Centaur book-face revival: Mythology

altsan's picture

(Following up from this thread in Design.)

Having read that it's a useful learning exercise for a starting designer to try digitizing a historical (metal) type, I decided to try this with Bruce Rogers's Centaur. I've never seen a digital version that looks remotely close to the beautiful text of books typeset in metal Centaur – they're all come out too fine and spindly, and look oddly sterile somehow. I'm clearly not the only one to think so.

I recently acquired a copy of "The Centaur Types", which is set in 16-point metal-type Centaur. Using that as a guide, I began trying to something that captures the spirit of the text within its pages. (I actually adapted my initial outlines from scans out of Meggs & Carter's “Typographic Specimens: The Great Typefaces”, supplemented by some unfortunately rather poor-quality images from an old 20th-century Monotype catalogue that I found on-line. I then used the Rogers text as a guide for redrawing the outlines to the desired weight.)

I had to essentially invent a number of characters since the metal type (so far as I know) never included them. I tried to be consistent with the style of metal Centaur, and that of other humanist types of similar origin.

For the time being, I've given my new Centaur revival the working name "Mythology". Compared to other digital Centaurs, Mythology is both more substantial and less mechanically crisp in form. It also has looser spacing.


This is my first attempt at a direct revival. I'd be interested to know what others think, not just of the results but of the methods used to reach this point. As well as more general critique, of course. :)

cerulean's picture

Looks pretty great. A white star ornament doesn't serve as an asterisk, though. If you can't find a source to confirm what Monotype et al have done and want to make yours different, an asterisk of appropriate character might be made by pinwheeling the comma or a shape like the top of the exclamation point.

altsan's picture

I wasn't sure about that, but I liked the effect so much...

Would a solid black star be better? I've seen some 15th-century revivals do that (Bembo comes to mind).

altsan's picture

BTW, in point of fact the 'shuriken' asterisk in this post was originally designed for Mythology. I ended up deciding it worked better in Suzuran, though — and so I changed Mythology to use the star, which I thought looked rather interesting.

On a different note, I'm wondering if it'd be worth trying to do a 'handtooled' version of this font...

ukzembla's picture

Did anything ever come of this typeface? I like the sample a lot!

Glider's picture

No knowledge, but you might be interested in this, an open source digitisation with optical sizes, in alpha. Be warned: it's rough, especially the italic!

If you're planning to use it you'll want to disable the ligatures in italic, since the ligatures in place there are roman ones, and personally I think the heavy weight feels more for interpolation than as designs I'd consider using. But the basics are there, and having optical styles makes this an interesting project. I don't believe any digitisation of it has optical sizes, open source or not. Here and here are less idealistic but more practical releases.

altsan's picture

I'm still slowly tweaking it, but I took a long break to focus more on some of my original designs like Suzuran and Alexandrina. Also, I'm going to grad school now, which is taking up a lot of my time. :)

For that matter, I still haven't quite decided what I should do with it once I consider it 'done'...

Anthony Barnett's picture

Although it is possible to achieve good density of inking with Centaur MT with a judicious choice of paper, your Mythology is exceptional. Please continue with it. Thanks.

Anthony Barnett's picture

This book, based on new research, originally announced for publication February 19th, will not now be published until the summer, according to info received today from RIT Press:

Jerry Kelly, & Misha Beletsky, The Noblest Roman: A History of the Centaur Types of Bruce Rogers (Rochester, NY, RIT, 2015)

Anthony Barnett's picture

Suggested different name for Mythology: Mytholog or Mythologue . . . oh, just a thought . . . no, no, Mythology is best

Anthony Barnett's picture

Cerulean says the white star is not an asterisk but in the original Centaur I think it is.

altsan's picture

@Anthony Thanks for the kind words.

I'm hoping to do a similar treatment for Arrighi eventually. I probably won't have much chance to get back to either one before this summer, though (once my thesis defense is finished, hah). :)

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