Learning Type

Old Style TypefaceS

In the Old-Style faces, often called Garaldes, we see type really beginning to come into its own. I call them Garaldes here because the term “Old Style” is at times used to include Humanist, Garalde and Transitional typefaces; simply calling this group “Garalde” helps to retain its identity.

This period in type history lasts from the late-15th century all the way until the early 1700s, and the type created in this period has shown remarkable longevity. “Garalde” itself is a hybrid term borrowed from the names of two notable type designers of the era, French punchcutter Claude Garamont and the Venetian Aldus Manutius. The category is occasionally called “Aldine” after Manutius.

There are many similarities to the Humanist faces, but things are moving in a particular direction, as we’ll see with the consecutive categories of Transitional and Didone. You can see the type designers treating type as different from the written word, losing some of the idiosyncrasies of handwriting that the Humanist designers retained, while carrying over others. The axis of the stress straightens, and while it still has an angle, it is subtler. The serifs become more carefully formed, and characters are designed more proportionately. One of the most obvious differences is the crossbar of the lowercase “e,” which, while remaining angled in the Humanist typefaces, drops to a horizontal position in the Garaldes. Also, the difference between heavy and light stroke weights increased, and everything became more precise, perhaps due to the progress in technical aspects of making type.

A huge amount of type was created in this era, and much of it is commonly used today, either digitized versions or new revivals. Common examples of the Garalde faces include Caslon, Sabon, Palatino, Galliard and Janson — not to be confused with Jenson, the Humanist typeface. In fact, Janson, named after Dutch punchcutter Anton Janson, is now thought to be the work of Miklós Kis, a Hungarian, produced during an apprenticeship in Amsterdam.


Alessio, Joseph. "Making Sense Of Type Classification (Part 1)." Smashing Magazine. N.p., 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.