The Bembo® design is an old-style humanist serif typeface originally cut by Francesco Griffo in 1495 and revived by Stanley Morison in 1929. The original Morison typeface contained only four weights and no italics.
The Bembo design was named after notable the Venetian poet, Cardinal and literary theorist of the 16th century Pietro Bembo. The typeface originally used to publish Pietro Bembo’s book “De Aetna”, a book about Bembo’s visit to Mount Etna. The Bembo typeface was cut by Francesco Griffo, a Venetian goldsmith who had become a punchcutter and worked for revered printer Aldus Manutius.
Being a punchcutter meant that Griffo spent his days punching out the shape of a typeface into steel. A punchcutter was a very skilled job and the their interpretation of a typeface design would be what was eventually printed; typeface designers had little input into the punchcutter’s work once their design had passed out of their hands. In the case of the Bembo typeface, Griffo could not have known how important in the history of typeface design his new cut would be.
The resulting typeface which was a departure from the common pen-drawn calligraphy of the day, and looked more similar to the style of the roman typefaces we are familiar with today. In fact, the characteristics of many other well known typefaces such as Garamond® and Times® Roman can be traced back to the Bembo typeface. The calligraphic style that the serifs pronounce imparts a warm human feel to the typeface. Notably, the ascenders of the lowercase lettering are taller than the uppercase; also the c is slanted forwards and there is a returned curve on the final stem of the m, n and h.
Morison’s Bembo design was released for typesetting in 1929, whose redesign was the result of adapting the Bembo typeface to the machine composition and typesetting requirements of the day. Morison, a well-respected English typographer, was a typographic consultant to the Monotype Corporation. He also consulted for the London Times newspaper, creating the typeface Times New Roman® in a successful effort to improve the paper’s readability. Morison was influential in a number of areas of typography, pioneering the creation of a large number of typefaces for Monotype. The Bembo font family lives on as tribute to the superlative typographical efforts of Stanley Morison.
Biblical scholars, linguists, medievalists and classicists have all found use for the Bembo font family. In more modern settings it has a place in movie and book titling, as well as representational texts. The Bembo typeface is inherently easy to read and therefore is an excellent book font and has proved itself time and time again.