Typography Series 005 – Garamond

In the latest artwork commission of our Typography Series, we explore the history and heritage of a timeless classic – Garamond.

Garamond is one of the most identifiable typeface groups in the world, and it is named after the sixteenth-century Parisian engraver Claude Garamond.

Around the globe, Garamond is a popular choice for printing body text and books. Indeed, you’ll have seen it time and time again when reading some of the most famous publications and works. This article will explain some exciting facts and provide some background information on the typeface group and its history.

The Origins of Garamond

Claude Garamond worked as an engraver of punches, and his designs followed the model of an instrumental design cut for Venetian printer Aldus Manutius in 1495. That helped to establish what we now refer to as old-style serif, and the style resembled handwriting with a more upright and structured design. There are lots of distinctive characteristics in Garamond’s letterforms, but some of the most recognisable are:

  • The letter “e” features a small eye.
  • The bowl of the letter “a” has a sharp hook towards the top left.
  • The capital letter “M” is splayed with outward serifs at the top.
  • The leg of the capital letter “R” extends away from the letter.
  • The lower-case letters are much smaller than upper-case letters when compared to other fonts.

The Rise of Popularity of Garamond

Garamond typeface design first became influential in the Low Countries and Western Germany in the 1560s and 1570s. It then spread through France and other countries in Europe by the year 1765 before falling out of use by the end of the century. Thankfully, there was a revival during the late 19th century that helped to cement Garamond into the well-known font we use today.

The first revival of the Garamond type occurred in 1912 when Ollière encountered the style while photographing 16th-century books. By 1925, Stempel Garamond hit the markets in Germany, and that helped to cement Garamond as the globally-recognisable font we see today.

Contemporary Versions of Garamond

There are lots of modern and contemporary versions of Garamond in use today. Some of the most common ones include:

Adobe Garamond – Created in 1989 by Adobe Systems to include the Roman type by Garamond and the italic type by Granjon.

Garamond Premier – Created in 1988 during the design of Adobe Garamond as a second interpretation.

Stempel Garamond – Used for hot metal typesetting by Linotype, this 1920s version was created by the Stempel Type Foundry.

Sabon – Named after Jacques Sabon. This version of Garamond came from Jan Tschichold in 1964.

URW++ Garamond No. 8 – This is a freeware version of Garamond contributed to the Ghostscript project.

Garamond in Use Today

Garamond is exceptionally popular on paper today, and it’s found in some of the best-selling titles available from bookstores. The most famous releases from Dr Seuss use it and so does every single book in the Harry Potter series. Just take a look around the next time you head out to purchase a new title, and you’re guaranteed to see something containing Garamond.

Garamond has a long and established history in the printing world, and that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon. Its use will only increase as time passes because this typeface has proven its worth consistently during the last few hundred years.

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