History of the Typeface
The history of Bembo originates in Venice, an important typographic center in fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe. Many printers established businesses in Venice at this time, but none so significant as Aldus Manutius. Next to Gutenberg, Aldus was perhaps the most influential printer of the Renaissance and the first of many great scholar-printers. Aldus' most important type, designed by Francesco Griffo a goldsmith turned punch-cutter, was created for a 60 page essay by Cardinal Pietro Bembo, in 1495. The typeface, called Bembo after the manuscript's author, was a Roman design of great typographic significance. Its popularity spread throughout Europe and remained the major influence in type design for the next hundred and fifty years. All of the type designs which we call Old Style can be traced back the design of Bembo. Bembo was the first italic letterform, allowed for more characters per line than the Roman style, thus fitting more text to the smaller page format of his personal books. These books were enormously popular and had a profound effect on education and the diffusion of knowledge.
Griffo’s design was lighter and more harmonious in weight than earlier romans. Text set in the face was also more inviting and easier to read than previous designs. On February 1496 - Allan Haley writes: “Aldus [Manutius] published a rather insignificant essay by the Italian scholar Pietro Bembo. The type used for the text became instantly popular. So famous did it become that it influenced typeface design for generations. Posterity has come to regard the Bembo type as Aldus's and Griffo's masterpiece.” Pietro Bembo himself had no connection to or influence on the typeface that carried his name. He was well-connected and knew the famousThe typeface, which was modestly launched in a 60-page favor to a friend and became eminently popular in Italy, soon found its way into France. Here the design came to the attention of Claude Garamond, the famous French type founder, and through his efforts to duplicate it, the design eventually spread its influence to Germany, Holland and the rest of Europe. The Aldine roman, as it came to be known, became the foundation of new typeface designs for hundreds of years.
During the 1920’s the English Monotype company – Lanston Monotype Corporation – under the direction of Stanley Morrison, embarked on a program that was the most ambiotous of any composing-machine manufacturer to date: recutting of historic typfaces, and from this process such revivals as Bodoni, Garamond, Poliphilus, Bakersville, Fournier, and Bembo were created, and has been considered one of the most popular typefaces of our time. These types later became a popular font in book printing throughout the world. Prior to Bembo's release as metal fonts in 1929, Stanley Morison commissioned renowned calligrapher Alfred Fairbank to create the italic. Fairbank's design, while undeniably beautiful, was deemed to be inharmonious with the Bembo roman. A second, more conventional italic was eventually drawn and added to the Bembo family. Fairbank's design managed to have a modest life as a standalone font of metal type, but it never made the leap into phototype fonts.
Bembo had proved to be on of the most poplaur typefaces for the composition of books. One reason for its popularity is its functional serifs which help provide readability, and guarantee an easy reading experience. In Europe, where monotype compositions were the principle method of book type setting , Bembo became the dominate letter form. Bembo was slow to strat in the United States even though even though it was available through the Lanston Monotype Machine Company of phildelphia in the 1930’s. This slow start was because of the Linotype and Intertype machines which were obtained for most of the printing and the tedious monotype system was not nearly as popular.
Bembo has a calligraphic feel that is particularly evident in the serifs. It has a delicate transitional curve that rises up into the stem of each letter. Many lowercase letters exhibit hints of sinuous curves reminiscent of those generated by hand-drawn letters; the termination of the arm of both the r and the e flare slightly upward and outward. The lowercase c has a subtle forward slant, a reversal of the oblique stress of the o. Characters h, m, and n have a slight returned curve on their final stem. Lowercase italic k has an elegantly curved stroke in the lower-right. One of the main characteristic that distinguished Griffo's types from earlier Venetian forms is the way in which the ascenders of the lowercase letters stand taller than the capitals.
Now, in 2005, Monotype has released a new digital version of Bembo, called Bembo Book. It is said that this version restored many of the admirable qualities of the letterpress. Capital signs on a font of Bembo are constructed on the basis of Roman classical majuscule with slightly softened proportional spacing the alphabet at the expense of insignificant increase in width of signs. The top portable elements of the lower case alphabet more than the bottom portable elements that gives to a text type-setting line ease and elegance. Round signs on capital and lower case alphabets have an inclination of an internal oval that the Renaissance antique is a characteristic sign of fonts of group. More characteristics of the old style family from the 15th to 17th century to which Bembo is classified as are minimal variation of thick and thin strokes, small, coarse serifs, often with slightly concave bases and small x-heights. In the round strokes, the stress is diagonal, or oblique, as their designs mimic the hand-held angle of the pen nibs of the scribes. The tops of lowercase ascenders often exceed the height of the capital characters. The numerals, called old style figures, vary in size and have ascenders and descenders. Many contemporary versions of Old Style typefaces do not retain the old style figures but, in catering to contemporary taste, use lining, or capital height figures. Overall Bembo is a very legible typeface, which is frequently used for books. You can however use Bembo for any type of project in which you need a classical yet stylish look.
History of the World
The History of the world that was happening in the year 1495 or around this time was Cosimo's death in 1464, and then his son Piero ruled for five years, and then was succeeded by Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo de Medici, known as 'Il Magnifico.' Lorenzo lived more elegantly than had Cosimo, and enjoyed the spotlight of power immensely. Under his control, the Florentine economy expanded significantly and the lower class enjoyed a greater level of comfort and protection than it had before. During the period of Lorenzo's rule, from 1469 to 1492, Florence became undeniably the most important city-state in Italy and the most beautiful city in all of Europe. The arts flourished, and commerce increased, but Lorenzo let the family business decline, and the Medici were forced to flee Florence two years after his death.
The popular uprising which ousted the Medici family was spawned by a fanatical priest, Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola had attracted a following since 1491, when he began preaching against the worldliness and paganism of the Renaissance. He called for a return to simple faith. After the Medici were ousted in 1494, Savonarola assumed power, drafting a new draconian constitution, and attempting to revive the medieval spirit. He had burned many books and paintings he considered immoral. In 1495, Savonarola called for the deposal of Pope Alexander VI. By this time very little support remained in Florence for the renegade priest, and he was declared a heretic and burned at the stake. The conflicts of Europe in the early 16th century (Spain and France in the west, Christians and Muslims in the east) are further complicated by a most violent dispute within the Christian community itself.
The spark of the Reformation, struck by Luther in 1517, blazes for a century and a half across the whole of western Europe. From martyrdom of Protestants in one place and Catholics in another, through sudden massacres (as on St Bartholomew's Day in France) to prolonged warfare (the Thirty Years' War), the prevailing mood of the continent becomes one of religious intolerance and frenzy, often usefully put to the service of politics. Not till the late 17th century does national interest transcend religious fevor.
History on the Designer
Francesco Griffo (1450–1518), also called Francesco da Bologna, was a fifteenth-century Venetian punchcutter and made a career as a goldsmith. He worked for Aldus Manutius, designing printer's more important typefaces, including the first italic type. A little background about Aldus is that he was interested in Greek literature and it inspired him to print the important Greek texts, which he planned to salvage, edit, and publish in Greek, translate into Latin, and make available to the growing audience for the classics. Aldus chose Venice as the location of this major venture in Italian publishing, to be called the Aldine Press. The city, the great center of trade between Europe and the East, which provided a cosmopolitan market for the books. His romans show a degree of abstraction from calligraphy not present in the work of the earlier master Nicolas Jenson, while his italic and Greek types are notably cursive. He was the first modern type designer, in the sense that he devised types for the mechanical craft of printing and not for an alternative to hand-written manuscript. His initial project in Venice was to invent a typeface called Bembo, which is regarded as the most modern in appearance of all 15th century types. Their collaboration broke up over a copyright dispute, primarily over the ownership of the cursive typeface that Griffo developed under the direction of Aldus. Although Aldus even had a papal decree to protect this style of alphabet, it was as difficult then as it is now to protect a typeface design. The alphabet was widely copied, and the style is known as italic, after its country of origin. Just as Manutius had achieved a monopoly on italic printing and Greek publishing with the permission of the Venetian government, he had a falling out with Griffo. In 1516, after he returned to Bologna, Griffo was charged with the murder of his son-in-law, who had been beaten to death with an iron bar. Bembo and Griffo font types are the two typefaces that Griffo created. Typefaces based on his work include Monotype Poliphilus roman, Bembo Book roman, and Bembo Titling, Morris Fuller Benton's Cloister Old Style italic, Jack Yan's JY Aetna roman, Bitstream Aldine 401 roman, and Franko Luin's Griffo Classico roman and italic; more distant descendants include the romans of Claude Garamond, Giovanni Mardersteig's Dante, and Robert Slimbach's Minion. The characters Italic, drawn as has been said to imitate the writing of Petrarch (most probably drawn from the calligraphy used for the papal diplomacy) and even keep a cursive character, were easier composition and had the advantage of occupying less space than the Roman and Gothic characters using until then, which allowed Manutius to reduce the amount of paper and both production costs. In this edition of Virgil mentions the name of France as the creator of typographic characters. And in the end His innovations included inexpensive, pocket-sized editions of books with cloth covers. Because more of these narrow letters that slanted to the right could be fit on a page, the new pocket-sized books could be set in fewer pages.
Anatomy of a Typeface by Alexander Lawson. David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc. 1990 pg 73-77
The Complete Typographer by Will Hill. Pearson Prentice Hall 2005 pg