Designed by the Monotype Design Studio, 1929.
This typeface was one of the famous typographic revivals brought about by Stanley Morison when he became typographic advisor to Monotype. It’s a revival of a roman type cut by Francesco Griffo c. 1496 and used by the famed venetian printer Aldus Manutius in his edition of Pietro Bembo’s De Aetna. The accompanying italic is based on a type from a printed writing book by Giovanni Tagliente from 1524.
In my opinion, Bembo is one of the most perfect type designs available for bookwork. It is clean, clear and elegant and makes for an easily read, highly legible and attractive page, particularly if printed well by letterpress.
The specimen to the right is Bembo Book, a more recent digital version of Bembo that aimed to recapture some of the original character of the metal type version.
A couple of fine examples from the shelves:
• ROBERT BRIDGES ‘THE TESTAMENT OF BEAUTY’
Oxford University Press, 1929.
Designed, I assume, by the University printer, John Johnson, and printed in an edition of 250 copies.
In addition to the mass-printed standard copies of the first edition, there were 250 special copies printed using a completely different format and setting (which was dissed after printing so no further copies could be printed). This much larger format version, beautifully printed on a lovely, well-sized handmade wove paper, is one of the finest settings of Bembo I’ve seen.
• OLIVER BAYLDON ‘THE PAPER MAKERS CRAFT’
Twelve by Eight Press, 1965.
Designed and printed by Will Carter at the Rampant Lions Press for the Twelve by Eight Press in an edition of ‘less than 400’ copies.
This exceptionally attractive book, printed on a mix of different handmade papers from Millbourn, Wookey Hole, Barcham Green and Twelve by Eight, shows off Bembo superbly. The title page, with its large red Bembo capitals, is easily one of the finest in my collection.
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