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For the Italian poet, humanist, cardinal, and literary theorist, see Pietro Bembo.
Category Serif
Classification Old style
Designer(s) Stanley Morison
Foundry Monotype

Bembo is the name given to a 20th-century revival of an old style serif typeface cut by Francesco Griffo around 1495. It is named for the poet Pietro Bembo, an edition of whose writing was its first use. The revival was designed under the direction of Stanley Morison for the Monotype Corporation around 1929, as part of a revival of interest in the types used in renaissance printing. It has held lasting popularity as an attractive, legible book typeface. Major users of Bembo have included the Everyman's Library series and Penguin Books.[1]


Type specimen by Aldus Manutius, from Pietro Bembo's De Aetna, 1495–96.

Griffo cut punches for the Venetian press of the humanist printer Aldus Manutius. The face was first used in February 1496 (1495 more veneto), in the setting of a book entitled Petri Bembi de Aetna Angelum Chabrielem liber, a 60-page text about a journey to Mount Aetna written by the young Italian humanist poet Pietro Bembo, later a Cardinal and secretary to Pope Leo X.

Six years later Griffo was responsible for the first italic types, cut for Aldus.

A second version of the roman face followed in 1499 and this type was used to print the famous illustrated Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This typeface served as a source of inspiration for typefaces of the Parisian typefounder Claude Garamond, for Voskens and many others, which were themselves the sources for Caslon types and many other European types of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[2]

Griffo was the first punch-cutter to fully express the character of the humanist hand that contemporaries preferred for manuscripts of classics and literary texts, in distinction to the book hand humanists dismissed as a gothic hand or the everyday chancery hand. One of the main characteristic that distinguished Griffo's types from earlier Venetian forms is the way in which the ascenders of the lowercase letters stand taller than the capitals.

Monotype history[edit]

Monotype Bembo is generally regarded as one of the most handsome revivals of Aldus Manutius’s 15th-century roman type. Monotype designed a variety of other types inspired by the same period of Italian printing in different sizes and styles, which included Poliphilus and Blado. Some of these were ultimately merged into the Bembo family or used for titling purposes.[3][4][5][6][7]

The calligrapher Alfred Fairbank created an upright italic design based on the work of 16th-century writing master Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi. It was sold as Bembo Condensed Italic, after plans to use it as Bembo's companion italic were scrapped due to its eccentricity.[8] It was digitised as Fairbank in 2003, independently of Monotype's Bembo releases.[9][10]

Among Bembo's more distinctive characteristics, the capital Q's tail starts from the glyph's centre, the uppercase J has a slight hook, and there are two versions of uppercase R, one with a straight tail and one with a curved tail.[11] A calligraphic feel is particularly evident in the serifs, which show a delicate transitional curve that rises up into the stem of each letter. Many lowercase letters exhibit hints of sinuous curves reminiscent of those generated by hand-drawn letters; the termination of the arm of both the r and the e flare slightly upward and outward. The lowercase c has a subtle forward slant, a reversal of the oblique stress of the o. Characters h, m, and n have a slight returned curve on their final stem. Lowercase italic k has an elegantly curved stroke in the lower-right. In the 1950s, Monotype noted that its features included: "serifs fine slab, fine-bracketed and in l.c. prolonged to right along baseline."[12]

According to the authors of Typographic Specimens: The Great Typefaces, Bembo became noted for its ability to "provide a text that is extremely consistent in color and texture," helping it to "remain one of the most popular book types since its release." Designer Nick Shinn commented, "Bembo has a sleek magnificence, born of high-precision technology at the service of accomplished production skills, which honours the spirit of the original, and an exotic grace of line which humbles most new designs made more ostensibly for the new technology."[13]

Digitisations and derivatives[edit]

Monotype have released two separate digitisations named Bembo and more recently Bembo Book, as well as the more slender caps-only display font Bembo Titling.[14][15][16] Bembo Book is considered to be superior by being thicker and more suitable for body text, as well as for offering the alternate R.[11][17][18]

Monotype's original, early digitisation of Bembo was not universally liked.[19] Future Monotype executive Akira Kobayashi commented:

"I got into a slight panic. None of the letters looked like Bembo! For a moment I froze in front of the computer, thinking about writing a letter of complaint to the company for sending us the wrong font. After a while I checked the Bembo Italic and I slowly began to realise that the fonts were Bembo. I calmed down enough to recall that the typeface was originally designed for metal type, and most of the specimens and texts I saw were set in metal type in text size. That was why the images of the characters did not overlap. I knew that a metal typeface was cut or designed separately for each size, but a film composition or digital face is a kind of compromise having proportions designed for reduction and enlargement. I was overwhelmed to see the huge gap. Then I looked into the types used in Western offset-litho prints to see the digital Bembo types in use...the types that were originally designed for hot-metal often looked too light and feeble...Bembo Book is more or less what I expected."[20]

Meanwhile, Fontsite obtained the rights to resell a derivative of the original digitisation, using the alternative name Borgia and Bergamo, upgrading it by additional OpenType features such as small capitals and historical alternate characters.[21] An infant variety also exists, which contains single-story versions of the letters A and G.

Two recent font development projects based on the De Aetna face (and the italic created by Monotype to go with it) are Cardo and Yale. The Cardo fonts, developed by David J. Perry for use in classical scholarship and also including Greek and Hebrew, are freely available under the SIL Open Font License.[22] The Yale face, developed by Matthew Carter, is available exclusively to "Yale students, employees, and authorized contractors for use in Yale publications and communications. It may not be used for personal or business purposes, and it may not be distributed to non-Yale personnel."[23]

Available matrices[edit]

Large composition matrix-case with Bembo 270-16 roman, prepared for casting with a standard wedge S5-13.75 set.
Large composition matrix-case with Bembo 270-24 pt roman, 19.5 set
270: Bembo roman/italic
composition-matrices UA.91: 6D - 14pt [24]
variants: long and short descenders
corps: 6pt (6D) 7pt (7D) 8pt (8D) 9pt (8D) 10pt (10D) 10.5pt (9D) 11pt (10D) 12pt (11D) 13pt (12D)

14pt (14D)

set: 6.75 7.5 7.5 8.25 8.5 9 9.5 10.25 11 11.5
line: M.1237 M.1243 M.1243 M.1270 M.1292 M.1312 M.1322 M.1343 M.1378 M.1444
large composition matrices: 14pt-24pt
corps: 14pt (14D) 16pt (16D) 18pt (18D) 24pt (24D)
UA. 91 163 169 169
set: 11.5 13.5 14.5 19.5
line: T.1344 T.1559 T.1725 T.2302
corps: 14pt 16pt 18pt 22pt op 24pt 24pt 30pt 36pt 48pt 60pt 72pt
line: T.1344 T.1559 T.1725 T.2104 T.2302 T.2824 T.3444 T.4648 T.5821 T.6980
428: Bembo bold romein/cursief
composition-matrices: UA.368: 6D - 14pt [25]
corps: 6pt (6D) 7D op 8p E 8pt (8D) 9pt (8D) 10pt (10D) 10.5pt (10D) 11pt (10D) 12pt (11D) 13pt (12D) 14pt (14D)
set: 6.75 7.5 7.5 8.25 8.5 9 9.5 10.25 11 11.5
line: M.1237 M.1243 M.1243 M.1270 M.1293 M.1312 M.1322 M.1353 M.1378 M.1444
groot-zetselmatrijzen: 14pt-18pt
corps: 16pt (16D) 18pt (18D)
UA. 399 399
set: 13.5 14.5
line: T.1559 T.1725
corps: 24pt 30pt 36pt 48pt
line: T.2302 T.2824 T.3444 T.4648
294: Bembo condensed Italic cursief
composition-matrices: UA.360: 4 sizes: 10pt - 16pt UA.361: 16pt [26]
corps: 10pt (10D) 12pt (12D) 13pt (12D) 16pt
set: 8.5 10.25 11 13.5
line: M.1292 M.1353 M.1378 M.1559
428: Bembo Heavy (zie: 428 Bembo Bold)
509: Bembo semi-bold romein/cursief
composition-matrices: UA.91: 5.5pt [27]
corps: 5.5pt (5.5D)
set: 6.5
line: M.1235
370: Bembo titling romein/cursief
corps: 24pt 30pt 36pt 42pt
line: T.2942 T.3614 T.4436 T.5196

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Doubleday, Richard. "Jan Tschichold at Penguin Books: A Resurgance(sic) of Classical Book Design" (PDF). Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  2. ^ The Monotype Corporation limited, specimen blade 5-64, Bembo 270
  3. ^ "Scalable Fonts". PC Mag. 24 September 1991. 
  4. ^ "Poliphilus Pro". Monotype. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Poliphilus and Blado". The Chestnut Press. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Bembo". Chestnut Press. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Bixler, M&W. "Poliphilus". Michael & Winifred Bixler. 
  8. ^ Bixler, M & W. "Bembo Condensed Italic specimen". Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  9. ^ "Fairbank". Monotype. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Fairbank". MyFonts. Monotype. 
  11. ^ a b Shaw, Paul. "Flawed Typefaces". Print magazine. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Hardwig, Florian. "How And Why Type Faces Differ – Detail I". Flickr. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Shinn, Nick. "Lacunae" (PDF). Codex. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  14. ^ "Bembo". MyFonts. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  15. ^ "Bembo Book". Monotype. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  16. ^ "Bembo Titling". MyFonts. Monotype. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Bembo Book". Monotype. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  18. ^ Sowersby, Kris. "Why Bembo Sucks". Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Jackson, Brandon. "The Yale Type". The New Journal. Yale University. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Kobayashi, Akira. "Akira Kobayashi on FF Clifford". FontFeed. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  21. ^ "Borgia Pro". FontSpring. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  22. ^ Perry, David (April 20, 2011). "The Cardo Font". Retrieved July 2, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Introducing the Yale Typeface: Font Download". Yale University. Retrieved July 2, 2013. 
  24. ^ The Monotype corporation ltd, 3-46 en 3-71
  25. ^ The Monotype corporation ltd, 8-59
  26. ^ The Monotype corporation ltd, 5-51
  27. ^ a b The Monotype corporation ltd, 5-76


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bembo — Please support Wikipedia.
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Fri, 03 Jul 2015 08:45:00 -0700

UNA TENDOPOLI IN VIA BEMBO. Inoltre - a darne notizia è il sindaco Massimo Bitonci - sarà realizzata una tendopoli a pochi metri dal centro storico. "Secondo indiscrezioni, e non certo perché il sindaco ne sia stato informato ufficialmente dagli organi ...


Sat, 27 Jun 2015 07:29:31 -0700

Il furto è stato perpetrato venerdì sera intorno alle 21, o almeno quella era la fascia oraria in cui la proprietaria ha rimesso piede nella propria abitazione di via Bembo a Mestre, scoprendo che le camere erano state completamente messe a soqquadro ...

PBS NewsHour (blog)

PBS NewsHour (blog)
Tue, 09 Jun 2015 17:02:14 -0700

There's Futura and Bodoni and the great Bembo. JEFFREY BROWN: Now, you have written a book that is part memoir, part, I guess, a grammar kind of guide. What were you after? What were you doing? MARY NORRIS: Well, I was just trying to help people ...

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Coin Update News
Tue, 30 Jun 2015 03:52:30 -0700

He was buried in Ravenna at the Church of San Pier Maggiore, later called San Francesco. Bernardo Bembo, praetor or Magistrate of Venice, erected a tomb for him in 1483. On the grave, some verses of Bernardo Canaccio, a friend of Dante, dedicated to ...
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 03:52:30 -0700

Intrigued by questions of dimension and focused on the aesthetic, Fridriks is exploring “Stendhal Syndrome” until 22 November, at the Palazzo Bembo, as part of the 56th Venice Biennale. When she is not going from fair to fair across the globe, she ...


Sat, 04 Jul 2015 05:00:00 -0700

L'adiacente sala dedicata a Paolo Barile diventerà anche la sala del Pegaso, grazie alla riproduzione della medaglia esposta al Bargello, voluta dal Cardinale Pietro Bembo e forse coniata da Benvenuto Cellini. La medaglia cui si ispirò Carlo Ludovico ...
New York Times
Fri, 08 Mar 2013 05:32:23 -0800

PADUA, ITALY — Seldom has a collection so eloquently expressed the personality of its creator as that of the Venetian poet and scholar Pietro Bembo. It acquired a mythical status during his lifetime, which long survived its dispersal after his death ...


Fri, 03 Jul 2015 03:37:34 -0700

La Giunta della XVII Comunità Montana “Monti Aurunci” composta dal presidente Alfiero Vellucci, dal vicepresidente Giancarlo Cardillo e dagli assessori Mino Daniele Bembo, Franco Simeone e Giuseppe Karin Tucciarone, ha varato un complessivo ...

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