Guide to Typestyles: Old Style Typefaces
Old style typefaces are an important component of every good typeface library. Originally created between the late 15th and mid-18th centuries, these early roman types are characterized by curved strokes whose axis inclines to the left, and little contrast between thick and thins. Serifs are almost always bracketed in old style designs, and head serifs are often angled. The lowercase “e” in some versions features a diagonal cross stroke.
Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of popular old style type families are available in digital form today. Here is our selection of seven of the most useful and well-designed.
The origins of the Bembo® typeface family go back to one of the most famous printers of the 15th century Italian Renaissance, Aldus Manutius. Containing four weights with companion italics, many with small caps and old style figures, Bembo makes an excellent all-purpose typeface family, useful for anything from book design to advertising to packaging.
ITC Berkeley Oldstyle
The ITC Berkeley Oldstyle™ typeface family is based on a typeface that Frederic W. Goudy designed in 1938 for the University of California at Berkeley. Tony Stan redrew the family for ITC in 1983, and it became ITC Berkeley Oldstyle. With four weights, all with companion italics, ITC Berkeley Oldstyle works well for books, magazines, and advertising display.
ITC Legacy Serif
The ITC Legacy® Serif typeface family was designed by Ronald Arnholm in 1982 as an homage to the roman type of Nicolas Jenson. The family consists of a range of weights from book to ultra; its condensed weights range from extra light to ultra. Some weights include old style figures and small caps. This extensive family is a good choice for detailed book typography or for any multi-faceted graphic design project.
The Sabon® Next typeface family, designed by Jean François Porchez in 2002, is a revival of the original Sabon designed by Jan Tschichold in 1964 as an interpretation of its Garamond ancestor. The new family is robust and versatile: roman and italic versions in six weights, from regular to black to display. Most weights include small caps and old style figures, plus swashes, ligatures, and ornaments.
The Monotype Garamond® typeface family is one of the most elegant interpretations of the Garamond type style. It consists of two romans with complementary italic designs and also offers small capitals, old style figures, and a suite of swash alternate characters. While developed primarily for text composition, Monotype Garamond is likewise distinctive, lively, and remarkably versatile in large sizes.
The Stempel Schneidler® typeface family is a reworking of Schneidler Old Style, designed in 1936 by F. H. Ernst Schneidler, based on the typefaces of Venetian Renaissance printers. Stempel Schneidler possesses the grace, beauty, and classical proportions of that time period. With five weights and companion italics, Schneidler is a sturdy, legible text design that also works well in display.
The ITC Galliard® typeface family is the work of Matthew Carter, and is a contemporary adaptation of Robert Granjon’s 16th century design. ITC Galliard embodies the vitality of Granjon’s work in a graceful, modern re-interpretation. It contains four weights, all with lining and old style figures; the roman and bold also include small caps. Each weight has a companion italic.
Other articles in The fy(t)i Guide to Typestyles series: Slab Serifs ...and more to come.
- Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.