Plantin (typeface)

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Category Serif
Classification Old style serif
Designer(s) Fritz Stelzer
Foundry Monotype
Date created 1913

Plantin is an old-style serif typeface named after the printer Christophe Plantin. It was first cut in 1913 by Fritz Stelzer under the guidance of Frank Hinman Pierpont for the Monotype Corporation, and is based on a Gros Cicero face cut in the 16th century by Robert Granjon.[1] Plantin is one of the typefaces that influenced the creation of Times New Roman in the 1930s.[2]

The intention behind the design of Plantin was to create a font with thicker letterforms than had typically been used until that time: previous type designers had reduced the weight of their fonts to make up for the effect of ink spread, but by 1913 innovations in smoothing and coating paper had led to reduced ink spread.[3] Pierpont was inspired to use Granjon's designs by a visit to the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, which had them on display.[4]

The Granjon font on which Pierpont's design was based was listed as one of the types used by the Plantin-Moretus Press beginning in the 17th century, long after Plantin had died and his press had been inherited by the Moretus family, but Plantin himself had used a few letters of the font to supplement another font, a Garamond.[3][4][5][6]

The design for Plantin preserved the large x-height of Granjon's designs, but shortened the ascenders and descenders and enlarged the counters of the lowercase letters a and e.[4] The different 'a' may originate from a mistake made in printing a specimen sheet at the Plantin-Moretus Museum as a specimen for Monotype to use in designing Plantin, in which an 'a' from the wrong font was used. The resulting change alters the character of Plantin (and Times New Roman, which was based on it) considerably.[7]

During the interwar period the face was adopted and popularized by Francis Meynell's Pelican Press and by C. W. Hobson's Cloister press, and also used occasionally by Cambridge Press.[4] In more recent usage, the magazine Monocle is set entirely in Plantin and Helvetica.[8] An infant variety of the typeface also exists, with single-story versions of the letters a and g.

The font was used as the signature font for ABC News from 1978 until the late 1990s.


  1. Schuster, Brigitte (2010). "Monotype Plantin: A Digital Revival by Brigitte Schuster" (PDF). Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (M.A. thesis). Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  2. Meggs, Philip B.; Carter, Rob (1993), "29. Plantin", Typographic Specimens: The Great Typefaces, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 302–311, ISBN 978-0-471-28429-1 .
  3. 3.0 3.1 Carter, Sebastian (1995), Twentieth Century Type Designers, W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 28–29 .
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Morison, Stanley (7 June 1973). A Tally of Types. CUP Archive. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-0-521-09786-4. 
  5. Mann, Meredith. "Where Did Times New Roman Come From?". New York Public Library. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  6. Hendrik D. L. Vervliet (2008). The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance: Selected Papers on Sixteenth-century Typefaces. BRILL. pp. 226–7. ISBN 90-04-16982-2. 
  7. Mosley, James (2003). "Reviving the Classics: Matthew Carter and the Interpretation of Historical Models". In Mosley, James; Re, Margaret; Drucker, Johanna; Carter, Matthew. Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 31–34. ISBN 9781568984278. Plantin was a recreation of one of the old types held at the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, of which a specimen, printed in 1905, had been acquired by Pierpont on a visit. The type from which the specimen was printed was not only centuries old and worn almost beyond use, but it was contaminated with wrong-font letters (notably the letter ‘a’) and the italic did not even belong to the roman. The revival, derived by Monotype from an indirect and confused original, is [nonetheless] as sound a piece of type-making as was ever created in the 20th century…behind the foggy image of the roman type lies the...'Gros Cicero' Roman of Robert Granjon, acquired by the Plantin printing office after the death of its founder. 
  8. Coles, Stephen (February 13, 2009). "In Use: Plantin for Monocle". The FontFeed. FSI FontShop International. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 

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