Plantin is a Renaissance Roman as seen through a late–industrial-revolution paradigm. Its forms aim to celebrate fine sixteenth-century book typography with the requirements of mechanized typesetting and mass production in mind.
How did this anomalous design come about? In 1912 Frank Hinman Pierpont of English Monotype visited the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, returning home with “knowledge, hundreds of photographs, and a stack of antique typeset specimens including a few examples of Robert Granjon’s.” Together with Fritz Stelzer of the Monotype Drawing Office, Pierpont took one of these over-inked proofs taken from worn type to use as the basis of a new text face for machine composition. Body text set in Plantin produces a dark, rich texture that’s suited to editorial and book work, though it also performs its tasks on screen with ease. Its historical roots lend the message it sets a sense of gravity and authenticity. The family covers four text weights complete with italics, with four condensed headline styles and a caps-only titling cut.
Plantin was one of the first Monotype Corporation revivals that were not simply a copy of a typeface already popular in British printing; it has proved popular since its release and has been digitized. It can in retrospect be seen to have paved the way for the many Monotype revivals of classic typefaces that followed in the 1920s and 30s. Plantin would later also be used as one of the main models for the creation of Times New Roman in the 1930s. The Plantin family includes regular, light and bold weights, along with corresponding italics.
The font was used as the signature font for ABC News from 1978 until the late 1990s. In more recent usage, the magazine Monocle is set entirely in Plantin.
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.
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