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Not to be confused with Paladino.
For other uses, see Palatino (disambiguation).
Palatino font sample.svg
Category Serif
Classification Old-style
Designer(s) Hermann Zapf
Foundry Linotype
Date released 1948
Variations Palatino Nova
Palatino Sans

Palatino is the name of an old style serif typeface designed by Hermann Zapf, initially released in 1948 by the Linotype foundry.

Named after 16th century Italian master of calligraphy Giambattista Palatino, Palatino is based on the humanist fonts of the Italian Renaissance, which mirror the letters formed by a broad nib pen; this gives a calligraphic grace. But where the Renaissance faces tend to use smaller letters with longer vertical lines (ascenders and descenders) with lighter strokes, Palatino has larger proportions, and is considered to be a much easier to read typeface. It is one of several related typefaces by Zapf, each showing influence of the Italian Renaissance letter forms. The group includes Palatine, Sistina, Michaelangelo Titling, and Aldus, which takes inspiration from printing types cut by Francesco Griffo c. 1495 in the print shop of Aldus Manutius.

Palatino was particularly intended as a design for headings, but became popular for body text, overshadowing Aldus, which Zapf had expected to be used for this role. It remains one of the most widely used (and copied) text typefaces, and has been cited as the ten most used serif typefaces.[1] Its incorporation into the PostScript digital printing technology as a system font guaranteed its importance in digital and desktop publishing. As with many popular fonts, knockoff designs and rereleases under different names are common, some created by Zapf himself.

Zapf retained an interest in the design, and continued to collaborate on new versions into his eighties. In 1999, Zapf revised Palatino for Linotype and Microsoft, called Palatino Linotype. The revised family incorporated extended Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic character sets. Linotype released a more complex redesign named Palatino nova, together with digitisations of some of Zapf's other Renaissance-inspired designs and Aldus. Zapf also created a matching Palatino Sans and Palatino Sans Informal design in 2006.

Palatino Linotype[edit]

Palatino Linotype is a version of the Palatino family that incorporates extended Latin, Greek, Cyrillic characters, as well as currency signs, subscripts and superscripts, and fractions. The family includes roman and italic in text and bold weights. It is one of the few fonts to incorporate an interrobang.[2]

It was the first western OpenType font that Microsoft shipped; Palatino Linotype was bundled with Windows 2000. The OpenType version showcased some (then new) OpenType features, including "set ligatures, true small caps, different numeral styles, and a variety of special alternate characters, such as the swash Capital Qu combination".[3] This marks it out from earlier digitisations such as the OS X system version, which do not include ligatures such as Th and Qu.

Palatino nova[edit]

Palatino nova is a redesigned version of Palatino, by Hermann Zapf and Akira Kobayashi. This Palatino nova typeface family includes roman and italics in the light, text, medium, and bold weights, a titling face formerly called Michelangelo Titling, and a large and small capital face called Palatino nova Imperial formerly called Sistina.[4]

Palatino nova has reduced support on extended Latin, Greek, Cyrillic characters. In particular, Greek and Cyrillic is only available in Regular and Bold weight fonts. However, extended accented Latin characters, ligatures, small letter forms, symbols are available in Private Use Area block. Palatino nova Titling replaces lowercase characters with true small capitals, and the supports for Greek Extended and Cyrillic characters are reduced.

The font family was premiered on 2005-11-24,[5] the same day as Hermann Zapf’s 87th birthday celebration.[6]

Palatino Sans[edit]

Palatino Sans is a sans-serif design with stroke width modulation, resembling Zapf's classic design Optima but with a softer, more organic feel.[7] Unlike the serifed counterpart, the Sans families do not have full Greek or Cyrillic characters. Reviewing it for Typographica on release, font designer Hrant Papazian commented:

The confluence of competence, freedom and kiai...evident in Palatino Sans is breathtaking. The sober organicity, the bravado of the raised ‘r’, the confident flair of the italic; all done before, but never in such a usable, contemporary whole.

Palatino Sans Informal[edit]

Palatino Sans Informal incorporates informal characteristics to the Palatino Sans, such as asymmetrical A, K, N, W, X, Y, w.

Palatino Arabic[edit]

It is a family designed by Lebanese designer Nadine Chahine and Hermann Zapf. The design is based on the Al-Ahram typeface designed by Zapf in 1956 but reworked and modified to fit the Palatino nova family. The design is Naskh in style but with a strong influence of Thuluth style.

This family only comes in 1 font, corresponding to Palatino nova Regular. It supports basic Latin, Arabic, Persian, and Urdu scripts. It also includes proportional and tabular numerals for the supported languages.

Palatino eText (2013)[edit]

It is a family designed by Toshi Omagari of Monotype Imaging, optimised for on-screen use. It includes a larger x-height and wider spacing.[8]

This family includes 4 fonts in 2 weights, with complimentary italics. OpenType features include case-sensitive forms, fractions, ligatures, lining/old style figures, localized forms, ordinals, superscript, small capitals.


Palatino has been available in all major typesetting systems over the years, including Linotype and "hot metal" versions. Certain hot metal versions of Palatino, of smaller x-height, are considered both more legible and elegant to many[who?] people.

The first digitisation was done by Bitstream, which, however, refused to licence the name Palatino from Linotype, calling its version Zapf Calligraphic instead.[9] Since then, several foundries have produced Zapf-original versions.

Digital type foundries selling authentic versions of Palatino and derivative families are:

  • Linotype, under the name Palatino Linotype. Palatino Linotype is shipped with Windows 2000 or later, and Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003.
  • Adobe Systems, under licence of the trademark Palatino from Linotype.

Due to Linotype's trademark on the name Palatino, other foundries use other names for their version of Zapf's typeface:

  • URW++ sells its version as URW Palladio L. This font was later released by URW under a Free and Open Source licence[citation needed], making it freely available at no charge.
  • In the Bitstream font collection, the Palatino equivalent is called Zapf Calligraphic.

It should be noted that all these typefaces are authentic work by Zapf himself,[9] whether or not they use the name Palatino due to Linotype's trademark. However, they lack the refinements of Palatino Linotype and nova.

Free and Open Source versions and derivatives[edit]

The only legal free version of the typeface is URW Palladio L. The open source community greatly extended the character sets of the fonts and releases new, updated versions under new names.

  • TeX Gyre Pagella is another similar typeface based on the URW Palladio L font. Pagella includes accents for European languages as well as glyphs for a few non-European languages.[12] This typeface is released in formats compatible with LaTeX as well as with modern OpenType compatible systems. It is a part of the TeX Gyre project to make updated, expanded, OpenType versions of URW's open-source fonts.

Book Antiqua[edit]

A comparison of Linotype Palatino, Monotype Book Antiqua, and Unternehmensberatung Rubow Weber (URW) Palladio L.

Microsoft distributes a similar typeface, Book Antiqua (originally by Monotype), which is considered by Zapf[13] to be an imitation. Book Antiqua was designed as an alternative to licensing the fonts mandated by Adobe's PostScript standard. Both Book Antiqua and Arial (the alternative for Helvetica) share the original typefaces' character width, spacing and kerning properties. However, Book Antiqua resembles Palatino much more than Arial does Helvetica; indeed, the two are quite difficult to tell apart. However, discernible differences exist in the following characters:

  • S — wider for Book Antiqua;
  • K and R — the lower-right serifs are 'stubbier' for Book Antiqua (more apparent due to thinner strokes on the diagonal 'leg' for Palatino Linotype);
  • 1 — the top serif is longer narrower for Book Antiqua (making the outward taper more obvious).
  • Italic forms for all letters are taller and narrower for Book Antiqua than for Palatino Linotype. The two fonts are more distinguishable in their italic forms than in their Roman forms.

In 1993, Zapf resigned from l'Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) over what he viewed as its hypocritical attitude toward unauthorized copying by prominent ATypI members (namely Monotype). In the United States, the abstract design of a typeface is not protected by copyright, and can be imitated freely (unless the typeface is protected by a design patent, which is of much more limited duration and rarely applied for). Copyright protection is available for the representation of a typeface in software (a computer font), and the names of typefaces can be protected by trademark.

Microsoft has since licensed and distributes Linotype's version of Zapf's original design called Palatino Linotype in all versions of Windows since Windows 2000.[14]

Variants and similar typefaces[edit]

Palatino and Aldus compared in digital versions. The differences are very subtle.

Zapf also designed Aldus, which appeared in the D. Stempel AG catalog in 1954. Both Aldus and Palatino were Zapf’s new form of old style typefaces inspired by the Renaissance. Originally intended as the book or text weight for Zapf's Palatino font family, it was instead released as a separate family.[15]

Zapf Renaissance Antiqua was a newer interpretation by Zapf of the same general design, distributed by Mannesmann Scangraphic. They also distribute alternate digitisations of Palatino, called Parlament and Praxis.


Palatino Sans and Palatino Sans Informal won Type Directors Club Type Design Competition 2007 award under Type System / Superfamily category.[16][17]

Palatino Arabic won 2008 Type Directors Club TDC2 2008 award under Text / Type Family category.[18][19]


  • 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.
  • Jaspert, W. Pincus, W. Turner Berry and A.F. Johnson. The Encyclopedia of Type Faces. Blandford Press Lts.: 1953, 1983. ISBN 0-7137-1347-X.
  • Lawson, Alexander S., Anatomy of a Typeface. Godine: 1990. ISBN 978-0-87923-333-4.
  • Macmillan, Neil. An A–Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
  • Zapf, Hermann. Manuale Typographicum. The MIT Press: 19534, 1970. ISBN 0-262-24011-4.
  • Zapf, Hermann. Alphabet Stories: a chronicle of technical development. Linotype: 2007.

External links[edit]