Possibly the most beautiful
of all typeface
s, and also possibly the most used (in one or another slight variant) in the history of printing
. It is an utterly imperishable
Amongst the capitals, the S is narrow as seen on Trajan's Column. The O is only slightly compressed; its axis is set at about 5° behind the vertical. The C and G are full-bodied. The lower-case a is an absolute joy to blow up huge and gaze at, smoothness and sharpness all in one.
Garamond is better at larger sizes; it needs a bit of space. Also, it needs crispness. Freshly laser-printed it is perfect; printed in old Penguin Classics where the same plates have been used for decades, it becomes blurred and uninteresting.
Claude Garamond or Garamont (1499-1561) introduced the roman style into France, and was enormously influential, casting a number of faces; the modern face called Garamond is based on one of his styles of typeface but is not precisely one of his own design. The term is somewhat generic for anything in that tradition, and ones like it were widely used up to the end of the eighteenth century (at which point the ugly madness called New Face took over and dominated the nineteenth). His first roman face, designed at the request of the printer Stephanus, was used in 1530 for the Paraphrasis in Elegantiarum Libros Laurentii Vallæ of Erasmus.
The modern face was introduced in 1900 at the Paris World Fair, based on a face designed by Jean Jannon (1580-1635?), influenced by Garamond's, and published in 1621. When Jannon's type was found in the Impremerie Nationale in 1825 it was erroneously attributed to Garamond, a mistake not corrected until Béatrice Warde, writing under the name M. Baujon, pointed out the differences in a 1925 article. By then the name Garamond was established for the modern Jannon-based face.
Samples of modern varieties of Garamond, showing family resemblances and differences, may be seen at
History of the Jannon attribution at
and thanks to vruba for setting me off looking for it.