Bembo Book
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)