Plantin font field guide including best practices, font pairings and alternatives.
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.