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By Monotype

Plantin is a family of text typefaces created by Monotype in 1913. Their namesake, Christophe Plantin (Christoffel Plantijn in Dutch), was born in France during the year 1520. In 1549, he moved to Antwerp, located in present-day Belgium. There he began printing in 1555. For a brief time, he also worked at the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands. Typefaces used in Christophe Plantin's books inspired future typographic developments.

In 1913, the English Monotype Corporation's manager Frank Hinman Pierpont directed the Plantin revival. Based on 16th century specimens from the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, specifically a type cut by Robert Granjon and a separate cursive Italic, the Plantin" typeface was conceived. Plantin was drawn for use in mechanical typesetting on the international publishing markets.

Plantin, and the historical models that inspired it, are old-style typefaces in the French manner, but with x-height that are larger than those found in Claude Garamond's work. Plantin would go on to influence another Monotype design, Times New Roman. Stanley Morison and Victor Larent used Plantin as a reference during that typeface's cutting.

Like Garamond, Plantin is exceptionally legible and makes a classic, elegant impression. Plantin is indeed a remarkably accommodating type face. The firm modelling of the strokes and the serifs in the letters make the mass appearance stronger than usual; the absence of thin elements ensures a good result on coated papers; and the compact structure of the letters, without loss of size makes Plantin one of the economical faces in use. In short, it is essentially an all-purpose face, excellent for periodical or jobbing work, and very effective in many sorts of book and magazine publishing. Plantin's Bold weight was especially optimized to provide ample contrast: bulkiness was avoided by introducing a slight sharpening to the serifs' forms."

Christopher Plantin should be remembered and honored, but not for designing Plantin. This important printer was instrumental in helping to create the rich typographical tradition we enjoy today. He was largely responsible for making type and typography The Netherlands the model of 16th century printing. Plantin, however, did not design or use the types named after him.

If not Plantin, then who? Most reference books credit F. H. Pierpont as the designer responsible for the modern revival of the typestyle we now call Plantin. Actually, Pierpont did not draw the face either. Pierpont was not even a type designer; he served as production manager of a large British printing and publishing house in the early 1900s. Although Pierpont did not design Plantin, it was his passion and guidance that made the typeface happen.

Pierpont had long thought that his publishing house needed a typeface that was distinctive, legible, and that would print well on both coated and coarse papers. No existing font seemed to meet his requirements. While on a business trip to Antwerp, Pierpont visited the Plantin Moretus Museum. There he saw the exquisite collection of 16th century punches and matrices use by the printer, along with examples and documentation of the various stages of early type manufacture.

Thanks to the enthusiasm of the museum’s director, Pierpont left with a wealth of knowledge, hundreds of photographs and stacks of antique typeset specimens – including a few examples of Robert Granjon’s work that were produced by the Plantin Press but never used by its founder. These were to become the premise for Pierpont’s design.

Pierpont took his portfolio of type designs to the Monotype works, and under his direction, an adaptation was drawn and cut. In adapting the antique types for contemporary needs, Pierpont and the Monotype craftsmen mixed a love and understanding of 16th century type with a healthy dose of poetic license. The classic Old Style text design was preserved in the basic structure, but newfound strength and body were added to this delicate frame. The combination was a notable success. Shortly after its release, a number of typographically influential presses adopted Monotype Plantin and, as a result, it became the typeface of choice for virtually all kinds of printing.

Today, the Plantin family includes Light, Regular, Semi Bold and Bold weights. Plantin Headline was especially drawn for display setting, and a full suite of small caps, ligatures and old style figures have been drawn for the text designs.

Old Style Serif
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