American Garamond

75th Trombone's picture

Hi, I'm nothing but a typography wannabe, but I find myself with a very strong opinion about a typeface lately, and I want validation of my taste.

So check this out:

This is a sample of American Garamond, or Garamond #3, or whatever the original name of it is, and its italic. I just got through reading three novels set in this, and I emerged with an acute desire to express my opinion on it, and solicit the opinions of real typographers to see if my instincts are good.

So. Before I opine, I want to know what y'all think. My sample text demonstrates what I want to point out, but I'm sure some of you guys have more extensive experience with this typeface to speak from. :)

Quincunx's picture

I think it looks pretty crappy. As if the different characters don't even belong to the same typeface.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Depending upon the point size which was used I'd say it is too light for a book typeface.

Number3Pencils's picture

The italic especially is misguided. I've heard it said that the erratic slope and poorly drawn letters give it an air of piquancy, but that to me said that it's good because it's bad. Rustic charm is only charming to an extent. The roman as well is too frail and lacks consistency. The stems that overshoot past the counters (p, d) are an especially poor touch. It makes me wonder how well this font corresponds to Claude Garamond's Vraie Parangonne. My bet is not very.

Quincunx's picture

Yeah, and whats up with the contrast and stress consistency too? Look at that 'o'!

DrDoc's picture

The visually inconsistent x-height is what throws me off the most.

75th Trombone's picture

Well, I'm glad you guys bore me out. I was afraid that everyone would be on the "piquant charm!" boat you mentioned, Number3.

But no, I can't stand this typeface. My number one complaint on the Roman is b, d, p, and q. The bowls of all those letters seem badly misshapen to me, almost like they were flipped, rotated, and swapped around from the letters they actually belonged to. And I could almost stand the italic if it weren't for that a; the bowl(?) of the a just leans way too far to the right.

So yeah, thanks for participating in my little game, guys; I'll go back to lurking now. :)

Mark Simonson's picture

I think some of the quirks of this Garamond (No. 3) are being exaggerated by font hinting in your sample.

No. 3 is my least favorite Garamond, especially the digital version. I would put it a notch lower than ITC Garamond even.

Stefan Seifert's picture

Originally the no3 Garamond is very beautiful. I liked it always a lot.
Very charming in its irregularities.
Obviously digital versions (as always always always..) are way too thin and sharp.
Yet the no3 is a very good typeface in my eyes.
Look at the older photosetting versions.


Robert Trogman's picture

If you have to settle on a version of Garamond there is always Adobe Garamond—a rehash of American Garamond.

Stefan Seifert's picture

Don’t use Adobe Garamond ;-)
A very functional but lousy typeface.


eeblet's picture

Those "a"s are bad apples - they'll spoil the bunch.

Stefan Seifert's picture

Which a do you mean?


gulliver's picture

Garamond No.3 isn't based on a type of Claude Garamond's at all. It's based on the types of Jean Jannon, in a century after Garamond's.

As Robert Bringhurst points out in "The Elements of Typographic Style", Jannon's type belongs to the French Baroque era rather than Garamond's type, which has more Renaissance characteristics. Subsequently, Jannon's type has a rowdier form, especially in the italics, and these dissimilar slopes and stresses in the italic were deliberate design elements, not simply sloppy mistakes.

Other types drawing from this same era have similar characteristics. Check out the italic of the various Caslon text types (Adobe Caslon, ITC Founders Caslon). Many of these same characteristics lasted into Calson's Neoclassical ("transitional") types as well.

As for Garamond 3, it is drawn closely from ATF's "Garamond" (Jannon) revival of the early 20th century, although as noted, it suffers from lighter drawing of many early digital revivals. I prefer Simoncini Garamond and Monotype Garamond for most uses -- they keep the lively structure of Jannon's letterforms, but seem much better weighted and balanced for text.

For good versions of Claude Garamond's types, I find Adobe Garamond to be a fine typeface.

David Thometz

eeblet's picture

I don't view the italic "a"s as mistakes, but they are distracting enough that I have trouble reading "while comparing apples to apples". That said, in a book size it's a whole different story.

Stefan Seifert's picture

I always liked especially Garamond Cursives for their irregularities.
Can’t help it.
I find Adobes Garamond boring and charmeless.

Hail to Jean Jannon!!
Do you know the beautiful types of Imprimerie Nationale, Paris?
Fantastic stuff!


eeblet's picture

Stefan, I took some time to get cozier with Jannon's lean-y italic, and I've decided I really like it at text sizes. Thanks for the Google search terms. ;)

Eluard's picture

The thing which most bugs me about this sample of Garamond 3 is the HUGE counter of the p. It is even larger than the q, which is large enough. You could drive a coach and four through it! Some keen typophile should bookmark this one as needing a better digitalisation. :)

nepenthe's picture

There are a number of good digital versions of this American "Garamond" available. Here are a few of the better ones: (Multiple master available) (best for lager sizes—too light and squished together out of the box to be useable for text)

Neither of these fonts really look anything like either Garamond's or Jannon's fonts, IMO.

The standard "Garamond #3" is terribly ugly at anything larger than 10 pt.

I'm currently working on a digital font that is based on ATF Garamont, but is somewhat different than the ones currently out there. I will not likely release it.

The version from the Impemerie Nationale is stunning, expecially the italic when set with the full range of ligatures.

Stefan Seifert's picture

Hi J P,

thanks for the links.
I would love to see something of your work on Garamond(t).
Are there digital versions of the Imprimerie Garamonts?


Stefan Seifert's picture


I always like the No 3 Italic for it is full of life like some others (diverse angles etc.),
yet it is slightly wider in its rythm which I appreciate.
Imprimerie cursive is too narrow in my eyes.
The Roman, yet, is the most wonderful Garamont of all.


nepenthe's picture

I read somewhere that Jalleau has digitized the Jannon you are referring to, but I don't think they make their digitizations publicly available.

This is the "Garamont" I'm working on now:

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