Centaur (typeface)

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Category Serif
Classification Old-style
Designer(s) Bruce Rogers
Frederic Warde
Foundry Monotype Corporation
Date created 1914
Date released 1929
Also known as Metropolitan

Centaur is a serif typeface based on the printing of the Renaissance, originally drawn as titling capitals by Bruce Rogers in 1914 for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[1] Rogers later expanded it, adding lower case, for his 1915 limited edition of Maurice de Guérin's The Centaur.

Rogers' primary influence was Nicholas Jenson's 1470 Eusebius, considered the model for the modern upright printing of the Roman alphabet, which Rogers studied through enlarged photographs.[1] Centaur also shows the influence of types cut by Francesco Griffo in 1495 for a small book titled De Aetna written by Pietro Bembo. The typeface is classified as belonging to the humanist style of old-style designs, based on the predominant influence of Jenson's work. The style is also called Venetian for the city Jenson worked in.

For the original release, matrices were cut by Robert Wiebking and the type was privately cast by American Type Founders. Some years later, the Monotype Corporation commissioned Rogers to release it for the general market. Rogers did not feel able to create a matching italic, and asked the calligrapher Frederic Warde if he could pair Centaur with a design Warde had created based upon Ludovico Arrighi’s 1520 chancery face, made in 1926 for the Officina Bodoni.[2] The completed family was released for general use in 1929, with a first showing in Monotype's manual The Trained Printer and the Amateur by Alfred W. Pollard.[3][4] Warde's design had the separate name Arrighi, which appears in some earlier typeface catalogues.[1]

Centaur shows some of the irregularities of early type compared to later designs, perhaps even amplifying them. The dots of the i and j are very visibly shifted to the right, a feature of Jenson's original design, while the e's horizontal stroke is slanted, not exactly horizontal as came to be the norm in print.[5]

Quite slender, an effect possibly amplified in the digital release, Centaur is used in book printing for body text and often also titles and headings.[6] One of its most notable uses has been in the designs of Penguin Books, who have regularly used it for titling.[7] It is also used for the wordmark of John Varvatos and in the children's book Crispin: The Cross of Lead, set in the Middle Ages.[8][9] Monotype described it as a 'long-descender type of great distinction', emphasising its feeling of not having been restricted to allow tighter linespacing, as other types often had been in the hot metal period.[10]

Other Monotype fonts of the hot metal period inspired by Renaissance printing included Lutetia by Jan van Krimpen (another Venetian design), Bembo (based specifically on the work of Griffo) and Dante. Among other Venetian revivals, William Morris's Golden Type began revivals of the Jenson style in 1892 with a more solid structure, while Morris Fuller Benton's Cloister was created around 1915 during the same period as Centaur. Adobe Jenson is a notable digital revival from 1996.


Jenson's roman type, from a 1475 edition.
  1. ^ a b c "Facts about Centaur" (PDF). Monotype Recorder 32 (1): 20–21. 1933. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Friedl, Ott, and Stein, Typography: an Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Throughout History. Black Dog & Levinthal Publishers: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7, pp. 540-41.
  3. ^ Alexander S. Lawson, Anatomy of a Typeface David R. Godine: 1990. ISBN 978-0-87923-333-4, pp. 92-93.
  4. ^ "The Fifty Best Books exhibition" (PDF). Monotype Recorder 29: 6–11. September 1930. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Twardoch, Slimbach, Sousa, Slye (2007). Arno Pro (PDF). San Jose: Adobe Systems. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Shaw, Paul. "Book Review: Type Revivals". Blue Pencil. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Doubleday, Richard. "Jan Tschichold at Penguin Books: A Resurgance(sic) of Classical Book Design" (PDF). Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Gramly, P.R. "Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  9. ^ Shaw, Paul. "Flawed Typefaces". Print magazine. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  10. ^ "Colophon" (PDF). Monotype Recorder 36 (2): 2. Summer 1937. 
  • Blackwell, Lewis. 20th Century Type. Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0-300-10073-6.
  • Fiedl, Frederich, Nicholas Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography: An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Through History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.
  • Lawson, Alexander S., Anatomy of a Typeface. Godine: 1990. ISBN 978-0-87923-333-4.
  • Meggs, Philip B. and Rob Carter. Typographic Specimens: The Great Typefaces. Wiley: 1993. ISBN 0-471-28429-7.
  • Meggs, Philip B. and McKelvey, Roy. Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces. RC Publications: 2000. ISBN 1-883915-08-2.
  • Updike, Daniel Berkeley. Printing Types Their History, Forms and Use. Dover Publications, Inc: 1937, 1980. ISBN 0-486-23929-2.

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