Bitstream Charter

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Bitstream Charter
ClassificationTransitional serif Slab-Serif
Designer(s)Matthew Carter
FoundryBitstream Inc.
Date created1987
LicensePermissive[1] for original version; proprietary for "Charter BT" version

Bitstream Charter is a serif typeface designed by Matthew Carter in 1987 for Bitstream Inc.[2] Charter is based on Pierre-Simon Fournier’s characters, originating from the 18th century.[3] Classified by Bitstream as a transitional-serif typeface (Bitstream Transitional 801), it also has features of a slab-serif typeface and is often classified as such.[4][5]

Charter was originally optimized for printing on the low-resolution 300 dpi laser printers of the 1980s, and remains suitable for printing on both modern high-resolution laser printers and inexpensive lower resolution inkjet printers due to its strong, legible design. Its structure was optimised for low-memory computers and printers. In a 2013 interview, Carter explained that it used "a very simplified structure and a minimum number of curves, more straight-line segments... very economical compared to, say, Times New Roman," but noted that rapid development of printers made this unnecessary even before he had finished the design.[6] In its simplification of serif forms, it foreshadowed Carter's later landmark design, Georgia for Microsoft.

In 1992 Bitstream donated a version of Charter, along with its version of Courier, to the X Consortium under terms that allowed the font to be modified and redistributed. This has resulted in open source derivatives of Bitstream Charter, including Charis SIL.[7] Typographer Matthew Butterick considers Bitstream Charter to be one of the best free fonts available.[8]

Because of its popularity, a new Charter Pro release of the typeface was released in 2004, with an expanded character set including additional symbols, ranging figures (old-style) and small capitals.[9] This version was later added as a system font on OS X.[citation needed]

Carter was later asked by Monotype to consider releasing a sans-serif companion to Charter. Finding his attempts unsatisfying, he scrapped the idea for a more radical, less directly complementary design, Carter Sans.


Charter is based on the characters[3] of Pierre-Simon Fournier, a French 18th century punch-cutter, typefounder and typographic theoretician who invented the “point system”, a standardized measurement system for font sizes.

Type sample (Pierre Simon Fournier, Manuel Typographique, 1766)
Type sample (Pierre Simon Fournier, Manuel Typographique, 1766)


  1. ^ "Bitstream Charter".
  2. ^ "Typedia: Charter". Typedia. Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  3. ^ a b Miñoza, Nicole (20 May 2014). "Introducing Source Serif: A new open source typeface from Adobe". Adobe Typekit Blog. Adobe Systems Incorporated. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Charter Postscript Font Metrics". Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (open source:one of many sources). Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  5. ^ Sharpe, Michael (July 2014). "Recent Additions to TeX'sFont Repertoire" (PDF). Presentation to TUG, Portland. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2014-09-29.
  6. ^ Middendorp, Jan. "Matthew Carter interview". MyFonts. Monotype. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  7. ^ Stephen Gildea (March 29, 1992). "Bitstream contributes Type1 outlines for Charter and Courier fonts". Newsgroupcomp.archives. Usenet: Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  8. ^ Butterick, Matthew (2013). "Charter". Butterick’s Practical Typography. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  9. ^ "Charter Pro". MyFonts. Monotype. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2014.

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