: when a note comes up in the 9pt text, should i have
the [x] the same size as the main text or the size of the text it is
used with...basically should the [x] always be 11pt or should it change
when used with 9pt text?

thank you

Andreas Stötzner's picture

The figure heading the note does not have to be of the same formatting like the reference in the main text. I’d say, normal figures in the size of the footnote text, that’s what works in most instances. (in the sample: also 11 and 9p).

dtw's picture

Andreas, I think you've answered a slightly different question from the one RadioB was actually asking.

RadioB: in the style you've described, I'd say don't have a fixed size for the note cues, but match them to the surrounding text style. Keeping them at 11pt in a run of 9pt text would make them stand out too much. But, are you wedded to the [x] style? Do you feel that regular numerals with superscript formatting applied to them would be too weak/thin? If so, and you've got a bolder weight available, see what bold superscript numerals look like.

RadioB's picture

yes Andreas misunderstood what I meant although after rereading what I wrote I can't blame him, but thanks for taking the time to reply.

dtw: I'm not insisting on using the [x] style, I did try the regular numerals with superscript and yes they did appear too thin, I didn't try using bold though so I'll give that a go. Thanks.

charles ellertson's picture

For the past 30 years, we've always followed the policy that there is one size for note calls, whether they occur in a chapter title, text, or extract. I *think* that is Chicago; it may go back to either Oxford or Cambridge style though. It is not universal, just one style.

(This also points out the stupidity of having a *numbered* footnote with a chapter title.)

The other thing we have done since PostScript arrived is, EULA permitting, made up true-cut superior figures specifically for note calls. As you say, text-size figures scaled down are too thin. They also won't kern right, as when following a quotedblright, period, comma, etc. etc. The bold will be too heavy; you might just get away with a semi-bold.

If you can't find the right weight in Sabon, try one of the other Garamonds in a semi-bold, or even a Garamond with true-cut superiors. You can do a lot of fiddling with character styles in InDesign. Get it right once; you're done for the book, except for the kerning. Grep can help you there.

RadioB's picture

Thanks Charles, Semi-bold Garamond is the best of the three, my perfectionist side is telling me not to mix typefaces but I must admit it is better than the [x] style, which does seem to stick out a little bit too much, the annoying thing is I have books designed by Jost Hochuli and he uses the [x] style, who am I to disagree?

I did notice that I also have a book that is typeset in Sabon and does have the whole superior figures, 1-9! unless the designer also used semi-bold and has spent a lot of time making it look perfect.

Nick Shinn's picture

Why not use a version of Sabon with proper superior figures?

Alternatively, you could use faux superiors, and beef them up with a smidgeon of stroking.

charles ellertson's picture

Even better than Nick's idea, don't use Sabon at all. It was made for a reason back in the days of hot metal. That reason no longer exists. It happened to work very well with the Linotype photocomp machines, but was never dialed in with any of the PostScript versions. Then Linotype came along & made a "next" version, which isn't Sabon -- just another Garamond.

If you're using InDesign, IIRC, you got Garamond Premier (Pro) for free with one of the versions. As far as Garamonds go (and Sabon is one), it's one of the best. It is also published by Adobe, so the EULA lets you go into the font and tailor it to you needs, if you have the skill. Use the regular if you're going to print on uncoated stock, consider the medium if printing on a coated sock.

I don't know if Nick makes a Garamond; anyway, my point is these days, there is not much in a name when it comes to revivals. Very few of them were handled with aplomb; they were just rushed out to boost sales. (O.K., I'm a curmudgeon).

But if you're stuck, why use Garamond semi-bold numbers scaled down? Use the superiors from, say, Garamond Premier or one of the other fonts.

hrant's picture

If you must use Sabon, JFP's version is supposed to have
been designed while skirting the old technical limitations.


RadioB's picture

Nick: Sabon Pro is the one with all the superscripts, I mistakenly thought Expert(what we own) and Pro were the same thing and concluded that Sabon doesn't have the 1-9 superscripts.

Charles: You're right the Garamond Premier is great, if the client is not willing to pay for Sabon Pro then I'll just use Garamond.

charles ellertson's picture

If you must use Sabon, JFP's version is supposed to have
been designed while skirting the old technical limitations.

hrant, is your tongue firmly in your cheek?

[Aside: RadioB, the whole point of Sabon was to create a family that overcame technical restrictions of hot metal, particularly Linotype with its duplexed mats. The commission to Tschichold was to make a font family where text printed from Monotype, Linotype, and foundry fonts all looked the same. It didn't, of course, in part due to how hard it is to even out the printing impression with type from a linecaster.

In spite of that goal, the Stempel, at least in larger sizes, had the italic on a different body than the roman. I used that design as a basis for our PostScript fonts when Sabon first came out -- Adobe publishing, of course, to allow modification. I do believe that the PostScript Linotype release got even gappier in the italic, as if someone used the narrower characters on the old roman setwidth. And the lower-case roman "c" was screwed up, as well.]

* * *

As a *compositor,* I can't abide any of JFP's fonts -- modifications never permitted. You can get the old Sabon published by Adobe; modifications permitted. There was also a PostScript Sabon published by somebody based on the old Monotype photocomp artwork, which had different f-ligatures -- but in the end it was no better than the (older) Linotype Sabon.

Garamond has been much abused in both photocomp and PostScript, & I finally decided for us, anyway, that Adobe Garamond was a decent modern reinterpretation, and Garamond Premier the most faithful to older metal, when printed offset. YMMV. All these are from the "Garamond" Garamonds, not the "Jannon" Garamonds. But that's another story...

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