Early Serif letterforms (late 15th – early 18th centuries). They are based on principles of modulated stroke and characterized by modest contrast, bracketed serifs (serifs with a rounded joint to the stem of the letter), and oblique axis. Earliest examples show strong dependence upon handwriting humanist minuscule produced by a broad nib pen. Later shapes become more contrast, their serifs turn out to be sharper, and axes are nearly vertical. In general their letterforms and the appearance are more and more based on glyptic principles that is of the process of metal punch cutting.
Depending on time and place of origin typefaces are divided into several groups: Venetian (late 15th), French (16th), Dutch (17th), English (early 18th) Old Styles and contemporary versions (variations) of typefaces rooted in Old Style traditions.
Early Old Style (late 15th century) comprising some Black letter elements. Sometimes classified separately from Old Style Serifs as a Humanist group. Letterforms are based on broad nib pen writing principles. Typefaces have modest contrast, short heavy serifs, inclined axis, and wide proportions. Bowls and loops have calligraphic broken elements; teardrop terminals are slightly angular. There were no italics in original Venetian Old Style of that period. They were created later.
Further evolution of Venetian Old Style in the 16th century. Letterforms are still based on broad nib pen writing principles but gradually influenced by typesetting practice and aesthetic theories of that time. Typefaces have low contrast, golden section proportions, uneven character widths, adnate serifs (flowing smoothly into the stem), and inclined axes. Serifs become longer and more tapered, ascenders normally go far above the uppercase letters. Slightly inclined lowercase italics appear as a fully independent typeface. Later on italics are pared with roman and match the size, color and style of roman. Uppercase italics appear. Their slope is less than that of lowercase italics. Slope of lowercase italics varies considerably.
Further evolution of French Old Style in the 17th century. Higher quality typefaces. In addition to traditional Old Style features some peculiar characteristics of glyptic typefaces appear (increased contrast and weight, sharper serifs, more vertical axes). Proportions are quite narrow, lowercase bowls are more circular. Cap-height is close to the length of ascenders. Slope of uppercase italics is less than that of lowercase italics. Slope of lowercase italics varies. Average slope of lowercase italics is bigger of French Old Style.
Typefaces of the first half of the 18th century designed in England as a refinement of Dutch Old Style. Elements are based on glyptic principles but letterforms traditionally replicate earlier Old Style to a great extent. Typefaces show more contrast and weight, serifs are thinner and sharper, and axes are nearly vertical. Proportions are much wider compared to Dutch Old Style; widths of the characters are uneven. Slope of uppercase italics is less than that of lowercase italics. Slope of lowercase italics varies. Average slope of lowercase italics is quite considerable.
Contemporary versions of typefaces rooted in Old Style traditions without any definite prototype and differ in shape.
Originate from Roman Imperial inscriptions (capitals) and Renaissance humanist minuscule (lower case). Earliest printed samples of Serif appeared by the second half of 15th century in Italy and Germany. The letterforms of Serif have changed over time: Old Style (late 15th – early 18th centuries) evolved into Transitional (early 18th – late 18th centuries) and further into Modern (late 18th – early 19th centuries). Besides, Slab Serifs arose at the beginning of the 19th century. Contemporary designers create new versions of Serif faces based on historical letterforms.
Typefaces of early and mid 18th century combining Old Style features base on broad nib pen writing and new style elements depending on metal engraving technique. Baroque Serif and contemporary versions of typefaces rooted in transitional traditions.
Transitional letterforms having almost no connection to Old Style. They are based on glyptic principles that are first drawing and then metal punch cutting. Typefaces show more contrast, bars and serifs are thinner compared to Old Style. Serif joint to the stem is slightly rounded. Some axes are nearly vertical, and others are slightly sloped. Slope of lower- and uppercase italics is much the same. Italics have average slope.
Contemporary versions of typefaces rooted in Transitional traditions without any definite prototype and differ in form.
Typefaces arose with the development of metal engraving technique in the late 18th – early 19th centuries. They are distinguishable by strong contrast and even widths of characters. Serifs are long and thin, axes are strictly vertical. Depending on serif shape Modern typefaces are divided into following groups: Neoclassical Modern, Scotch Modern and contemporary versions of typefaces rooted in Modern traditions.
Typefaces give no evidence of trace of a pen. They show strong contrast, even width proportions, thin unbracketed serifs and vertical axis. Serifs and hairlines have equal thickness. Slope of lower- and uppercase italics is the same. Italics have average slope.
Letterform is similar to Neoclassical Modern, but some features of Transitional style are added. They show strong contrast, even width proportions and thin bracketed serifs. Slope of lower- and uppercase italics is the same. Italics have average slope.
Contemporary versions of typefaces rooted in Modern traditions without any definite prototype and differ in form.
Less contrasted fonts approaching to Clarendon-like slab serif fonts (end of XIX century).
This kind of static serif typefaces appeared in the late XIX century mainly for newspaper setting, it has low contrast and rounded serifs. Close to the slab serif fonts by its form.
First typefaces of this style were created in England at the beginning of the 19th century. They have unbracketed or slightly bracketed block-like rectangular serifs, equal or nearly equal thickness of all strokes, large x-height. Depending on serifs and bowls shape, contrast and evenness of character widths Slab Serifs are subdivided into Egyptian, Geometric, Humanist and Clarendon typefaces. Sometimes reverse contrast Slab Serifs (Italian) are distinguished as a separate subgroup.
The first Egyptian bold face designed in 1815 had some contrast, modest unevenness of widths and rectangular serifs having the same thickness as hairlines. It was used for display matter. Later on lighter Egyptian faces were issued that could be used for body text. Modern Egyptian typefaces may have many styles and widths. Some families have only upright styles; others are complemented with oblique styles (not italics). Slope is average.
These typefaces arose during 20s-30s of the 20th century as a modification of popular Geometric Sans. They are characterized by nearly total lack of contrast, unbracketed rectangular serifs, definite unevenness of widths, nearly circular bowls. Some families have only roman, others have oblique styles. Slope is average or fairly small. Slab Serifs with square-like bowls may also belong to this group.
Slab Serifs based on Humanist Sans resembling Venetian Old Style but showing low contrast and sturdy rectangular serifs. Since many Humanist Sans have been created recently, Humanist Slab Serif typefaces were developed in parallel. As a rule these families are complete with true italics. Slopes in italics may be either fairly small or quite considerable.
Low-contrast, even-width typefaces having sturdy rectangular bracketed serifs, large x-height and vertical axis. They were first created in England in the mid 19th century for display matter. In the 20th century many text typefaces were designed based on Clarendon letterforms. They were used in newspapers as well as for printing school-books, technical literature, directories, etc. Some of these faces are sometimes classified as Modern, and they are really modified forms of the former, but they are closer to Clarendon style by its shape. These families are normally complete with true italics. Slope in italics is average.
Display typefaces having reverse contrast (horizontal strokes are thicker than vertical). They were issued in the first half of the 19th century, but became very popular during late 19th – early 20th centuries for display matter. Sometimes they are attributed to Slab Serif group. As a rule there are no oblique styles there.
Display and text faces combining Sans and Serif features. Their strokes end up with either undistinguished tips or small tapered serifs.
Display and text faces having triangular serifs, sometimes bracketed. They were originally designed in England in the first half of the 19th century.
Like typewritten characters, these all have the same width and take up the same amount of space. Use of this type allows figures to be set in vertical rows without leaving a ragged appearance (as opposed to proportional type).