Designed by Hermann Zapf in 1948, Palatino was originally punchcut in metal, but was quickly adapted for use with the Linotype machine. The typeface’s style and grace is due in large part to Zapf’s own background in calligraphy; it’s named after Giambattista Palatino, a master Italian calligrapher and contemporary of Leonardo DaVinci.
Although it’s based on the humanistic serif designs of the Renaissance, the Palatino design is much easier to read because its strokes are lighter and proportions are relatively larger than the smaller Renaissance letters. This enhanced readability made it an ideal choice for the substandard paper used by newspapers and magazines at the time of its release. It has since developed into a typeface superfamily, with the introduction of different weights, italics, and titling typefaces, as well as non-Latin character and symbol sets.
In 1999, in collaboration with Linotype and Microsoft, Zapf updated the family to include a wide variety of Latin, Greek and Cyrillic characters and symbols. This new Palatino superfamily is one of the few typefaces whose symbol set includes the interrobang. A number of new subfamilies were added as well, including the Palatino Sans, Palatino Informal, Palatino Nova, and Palatino Arabic designs.
Palatino is a highly functional typeface that can be used in in any setting, for any purpose. It’s widely used as a corporate typeface, for advertising headlines and text, as well as other display purposes. Its open counters make it very readable even when used on inferior paper, making it ideal for newspapers and handbills. Its light lines and large letter size keep it very legible even at very small sizes, such as instruction manuals, and it’s routinely used to typeset books. The Palatino design is also widely used on the Internet, and is available as an integral component of many productivity software packages.