TypeTalk: A Bodoni Is a Bodoni Is a Bodoni?
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Q. I'm confused by fonts that have many versions, such as Bodoni or Caslon. What is the difference between the versions?
A. “A rose is a rose is a rose”, according to Gertrude Stein. It's not always so when it comes to fonts. There are multiple versions of many historical typeface designs, including Baskerville, Bodoni, Caslon, Century, and Garamond.
This seeming duplication is because the original designs have been revived by many type designers and foundries over the years. Each version has its own interpretation of the original, which can make them, ultimately, different designs. Some versions are directly based on historic models, such as original matrices, punches, or printed documents. Other faces might be interpretations of an original design with differing design details, including x-heights, weight contrast, serif details, and so on.
A major cause for confusion is that these different designs may have very similar names. Often, the designer or foundry creating the revival will merely add a prefix or suffix to the name of the original design to distinguish it from its competitors. For example, here are only some of the currently available Bodoni versions:
E+F Bauer Bodoni
URW Bodoni Antiqua
Berthold Bodoni Antiqua
WTC Our Bodoni
Figure 1. Five versions of Bodoni, each with different design traits and characteristics.
Another example is Caslon. You'll find Adobe Caslon, ITC Caslon, Caslon Oldface, Caslon 540, New Caslon, Berthold Caslon, LTC Caslon, and other similarly named versions.
To avoid confusion, missing font alerts, and purchasing and/or using the wrong version of the right typeface, you must do some research when selecting, specifying, and identifying font that are based on historical typefaces.
Love type? Want to know more? Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.