Thinking about fonts to use for book

Professional publishers do not print using Microsoft’s “Times Roman” font.  Instead commercial fonts are used.  I don’t know much about these, but I’ve been looking around the web.

A font called “Bembo” seems widely used.  Unfortunately the character map does not include polytonic Greek.  I don’t expect these fonts to include Syriac, but that much is a minimum.

Another font is Adobe’s MinionPro, which does seem to include polytonic Greek.  This is my current candidate.  Apparently it comes free with Adobe InDesign CS3, or can be purchased separately.

I’ve also been looking at the text itself.  It needs to be kerned, which it seems can be done in Microsoft Word.  It also needs hyphenation, because justified text usually gets areas of whitespace in the middle of the line unless you do this.

What else?  Well, lots, probably.  I just wish I could find a useful guide to this, rather than working it all out by trial and error.


12 thoughts on “Thinking about fonts to use for book

  1. Also, something I forgot to mention: these fonts usually don’t have the Latin character maps, but it integrates nicely with other fonts.

    Two other nice fonts that are free are Junicode ( and Gentium ( Both have a full range of polytonic and latin glyphs

    I prefer Junicode because it supports a wider range of glyphs (runic glyphs, IPA symbols, etc..), and regular Gentium does not have a bold variation.

  2. Could look into Cardo:

    It is Bembo-based and you will have to obtain a license for commercial print use. I find it quite pleasant to look at for on-screen Greek, but I haven’t bothered to see how it compares to the Monotype Bembo for Latin characters. I also find “Bembo Book”, a 2005 re-digitization by Monotype which improves the weighting, superior to the original Monotype Bembo linked in the post.

  3. There are many free professional quality fonts: Garamond (although Adobe has Garamond Pro), Didot, Hoefler Text (which is bundled with macs, but fairly cheap otherwise), Goudy Old Style, etc… Most of them are typefaces based on typesets made pre computer age.

    The GFS (Greek Font Society) has made an effort to digitally preserve many of these typeface styles. They are also kind enough to release them as fonts for free.

    Here is a pdf I made that shows how some of them can be used together. All the Greek fonts in this example were free.

  4. Yes, one thing to keep in mind is my primary criterion for using Cardo is the vast range of characters it supports. Looking at it with an eye to print use I might prefer something else, the problem is I know not what specifically (in any case there the primary criterion should be how it looks on the printed page for your text).

  5. Thanks for the examples – most interesting.

    There must be some standard fonts in use in publishing houses, e.g. for Greek. I wonder what?

  6. Hello Roger,

    The Society of Biblical Literature has some fonts they’ve created for standardization purposes. They do have a licensing fee for commercial/print use though.

    The initial download is free, so you could probably get away with installing it and having a high quality test print done to see if it suits your needs and then license it if needed.

    Legend has it that this organization is the one that produced the SBL fonts, so they might be able to help you in your quest:

  7. There is a typesetting markup language called LaTeX that is widely used by professional math and science publishers. One nice thing about it is that it handles hyphenation automatically “for all languages”, or so I’m told. I can vouch for its effectiveness in English. It’s a markup language, which is actually a plus in my book, though it may not be in yours; making global format or font changes is really quite painless, since the typesetting is all done automatically. I cannot vouch for its handling of Greek text, since I have no experience with that, just Greek symbols in formulae (which look very nice, for what its worth). I have published a doctoral thesis and several papers in peer-reviewed journals with it, and I have always found it much less frustrating than MSWord.

    It is also free, so experimenting with it will cost you nothing except, of course, time.

  8. getting greek to work with LaTex is frustrating since it does not support unicode inherently. You can get greek to work with the babel package, but I find that frustrating where greek and english are often side-by-side. Fortunately, enough people have had to cope with this limitation; XeTex, which supports unicode, can be used in LaTex (XeLatex). In fact, that is what I used to make the test pdf above.

    Another benefit of Latex or XeLatex is it correctly uses ligatures and kernings, which makes for a much more aesthetic and professional look. Other benefits are that it creates and formats table of contents, indices, glossaries automatically.

    Also, Mr. Pearse, don’t dismiss Latex as a typesetting system because it is difficult to learn. I am sure there are plenty of people (me included) who would love to contribute, especially considering how much you have already done.

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