Classic serifs for the the Web?

Moseph's picture

Now that @font-face is widely supported in browsers, I'd like to start incorporating some classical typefaces on client websites.

Are there any versions of Garamond, Baskerville or Fleishmann that have been designed for the screen, and that you'd recommend?


quadibloc's picture

There are two open-source versions of Baskerville, and since licensing for Web use is often a pain, that would tend to lead me to consider them first.

Not that I blame font suppliers; it is easier to steal a Web font than it is to steal a font from the printed page. If copy protection didn't hurt legitimate users as much as it often tends to do, it would be a good thing, not a bad one.

hrant's picture

The open-source Baskervilles stink.


Moseph's picture

Thanks for the references quadibloc. Those open sourced designs are nice but still seem to be designed for print.

I know that FontShop and Linotype have released some fonts specifically for the web, but mostly these appear to just be print typeface hinted for the screen. This probably works fine for some typefaces, but what I'm looking for are classic serif typefaces that have been created specifically for the screen (like some of Carters fonts).

Do such creatures exist?


jasonc's picture

If you're looking for fonts created for on screen use, I'd recommend the Font Bureau's Reading Edge series. Perhaps they don't fall into the "classic" category you're mentioning, but they're much more than just retro-fitted print fonts.

Jason C

PabloImpallari's picture

A new Libre (ATF/Fry) Baskerville optimized for web body text (12, 14, 16 pixels) is coming soon

And Libre Caslons (Display and Body Text)

And Domine

All heavily tested on for awesome rendering at small sizes. When you set them at 16px size, you get a 9-pixels x-height, and the counters remains wide open. Domine Beta28 look like this:

They all avoid the "fussiness under the baseline" sindrome

And.. if you need a formal script that can resist being set that small, try Petit Formal Script

hrant's picture

An x-height of 9 in a body of 16 is ideal.

But that Domine rendering seems a bit fuzzy to me.


PabloImpallari's picture

> But that Domine rendering seems a bit fuzzy to me.
The screen capture or the Beta Fonts? If the Beta Fonts, under what OS/Browser? Keep in mind that the Beta fonts are not yet hinted, Kerned, etc. The final version will be iKerned, converted to TTF outlines and TTFAutohinted (v0.93) for better rendering under Windows.

Also, in the testing page they are set using the default "line-height" for technical reasons, set to 1 em, but in the real world usually its 1.5 em or customized to each designer preference.

hrant's picture

I meant the screengrab.


PabloImpallari's picture

For a centuresque/caslonseque style, at 16 pixels mac/firefox rendering, that's the sharper you can get.
Compare it to Sentinel SmartScreen at same size and color and you will see what I mean (Tip: You can do that with the Firebug Property Inspector, by live editing CSS styles properties on the Obama website).

Werfer's picture

Why do you say that licensing fonts for the web is often a pain? Have you had bad experiences?

When making a website, I usually tell my customers to either get a web account at, and I then just implement the CSS (which works fine), or I tell them to go to and simply purchase a webfont license with a one-time payment, and then we host the webfont ourselves. Both works fine, and I hadn't had any pain, actually. I have never tried Typekit before.

Anything I should steer clear of?

PabloImpallari's picture

From the user perspective, having to buy 2 or 3 separate licenses (one for web, one for print, another one for apps) is ridiculous. Plus, in 95% of cases is the same font re-packed (Except Hoefler, Webtype and a few others exceptions that truly make fine-tunned customized and reworked version for the web.). And Users are starting to notice that... as Moseph suggested "these appear to just be print typeface hinted for the screen".

I love Global ( from Dino Dos Santos approach, is super simple. Just 1 license covering all the stuff.

"Global is a hard-working sans typeface that eliminates the licensing boundaries between the screen and the paper, therefore it can be used and embedded both for the web and mobile applications, because it’s provided, not just in OpenType™, but also in EOT, WOFF and TTF formats, all in a single, unlimited, license. Available at DSType."

Can I use the fonts in devices and/or mobile apps?
Yes. No special license is required to use the fonts in electronic books and applications for mobile devices.

Can I embed the fonts in PDF files?
Yes. The embedding of fonts in PDF documents is allowed as long you make sure that you set embedding to prevent the extraction of the fonts.

Can I use the fonts in the web?
The license permits web usage of Global font, so we will provide you with an installable "DSType_Global_Kit" version of the fonts for use on the web (EOT, WOFF, SVG and TTF), so you can choose the format you prefer. You can also use PostScript flavored fonts when needed, for improved screen render when desired.

Can I host the fonts on my server?
Yes you can!

But... you know... selling 3 licenses instead of just 1 is much more profitable I guess.
Sadly, I don't think other foundries will follow Dino's example.

gargoyle's picture

Sadly, I don't think other foundries will follow Dino's example.

Including his own foundry, according to the last part of Global's "About" section:

Is this sort of license available to other DSType's fonts?
No. This is only available for Global type family.

Digging into DSType's standard EULA confirms that web and device embedding require separate licenses.

Moseph's picture

Thanks for all the replies to this, great input!

As I'm digging into this further, it appears just hinting for screen might be enough when dealing with sans. But when looking for the "next Georgia" I'm pretty sure it's going to have to be built specifically for the screen, just like those Impallari typefaces (thanks for those links Pablo!).

That comment on licensing reminded me of some older threads I've been reading recently on the topic of free fonts, I appreciated the viewpoint voiced by someone (Nick Shinn I think). Who said that companies should be making thier money by innovating not just by reformatting their old typefaces to new formats (re-buying a typeface as a webfont is much akin to re-buying your Betamax movies on VHS). A way to combat this in the world of type would be to have a set of openly available source outlines for classic faces that can be reformatted and innovated upon by anyone whenever new media comes along. Then people can pay for any meaningful innovation that actually occurs. All of this is to say I'm very interested to see the Libre set of typefaces Impallari is building! (though it appears they are also generously doing a lot of innovation too, quite worth donating for).


Moseph's picture

Sweet! Congratulations on the new releases!

raph's picture

Yes, they're both lovely. I'm very excited that they're both true to the classical forms and updated for web display technology and a modern style.

hrant's picture

they're both true to the classical forms

A Fry's cut is not the classical form.


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