Looking for a Good Typeface

Latinus's picture

Hello. I've posted a few times here asking for advice and critiques of various fonts. Each time, I've been rather impressed with the suggestions and advice. Well, I've come back for another round, asking for your help in this:

I have found a copy of the Biblia Sacra ex Sebastiani Castellionis I would like to get republished. Other than the rare scanned reprint of the few remaining original copies, this Latin-language Bible is nearly impossible to find. It was published shortly before the old Clementine Vulgate, and was the only translation of its kind: instead of using the simpler Ecclesiastical style, Châteillon's edition was in the far more complex Classical style, and was censored by both the Protestants and Catholics of the time because of it. Châteillon himself was raised a Catholic and eventually joined up with Calvin. Later, he broke with Calvin over a censorship issue (Calvin was for censoring opposing viewpoints, Châteillon was against). He was widely known in his day as a skilled translator, and was fluent in French and Italian, and was known to be a master of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He was also proficient in German.

I am not wanting to reprint the extant copies of Châteillon's translation (which is non-partisan compared to most translations on the market then and now. It contains the entire Deuterocannon, unlike most translations done by Protestants and has numerous references to Roman mythology - such as, in Genesis, instead of using the more traditionally Christian "LORD God", Châteillon used "Iova Deus" - the first part of which phonetically sounds like the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, and also happens to be one of the traditional titles of Jupiter (Jove); as well as referring to Hell as "orcus" rather than the more Ecclesiastical "infernus".). I however, wish to reformat it - the verse numbers in the extant copies are unclear and there is neither a system of paragraphs nor the verses listed out clearly, as in a list.

So, here is my request:

I am looking for a font for the above kind of Bible. If it costs money, I will save up the sufficient funds.

I'd like a typeface that is sturdy, masculine, and handsome. Something that is readable and legible. Something that is kind to the eyes in large quantities and appropriately small size (Although I have seen an edition of the Clementine Vulgate printed in 1914 with a rather large size, what looked about the size of a 14 pt Times). I need to research paper - some suggestions for that would also be nice. I'd like a sturdy paper that will last, but not be thick. I may try to put out this text in multiple volumes. I would like the font to look good in Italian calfskin and at the same time convey a sense of the sound of Classical Latin (I'm a language major, so I think in sounds, I apologize). If you google search "Classical Latin Pronunciation," the Wheelock's site and the ancienthistory.about.com have some decent recordings, as well as the Latinum podcast.

I apologize if this is a hefty order, but thank you all for the help.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Andreas Stötzner's Andron would be my first choice. If you need medieval characters or there are passages using Greek, Andron Mega support them all.

Another interesting choices: Livory, Sirba, Spinoza, and Milo Serif.

1996type's picture

I've always found Beorcana to have a very holy appearance, apart from the fact that it's just brilliantly crafted. It costs, yes, but it's definitely worth it. Good luck!

Latinus's picture

I was greatly impressed with Beorcana. Linotype has a pro package for the basic fonts for $100. I will either need to save more than that for the extra display fonts or find a good companion display font.

I think Beorcana should work well anywhere from 9 to 12 pts for this particular project. Perchance I may be able to get it by Christmas! (I'm a student, so I'm rather poor).

I am familiar with Andron, as I pay close attention to MUFI, which promotes it. It is a nice font, as is Livory. I think, however, that Beorcana is the best I've come across for this project thus far.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Beorcana is beautiful, resembles holy scriptures and is nicely done. But are you sure is it a good choice for continued reading? I don't think it works so well as a text font.

JanekZ's picture

some classics:
Bonesana by Matthieu Cortat http://www.nonpareille.net/typographie/index.html
Merlo and Rongel by Mário Feliciano http://www.felicianotypefoundry.com/cms/
Clifford by Akira Kobayashi https://www.fontfont.com/fonts/clifford-nine/regular

matt_yow's picture

I'd second Livory.

Latinus's picture

Freiberger - could you explain your point as to how Beorcana is not a good text font? I'm just curious.

Livory is good, I think, but Beorcana has the sort of "flavor" I'd like.

Thank you.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

There seem to be three questions, actually.

1) a serif face or non-serif (Beorcana),
2) what is the favoured style?
3) what scripts support and glyph coverage is required?

Like Mr. Freiberger I would be rather sceptic about a non-serif for such a treatise. But it may be an option.
If it comes to serif faces, Merlo seems particular interesting: it looks excellent, will be very legible and – has a Spanish background. If that does any count.
If you’ll need more than Latin the choice may get narrowed down. Is there other scripts in that book than Latin? I’d very much to see some images …

Damien Gautier's picture

We have designed a font for a publisher who asked us to design a new Bible (revisited translation of Dardy).
We really take care on the specificities of Bibles layouts to create this font.
It's based on the font used in the document "Biblia poliglota complutense" (1502-1511)

You can have a look on: http://www.editions205.fr/index.php?/fonderie/alcala/
You can download the laser specimen to have a more precise look.

Latinus's picture

While typically I dislike sans serif fonts, Beorcana impressed me.

I typically prefer serifs.

The favored style for this project is, beyond what I have already stated (sturdy, masculine, handsome): typically Roman or Renaissance. I mean something that evokes the Classical world.

I need only Latin coverage for this Bible. I would add macrons (most fonts have them, although the most common missing macron is for the u), so to aid in the pronunciation, but it makes the text look unappealing. The macrons are not in the original edition from which I am working, but the Classical style of Latin (in which this Bible was produced) was developed to be pleasing when read. So macrons will probably be needed. If the font does not have macrons, but fits every other criterion best, I will forego macrons.

Also, I am partial to old style numerals, but that is not necessarily needed in this project.

I want the font -ideally - to be something that would work for a Bible, a Latin edition of Vergil, of Caesar, of Cicero - to evoke the kind of beauty, authority, and majesty of their language.

Thank you.

Latinus's picture

So you all can see what I am dealing with:


The above is the URL for the text. It is a series of photographs of the last available printing of the translation.

William Berkson's picture

If you are want to do something that is reminiscent of old style type, check out Feliciano's types, mentioned above, and also my Williams Caslon Text. Bruce Kennett used William Caslon beautifully in a companion book to a Shakespeare First Folio exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Somehow his use of the swash characters gave it a period feel. He used Big Caslon and Caslon 540 as companion faces for large size.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

Latinus, thanks a lot for pointing at the print reproductions.
I looked at them with much great interest, not only because I happen to sit in the very city the book was printed in. ;-) I am struck by viewing this print.

I’m no expert in the detailed type history of that time. Nor do I know if any scholar might have published about that particular typeface so far anywhere. Maybe the face is well-known, maybe there are even digitized versions around already. Does anybody know?

Only from what I see at a first glance, just a few random thoughts:
– overall appearance of the typeface on the printed page: perfect. matured and extremely well balanced.
– a type of the Caslon era, but obviously influenced rather by the Garalde and even (!) the Bembonian traditions, probably influences from dutch typefaces. The c looks like Rotis, incredible.
– the Italic looks like actual Garamond to me.
– the mood and several details, though hinting back onto Garamond (Le Bé?) and even Francesco Griffo, seems to anticipate some features of Fleischmann and perhaps even Walbaum – 1729 ! “Transitional” in the true sense of the word.

Whatever it is, a typographical reproduction of that print seems to be a most worthy case. Even more so if the edition is of some notable historical value. But then, please: I’d love to see it revived faithfully down to the very glyphs: long ſ’s, ligatures, and that remarkable quad space between sentences.

Just my two pence.

Latinus's picture

Hmm. Mr. Stözner,

your last post certainly identifies a problem. I would love to have a reproduction of that very typeface, but, alas - cannot find one, and have as yet no skill to reproduce it (which is why I come here - to ask for those with more skill than I). I do not think FontForge, which is the only program I am able to afford right now, could do the typeface any justice. Perhaps this project will be more long-term than I thought. I may just have to either find someone who can reproduce it and come up with the money for such a reproduction or learn to reproduce it myself, although I would probably need a great deal of help.

William Berkson's picture

Zachery, I think it is a trap to try to reproduce a really old face "authentically", as I argued in my iLoveTypography piece. It would be better just to produce a facsimile edition if you want to capture the look as completely as possible.

Latinus's picture

I remember reading that article when I was looking for a good Caslon remake (I still have my eyes on Williams Caslon, as I have since I discovered it, but do not think it is necessarily the best option for this Bible).

I do not wish to produce a facsimile edition - which is why I was looking originally for a good font to reproduce the contents rather than the appearance of the original. There is at least one facsimile print of the Bible available on the market. I think that is good for its historical merit - but I want a production that will make the contents themselves the focus - and for that, it needs to be done in such a way as to make it available to the modern reader. I want as few barriers as possible between the contents and the reader - and I want a face that aids in the tone of the work, and a binding and paper as well that adds to the work and will ensure its survival.

My previous post was about the typeface itself - its essential flavor I think is what I want for the edition I hope to produce, though I am uncertain as to how to achieve that typeface's flavor with another.

I apologize for conflicting posts, as I think more and reflect upon those with more experience than I, I begin to see things more clearly in regard to the direction of the project. Thank you.

JanekZ's picture

[ quick and dirty sample: BibliaSacra.png http://typophile.com/node/73413 ]

Latinus's picture

The font is looking really nice, JanekZ. When do you expect it to be finished, and what do you expect its cost to be? (And what will be the language support - i.e., will it include macrons?) I don't know yet what I'll choose - I need to think more and perhaps seek more advice. Eventually, though, I'll just have to buckle down and make a decision.

I do remember one font. I can't remember what it was, but it looked brilliant, but was also very expensive. It was either a Swiss or Dutch company, I think.

William Berkson's picture

Were you thinking of DTL Fleishmann?

rubenDmarkes's picture

I'll guess he was thinking of something from TEFF, which was one of the things I first remembered when he said price was not necessarily an issue. Geronimo, Lexicon, Trinité and Renard would all be fine choices.
I'd also consider looking at the stuff from Dutch Type Library, like the above mentioned Fleischmann, of course. Or Farnham, Dante or Spectrum.

There are plenty of great typefaces around fit for this job, with flavours to please anyone. Freight, Requiem, Custodia or Arnhem (; maybe Arno or something like Espinosa Nova; or the classics, like Garamond Premier, Jenson or Fournier.

For something “different” (and with the help of Bringhurt's type specimen from his “The Elements of Style”), I'd throw in Quadraat (or Quadraat Sans, for that matter), Columbus, Kinesis, Seria, Mendoza, Trajanus, Antique and Lapture, for instance. Maybe Figural, Aldus, Cartier or Amethyst.

Stern came to mind, but you'll probably think it's too light.

And I'll stop, now.

1996type's picture

I still think Beorcana works in text. Although it seems logical to believe that the serifs themselves are the main cause for better readability in serif faces, I believe a lot also depends on the diagonal stress, which is rarely (or to a smaller extend) found in sans serif type. Beorcana breaks that rule. It has everything a serif has, without serifs. I would even argue that the more open lettershapes of Beorcana might create even better readability than, let's say Adobe Garamond. This is based on loose ground, but it would be awesome to see some sort of a readability test of Beorcana.

If that doesn't exist, I suppose you could contact the designer about it or ask for a free version, so that you can test it yourselve, before buying the license.

This Dutch/Swiss foundry you were talking about, was probably TEFF. Though all of the fonts in their library are expensive.

I would suggest one of the more modern (refering to time, not style) serif typefaces for Display use. Say, Calluna, Trinité, Centro Serif, etc.

Good luck!

JanekZ's picture

The typeface used in the book surprisingly resembles my source. There are, of course, differences - especially "a" and c, e, g, E etc. My font is based on ca 8 pt used by Elzeviers, so there is no fancy serifs and fragile details. If you want to give it a try drop me a line.
when finished? I do not know... ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_release_life_cycle#Alpha ).
language support: Latin-1 Supplement, Latin extended A & B, IPA Extensions, Cyrillic, Cyrillic Supplement, Latin Extended Additional, [Greek, Hebrew, Armenian]*
macrons included

* sooner or later

Latinus's picture

The face I was trying to remember was Arnhem on Our Type, which, apparently, is Belgian. I thought it looked Dutch. Although Fleishmann made me give a pause - not because it was similar, but because it is impressive.

I am, however, very interested in Janek's.

I would like to do a test on Beorcana, although I have been presented with some faces that would require Beorcana to look amazingly legible in long text for me to choose it for this project (I may still grab it though, if I do not choose it, when I get the money.) It would be interesting. Stranger things have happened, I think, than a non-serif looking better in long, printed text than a serif. Thank you.

quadibloc's picture

I have some good news: Monotype Imaging is now selling Beorcana Medium for a mere $20.00 US; apparently, from this thread, it must have been considerably more expensive than that.

William Berkson's picture

On Beorcana, I think it is a very strong version of the Carolingian minuscule—most are more delicate than what you'd want, I think—and so would give a kind of scribal feeling. I feel that the old style of types, starting with Jenson and Griffo are more readable than this more scribal style. But Beorcana is readable, and since it is for people reading the Bible in Latin (!) I don't think they are going to be reading very quickly, so maximum readability it seems to me is less of a premium than getting the aesthetic you want.

Since you don't want to do a facsimile, I think it's really a question of what you think gives the feeling you want. And if that's Beorcana, go for it.

By the way, if you are going for a more calligraphic or scribal look, don't overlook Brioso Pro. I've seen it used small, and was astonished how readable it is small. And it is really elegant large. And it has a panoply of weights and optical sizes. So it might be what you're looking for.

quadibloc's picture

I'm just amazed, though, that the suggestions here are so... exotic. And recent. But then, for a site primarily frequented by professional type designers, that shouldn't be too surprising.

Still, I'd have been inclined to start with a simple and familiar suggestion, and then perhaps suggest related types that might be even better. Say, like Bembo. (As one might already have Bitstream's Aldine 401.)

Also: while most editions do have the verse numbers in the margins, this one on Google Books has the verses indicated clearly and unambiguously.

Latinus's picture

Thank you for the link quadibloc, and sorry for the delay in response.

I have found Adobe's Jenson and Brioso, both of which are beautiful. I think Jenson is a better choice. I've been trying to find the best-quality Jenson available, and from what I can tell, Adobe's version is the best suited for a book face. I probably would use Janek's face if it were complete (I think it would be good for the Aeneid as well, however)

I have also discovered ITC Bodoni, which, although is not what I want to use here, it is what I was looking for for something else.

Today has been a good day.

quadibloc's picture

If you're considering a Jenson, there's Cloister Lightface - but I suspect it's not the best choice. While it was a historic typeface in its day, in some subtle ways it is dated - not to Jenson's day, but to Goudy's day.

Day Roman, which is free, doesn't have a matching italic. It somewhat resembles Bembo, although it's based on the work of a different punchcutter.

One might want to look at Centaur, as well, if one is interested in a typeface like Jenson. But I suspect that now that they know what you want, the professional typographers here can suggest some excellent recent alternatives for your consideration. I don't know offhand about Adobe Jenson, but while I thought Adobe Caslon was a good typeface, I had to admit that it was about at the very limit of how far one might get away with straying from authenticity.

Andrew Dunning's picture

This does look like a rather interesting project; best of luck with it.

Checking our library catalogue, you might be interested to know that we have a slightly newer printing of this particular book on our shelves; it's been digitized on Archive.org. Something to consider, though: if you really want to take on editing the Vulgate, what the Latin world really needs right now is a more reliable electronic version of the Stuttgart text, and with actual punctuation (probably approximating what is found in the Clementine edition). Also, I don't believe that there's a single version of the Vulgate on the market at the moment that is nicely typeset, uses a standard text, and that you can actually pick up and read without the mess of an extensive apparatus at the bottom. Harvard is working on one, but they've made an absolute mess of the text, and the physical volumes are very cumbersome due to their size. It would be a bit of work, but it would be hugely useful, and would probably have a much wider audience than Châteillon's translation.

Personally, I would avoid printing macrons; you'll go crazy enough trying to proofread the Latin text even without them. (For which, I hope you know about the Correcteur orthographique du Latin?) Macrons, as you note, are terribly ugly, and really only necessary for beginners' exercises. If you're really concerned about correct pronunciation, I find that stress accents are more useful, and actually appear in some medieval manuscripts and early printed books; they're also not as difficult to mess up.

Latinus's picture

Mr. Dunning - Interesting. I have a copy of the Nova Vulgata, the current official Bible of the Catholic Church - it is actually a nice edition, printed in what looks like ITC's New Baskerville. It is a hefty volume because the print is rather large. It contains minimal footnotes, mostly translation notes.

If I were to make an edition of the Vulgate (Châteillon's version is not a vulgate), I would make an edition of the Nova Vulgata, as it is not widely available and is the current official standard of the Church. That being said, for the Honors College at my university, I am making a translation of the Gospel of John from the Nova Vulgata, and have in my sights a complete translation of the text for devotional use and for use as an aid in other translations.

Of course, since the Nova Vulgata is copyrighted by the Vatican Publishing House, permissions would have to be gained from them for any such project, as well, most probably, from the local bishop.

I am no fan of the Stuttgart version. Adding punctuation would, I think, ruin the entire point of that edition - as its focus was to imitate a medieval manuscript.

KCH's picture

Late suggestion: have you looked at Espinosa Nova? The suite contains all the usual OTF ligatures, etc., plus some lovely initial caps and an alternate blackletter cut. Review the font / download a PDF spec sheet here: http://estudio-ch.com/tipo_i.php?idti=23. (Available to purchase at Myfonts.)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Cristobal was extremely helpful and accommodating when I licensed Espinosa Nova. Just saying.

Latinus's picture

I just looked at Espinosa Nova. I think it will make a gorgeous Bible. I am getting paid Friday, so after I get what I need for class I may grab this. Thank you, KCH for the late suggestion!

KCH's picture

You're welcome, Latinus ... best of luck with the project.

William Berkson's picture

Wow, the Rotunda looks great! Is that what you're going to use?

Latinus's picture

I think so, Mr. Berkson. If it is possible to fall in love with a typeface, I've done so.

Andrew Dunning's picture

Yes, very nice indeed; this is an excellent find. You should also check out the Bible Design Blog; he has some really neat stuff in there, and there was just an article about someone who designed his own edition of the Gospels.

Patruus's picture

As to Castellio's Biblia Sacra, the typeface of the 1697 Frankfurt edition is not unpleasing [1]. Moreover, this edition is available as a facsimile reprint from a publisher in Germany [2][3].

[1] http://books.google.com/books?id=uPBEAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA290

[2] http://www.olms.de/artikel_14750.ahtml

[3] http://library.getty.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=803769

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