Palatino alternativesGet closer to the source

Palatino is the work of Her­mann Zapf, a cal­lig­ra­pher by train­ing. Many of his fonts re­flect this in­flu­ence. But the Palatino sys­tem font is a harsh rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Zapf’s orig­i­nal de­sign. Palatino Nova is Zapf’s own re­work­ing of Palatino that re­stores its orig­i­nal subtlety.

De­spite the name, Iowan Old Style is also based on Ital­ian Re­nais­sance ty­pog­ra­phy, though more loosely. The lovely Verdi­gris also draws on these influences.

I’ve al­ways liked Palatino a lot. But the decades of abuse and mis­use have dimmed the nov­elty it once had. I de­signed Valkyrie as a hy­brid of Al­dus, a book face that Zapf de­rived from Palatino, and Trump Me­di­ae­val, a text face by Zapf’s con­tem­po­rary Georg Trump, an­other fan­tas­tic cal­lig­ra­pher-turned-type designer.

by the way
  • These al­ter­na­tives ap­ply equally to Book An­ti­qua, which was cre­ated as a Palatino clone for Mi­crosoft Win­dows. Book An­ti­qua has caused its share of con­tro­versy over the years—Zapf him­self con­sid­ered it an un­eth­i­cal pil­lag­ing of his work. But in re­cent times, the al­leged pil­lager (Mono­type) ac­quired the al­leged pil­lagee (Lino­type), thereby ex­tin­guish­ing the beef.

  • Fans of Palatino or Zapf will en­joy Robert Bringhurst’s ex­cel­lent book Palatino: The Nat­ural His­tory of a Type­face, which cat­a­logs the many vari­a­tions of Palatino that Zapf made over 60 years, and gives due credit to his punch­cut­ter Au­gust Rosenberger.

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