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The Bembo Typeface

Essay Topic:

The design of typefaces has undergone various changes through out the history of the printed text and has metamorphosed itself from the design requirements of primitive printing press to modern day digital needs. Typography aims to provide a text that is readable and coherent at the same time ensuring the typeface preserves an aesthetic appeal to the readers. The clarity of the text also needs to be taken into consideration when analyzing the typeface.

When understood in an historical perspective the typefaces which were popular in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were largely Roman and lacked the presence of italicized letters. The lack of italics often hampered the readability of the text. In the Renaissance Italy, Venice emerged as center that catered to the typographical needs of the scholarly society. With the widespread use of printing press and the subsequent proliferation of printed materials, the time was ripe for the redesigning of existing typefaces.

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Aldus Manutius was an accomplished printer in Venice known for printing scholarly articles. The typefaces that were used by him were created by Francesco Griffo. Francesco Griffo was a goldsmith turned typeface cutter who worked on the design of the important typefaces used by Aldus Manutius. The calligraphic characteristics like slants and curves influenced Griffo to a large extent and these influences were assimilated into the typefaces he developed. As a result he created the first italic typeface that incorporated an element of elegance.

This typeface when used for printing not only had an aesthetic appeal but also lent itself to a greater clarity of reading, which set it apart from earlier Roman typefaces. Manutius used this new typeface for printing a small piece of work commissioned by Pietro Bembo. The unique characteristics of this typeface made it widely popular and came to be known as the Aldine roman typeface. The Aldine roman typeface is now known as the Bembo typeface. Bembo typeface emerged as the most modern one developed in the century. Initially Bembo typeface consisted of lower case characters only and upper case characters were borrowed from other typefaces.

On gaining widespread popularity, italicized upper case characters in keeping with the characteristics of Bembo were added to the typeface. The design of Bembo typeface is rendered unique due to the following characteristics. The creator of Bembo has ensured minimal variation in the weights between thin and thick strokes. This lends evenness to the text. The oblique stress emphasized in the typeface lends it a classical elegance, while the angled serifs enhance the aesthetics. Stanley Morrison of Monotype corporation launched a program to rediscover the historical typefaces to use it in modern day printing.

The Bembo typeface was revived in the 1920s by the Monotype corporation, which made use of the original books and specimen material as a foundation using the original typeface by Francesco Griffo as a reference. Morrison based the revival largely on the text Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by Francesco Colonna, which was typeset by Griffo. Initially the revived typeface was called “Poliphilus” but the name Bembo gained more acceptance. Keeping with their tradition of preserving classical typefaces, Monotype introduced a digitalized version of Bembo typeface in the 1980s by leveraging its original metal revival of the 1920s.

To cater to the demands of modern digital printing needs, semi bold and extra bold weights were incorporated into Bembo. The distinguishing characteristics of the Bembo typeface lend a consistency to the text irrespective of the color and texture used for printing. The legibility and classical look of this typeface makes it highly suitable for books. Bembo has maintained its appeal through the generation as compared to other historical typefaces such as Gutenberg typeface, which are no longer in use. It has also heavily influenced Garamond family of typefaces, which are now known as ‘Old Style’.

To summarize the classical typeface has undergone 500 years of change and constantly adapted itself to the changing dynamics in the printing industry without losing its inherent design characteristics. References Christensen, Thomas. (n. d. ) The typehead chronicles. Retrieved March 11, 2009 from http://www. rightreading. com/typehead/bembo. htm Meggs, Philip B. , & Carter, Rob. (1993). Typographic Specimens. USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Bembo Typeface [Online Image]. (n. d. ). Retrieved March 11, 2009 from http://www. rightreading. com/typehead/bembo. htm.

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