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Which Bembo?

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alexander fjelldal's picture
Joined: 14 Dec 2004 - 6:25am
Which Bembo?
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I want to buy the Bembo family, and need some advice. Do you know which foundry i should look to? I want the whole shebang; regular, italic, bold, sc, osf, etc. I don't need many wheights (bold, semibold, black etc), regular + bold will do. "expert" features are more important. Thanks!

Benjamin's picture
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Joined: 20 Jan 2003 - 5:21am
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This year Monotype released a new “fatter” version of Bembo, called Bembo Book. A discussion can be found here: http://www.typophile.com/node/10267

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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Joined: 8 Sep 2003 - 2:07pm
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Alexander,

Generally I suggest finding out who originally designed or released the typeface and buying from them. It's possible to get ITC fonts from Linotype, Monotype fonts from FontShop, and any other combination you can think of. Linotype doesn't make it any easier, as they tend to somehow attach their label to many fonts from other foundries (Take "the source of the originals" with a grain of salt).

Monotype originally released Bembo in hot metal. The first digital version (the same one everyone sells) has consistently been criticized for being badly-adapted for digital imaging and offset printing: it's too light. The new Monotype Bembo Book is intended to restore some of the satisfying color and feel of the metal Bembo in a digital format. For this reason, I recommend buying Bembo Book from Monotype (fonts.com or monotypefonts.com). Another substantial benefit to buying the new version is that it is available in OpenType Pro version complete with small caps, oldstyle figs and more, for only slightly more than the price of the regular family.

tom christensen's picture
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Joined: 17 Feb 2004 - 8:43pm
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I'm a fan of Bembo. This year I purchased Monotype's Bembo Book and have been happy with it.

alexander fjelldal's picture
Joined: 14 Dec 2004 - 6:25am
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Does anyone have experiences with/opinions on Adobe's Bembo?

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Bembo, like most classics, is horribly overused.
Whenever I see a new "fine book" (especially an art book) set in Bembo or Perpetua, I immediately close it. Reading that stuff atrophies the brain.
I prefer more innovative redesigns; so, Mark von Bronkhorst's Verdigris, rather than Robin Nicholas' Bembo Book.
IMHO, Nimrod and Barclays are Robin Nicholas' best work.

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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Joined: 8 Sep 2003 - 2:07pm
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Alex,

Adobe's Bembo is Monotype's earlier digital Bembo. Adobe just resells the Monotype one. All those called Bembo are the same version. The new "improved" is called Bembo Book.

George Horton's picture
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Joined: 20 Sep 2005 - 6:22pm
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Hi Nick,
Surely the problem with old digital Bembo is it's just rubbish, rather than it's being an overused classic? Bembo Book is hardly overused - indeed it's depressing how little it's being used so far in setting mass-produced books; and most people haven't read much metal Bembo for a long time. Of course it would be wonderful for those who happen to be interested to see books set in a wider palette of types, but that doesn't make Verdigris better than Bembo Book - indeed it seems to me worse, like a reworking of metal Bembo to match the contemporary fashion for all things open, clean but warm, and unintimidating. Bembo Book is, by contrast, almost counter-cultural, and to me the most beautiful digital type yet made. Thank God Monotype didn't produce something like Matthew Carter's Yale instead, though of course that's excellent in its own way.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Surely the problem with old digital Bembo is it’s just rubbish, rather than it’s being an overused classic?

I don't think it's rubbish, but the x-height is a bit big, and the finish a bit light for "normal" text sizes.

While Bembo Book has more elegant proportions than the original digital Bembo, its detailing is not as graceful. While it is advertised as suitable for 10-18 pt size, many will prefer to use it smaller.

In this comparison, the first digital Bembo is on the left, a scan of 14pt letterpress on uncoated stock (from Morison's "First Principles") in the middle, and Bembo Book at right.

BTW, I would have liked to have compared a super high-res scan of all 3 printed at the same size on the same stock, but this was the best I could do.

Printed on coated paper, letterpress Bembo has less spread than the sample here.

George Horton's picture
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Joined: 20 Sep 2005 - 6:22pm
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Your images show clearly the main differences between Bembo Book (which is indeed a genuine book weight) and lightly printed 12 to 14 point letterpress Bembo, in the shape of serifs and the development of contrast away from joins. But Bembo Book simulates nicely a slightly heavier impression - I have one letterpress Bembo book to hand, 'In Christ Church Hall', which looks very similar.

William Berkson's picture
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Joined: 26 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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This essay interestingly categorizes Dante as a revival of Griffo's typeface also. So this is another basis of comparison on the issue of 'which Bembo'? There is also Aetna--and others, no doubt.

George Horton's picture
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Joined: 20 Sep 2005 - 6:22pm
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Others are the late Franko Luin's Griffo Classico and Bitstream Aldine 401, which is derived from Linotron Bembo, one of the sources for Yan's Aetna. I'd say Bembo Book is best for text, Aetna for titling; Griffo Classico has a pleasant, if rather inappropriate, homeliness. Of course there's also digital Poliphilus (a rough-edged version of Griffo's type in a later form), which doesn't really work in my view: Bringhurst says that in digital printing Poliphilus has finally come into its own, as if the novelty of the distressed look which is so noticable in its digital form were more than recompense for the loss of a beautiful and readable text type.

John Hudson's picture
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Joined: 21 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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There is also Mardersteig's Griffo type, but this is not available for licensing. If you want your book set in this type, you have to take it to be typeset and printed at the Stamperia Valdonega.

Typequake's picture
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Joined: 10 Dec 2005 - 4:35pm
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"so, Mark von Bronkhorst’s Verdigris, rather than Robin Nicholas’ Bembo Book."

If the designer places Verdigris between Galliard and Sabon,
why do you compare it to Bembo?

http://www.creativepro.com/story/feature/21312.html

George Horton's picture
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Joined: 20 Sep 2005 - 6:22pm
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I think Nick can compare Verdigris to Bembo because some of the choices von Bronkhorst made in Verdigris bring it aesthetically towards Griffo-derived types: 'b', for instance, has a Bembo-ish shape presumably in order to enlarge the counter for small text, 'a' looks rather like a swollen Dante 'a' (same reason), and 'r' is more pen-formed than you'd expect in a French old face.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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To tell the truth, I hadn't looked too closely at the Verdigris letterforms until typequake's comment. First time I saw Verdigris, I thought Bembo-ish for some reason.
Generally, I support new designs rather than close revivals of well-worn faces.
So, in the context of recommending an alternative to Bembo Book, I was thinking of something that would be old-style, in a traditional vein without being a specific revival, and would have some heft to it. Verdigris sprang to mind, perhaps because I had recently seen a print sample of it from Faces, the UK distributor.

Anyway, looking at it more closely, and comparing with Galliard and Sabon, I would agree with George's astute observation of its marked pen-formed quality, and add that while Sabon has a roundness, and Galliard a pointedness, which integrate lettershape with detail, Verdigris has an angularity (perhaps due to the "pen") that contrasts form with detail, more in keeping with an Incunable such as Bembo. For instance, the slabishness of Verdigris' serifs, and the way the round-to-stem joints cut in with a little straightness.

When one designs, no matter the ostensible sources and intentions, one also thinks creatively with hand and eyes, which operate in a dimension somewhat opaque to rational thought, so, not through a lack of sincerity, one's rationalizations can never be relied upon to tell the whole story.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> Mardersteig’s Griffo type

Which, significantly, features optical sizes.

> one’s rationalizations can never be relied upon to tell the whole story.

Very true. Neither can they be shunned of course, because
expression of its own can't produce things other people need.

hhp

Christian R. Szabo's picture
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 - 12:48am
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At what size should Griffo Classico be used? And Poliphilus? I've noticed in the past that point sizes seem to vary between operating systems, or maybe it's just me. For what it's worth, I'm running OS X.

George Horton's picture
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Joined: 20 Sep 2005 - 6:22pm
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I think Poliphilus is pretty much dead in digital, though the caps are still very beautiful. Griffo Classico is amazingly inauthentic, actually a Venetian, but it'll work well at small sizes.