A word from the designer - Robin Nicholas
Originally drawn by Monotype in 1929, the Bembo® design was inspired by the types cut by
Francesco Griffo and used by Aldus Manutius in 1495 to print Cardinal Bembo’s
tract “de Aetna”. A beautiful design with tall ascending lowercase and elegant
letterforms, Bembo has been a favourite for book setting for over 70 years. No
italic was used in the Aldine “de Aetna” work so another source was
needed. This was found in a publication by the writing master, Giovantonio
Tagliente, produced in Venice circa 1524.
Considered by many to be one of Stanley Morison’s finest achievements during
his tenure as Typographical Advisor to the Monotype Corporation, Bembo has
consistently been a best selling typeface, both in its original hot metal form
and in today’s digital formats.
Not intended to be a facsimile of Manutius’ work, Bembo was drawn to
embody the elegance and fine design features of the original but marry them
with the consistency of contemporary production methods and to ensure that the
typeface would work satisfactorily with high speed printing techniques.
The first phototypesetting and digital versions were based on hot metal nine point
drawings. This gave good legibility in small sizes, due to a comparatively
large ‘x’ height, but lacked some of the elegance present in larger
hot metal sizes.
This new digital version of Bembo, called Bembo Book, has been designed to be
more suited to text setting in the size range from 10 point to 18 point. Based
on the hot metal 10/18 point drawings, which were used to cut all sizes from 10
point to 24 point, this new face has been carefully drawn to produce similar
results to those achieved from the hot metal version when letterpress printed.
The project started in 2002 when a high quality UK printing house asked for a
digital version of Bembo which would give a similar appearance on the page to
the 13 point hot metal they were currently using. Hot metal drawings were
digitised and extensive editing was carried out on the resultant outlines to
ensure that design features and overall colour from the digital output remained
close to that of the letterpress product.
The resultant typeface is slightly narrower than existing digital versions of
Bembo, it is a little more economical in use and gives excellent colour to
continuous pages of text. Ascending lowercase letters are noticeably taller
than capitals, giving an elegant, refined look to the text.
Available in regular and bold weights with complementary italics, each font has
both lining and old style numerals with small capitals available for roman and
bold roman fonts.
Bembo Book Specimen Pages (PDF, 123K)