Revival or survival


My new assignment is a revival from a letter-pressed book I bought from a second-hand market. The type-face is Stempel Garamond and I am going to digitize it in Fontlab. I guess there are already plenty of garamond out there and Stemple garamond has already been digitized. But this is not a commercial venture and it should only be looked at as an exercise to learn how letter-shapes work by mean of research and comparisons. I will also use Fontlab for the first time and I will undoubtedly learn an awful lot about bezier curves, kerning, metrics and all the rest.


The first part of the assignment was to identify the type-face. It was Stempel garamond but at first I thought it was Sabon. Only the book was printed in the 30’s and Sabon was only designed a few decades later. Anyway, I started looking for books about Stampel garamond and I could gather from “Anatomy of a Typeface” that Stempel garamond was adapted from a specimen sheet of garamond types printed in 1592 in germany by Konrad Berner (Egenolff-Berner). After much confusion in the library of Meermano Museum in Den Haag, I got more lucky searching the net for good quality scans of the specimen sheet.

I compared all sizes of the specimen sheet to the 12pt Stempel garamond from the book and unsurprisingly the “cicero” matches almost perfectly to the Stempel garamond. Some of the garamond types from the specimen are a little wider and the counter bigger and more open. The “m” and the “o” is definitely wider than the Stempel and the upper counter of the “a” is more open than the Stempel. The ascenders and descenders are longer than the Stempel and interestingly they vary hugely from size to size. You only have to compare the Canon “d” with the Petit Canon “d”. Some of the serifs are strikingly different like the upper left serif of the “p”. It is a little bit higher in the garamond specimen sheet. The lower right serif of the “u” is longer and no so angled as that of the Stempel. The “g” is more squished and the counters more even in the Stempel.


I still have some ground to cover with this comparison. In the end I hope to be able to identify the kind of decisions taken by the designer at Stempel. Hopefuly, this will help me in taking decisions when digitizing the Stempel. I could even use some shapes from the garamond sheet in order to be closer to the original garamond design. But I already understand that this is a polemical subject in the type world.


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