History of the Garamond typeface
The last book I read was a hardback novel about the story of an estranged Sri Lankan family with plenty of drama and emotional upheaval. It was the kind of book you start and have to read through without putting it down. At the end of the book, there was a little footnote saying how and why the author had chosen to print the book with the Garamond typeface. That got me thinking; I was pretty used to this font in books and had never really wondered why it was so. Let’s learn a bit about the Garamond typeface and why it is used in the printing of books, making them so pleasurable to read.
The Origin of Garamond
The Garamond typeface we know today has many variations, designed by different font designers inspired by the original punch cuts designed By Claude Garamond in the 16th Century. Claude Garamond had a unique style of designing type that did not exactly resemble a scribe’s handwriting, rather a kind of typeface which even though boasted a calligraphist feel, was easier to use with printing presses. Claude Garamond’s typefaces were used in the printing of many books in Roman and Latin. He was once commissioned to design a typeface solely for the purpose of printing books in Greek, the typeface was called “Grec du Roi” and was only used in the printing of books by the Greek Government.
Having designed many typefaces in his lifetime, it can be said that the origin of Garamond is not ONE typeface in particular but the style in which Garamond designed his punch cuts. Garamond designs had special characteristics like scooped and rounded serifs, slanted spaces inside the e and a particularly. Claude Garamond’s handcrafted metal punch cuts and matrices for his unique typefaces were acquired by different type foundries upon his death and this is when the Garamond Fonts came to existence as we know them today.
The First Revival of Garamond types
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the Garamond types saw their first revival at the hands of the Imprimerie Nationale, a type foundry that had “old-style” punch cuts and matrices from before the war and earlier. One particular type was one that was believed to be Garamond’s work but was actually one designed by Jean Jannon inspired by Garamond.
The Garamond Style types were now recognizable and went on to inspire many modern fonts like Adobe Garamond and Garamond ITC. Even though each Garamond type is inspired by the original “old-style”, each one boasts a specific design mostly noticeable in the shape of the series and the curves of the letters themselves.
Contemporary Garamond fonts
Designer or not you will have encountered one of the contemporary Garamond fonts in many places. Many novels are printed in one of the Garamond styles and even the original Google Logo was designed with Garamond. Adobe Garamond, created by Robert Slimbach is one of the most widely used Garamond typefaces due to the fact that it is one of the first digitalized versions. You might have read many novels that were printed in Adobe Garamond. Did you ever notice?
Peter Gabor wrote an amazing article about all the different Garamond types, comparing them to each other to show that Garamond is more a style of type than a type itself. We are so used to seeing it that we might miss the differences in each one and think that Garamond is just one thing, and it’s not. Keep your eyes open for all the different Garamond styles around you and enjoy the magic of typography.