Designed by Bruce Rogers and Frederic Warde, 1914 and 1925.
The Centaur type was designed in 1914 by Bruce Rogers as a proprietory typeface for the Metropolitan Museum. It was based on the letterforms of Nicolaus Jenson, but unlike the heaviness of most other Jenson revivals, Centaur is a relatively light face; using Jenson’s forms as a base but refining them considerably. In doing so Rogers created an exceptionally graceful type.
After a few years Monotype wanted to release the typeface so a companion italic was sought. Arrighi, a beautiful italic designed in 1925 by Frederic Warde was chosen. Based on the early 16th century type forms of the writing master and type designer, Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi, it was an ideal partner for the classical forms of Centaur.
The specimen to the right is Monotype’s digital version of the pairing, which renames Arrighi as Centaur Italic.
A couple of fine examples from the shelves:
• HAVELOCK ELLIS ‘GEORGE CHAPMAN’
Nonesuch Press, 1934.
Designed by Francis Meynell and printed for him at the Cambridge University Press in an edition of 700 copies.
The renaissance-based pairing of Centaur and Arrighi is given extra warmth and character on these pages from the beautiful laid Van Gelder paper it’s printed on.
The setting of the italic is curious in that the lower-case ‘f’ is mostly swapped throughout for one from another typeface. For whatever reason, I guess Francis Meynell wasn’t a fan. The Arrighi ‘f’ is, however, still used at the back end of the book in the smaller type size setting of the bibliographic section.
• ‘OXFORD LECTERN BIBLE PROSPECTUS’
Oxford University Press, 1935.
Designed by Bruce Rogers and printed at the Oxford University Press.
Unfortunately, I do not own a copy of Bruce Rogers’ typographic masterpiece in its entirety, as that is well and truly out of my pocket! I do, however, own a tempting taster of it in the form of the original prospectus, which includes a sample bifolium of selected leaves. Just these four pages alone are hands-down the most beautiful examples of Centaur I own; they are nothing short of magnificent.
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