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Type Design


Type revival project based on type found in book printed in 1472 by Florentius de Argentina in Venice.

Gautina is the result of my first term at Type West Online, a type design course organised by the Letterform Archive.

Gautina is a revival from type used in 1472. It has a wide round style with angled stress and some contrast. It is suitable for use in a text setting, but also works for titles and headlines. It supports multiple languages, has Old Style and lining figures, Roman numerals, a healthy dose of punctuation, symbols and drop caps. For your enjoyment a few stylistic alternates are included as well.

Source Material

This revival project is based on type found in a book by Gherardo da Cremona titled Theorica Planetarum. It was printed in 1472 by Florentius de Argentina in Venice.

Researching the origins of the type I initially thought it might be by Nicholas Jenson, but digging deeper it turned out to be a little further down the line.

The type was made by Adam Ambergau in Venice. As a printer he had used type by Nicholas Jenson for some years, until he decided to cast his own. He used his type to print one book, then went bust. However his type was picked up by other Venetian printers who – for the most part – liked the look of it. None of them liked Ambergau’s lowercase o. It slanted the wrong way.

Florentius de Argentina was one of the printers who used Ambergau’s type, with a repunched o. Between 1472 and 1473 he printed around 15 books with it. I found seven of them online to use as source material.

The name Gautina is derived from the names of Ambergau and de Argentina.

The print has some lovely features: the pleasant roundness, the large open counters, the little kicks of the h, m and n, the determined accents and a delightful lowercase g.

Whether the bottom bowl of the g was meant to be open or closed is not clear. In some of the source material it is consistently open, in others it is closed. I assume it is a case of wear and tear on the metal type.

I prefer the open version – so that one made the cut.


All the books I found were scanned to a decent enough quality to read – if you’re comfortable with Latin – but not decent enough to use when you want to make a (faithful) revival. Sketching by hand with pen and paper made more sense.

Not all letters of our current alphabet are present in the source, so some “inventing” had to be done on how those letters might look if they had been cast all those centuries ago.

Another decision to make was taking into account the bleeding of ink on paper, which makes type look warm and a little fuzzy. The quality of the printing varies between the different sources so I made guesses and decisions on how corners, serifs and angles will look in the revival.

Going digital

The first draft looked rigid. Ignoring print smudges from the glyphs also removes the character of the original type. “Roughening” things up helped bring it back.

Verticals became less vertical, serifs were made chunkier and the contrast was reduced just enough to make it warmer.

The x-height was raised to make it more usable as a 21st century text typeface. This meant shortening the ascenders and descenders. For the lowercase g this involved some tricky work to make everything fit without losing the delight of the bottom bowl.

Thicker stems & adjusting contrast

Initially the stem thickness was too thin with too much contrast difference between thicks and thins.

Curving the straights

Stems were made slightly concave to introduce the warmth you get from printing ink bleeding on the paper.

Softer serifs

From straight to curved.

Raising the x-height

From too small to pleasant to read and look at.

Refinements & additions

The original books are thin to non-existent for extended punctuation, figures, diacritics or symbols we take for granted now. It was fun to invent the full set, in keeping with the original character of the source of course.

Totally unnecessary, but I added a stylistic alternate for drop caps. Nearly all the source material has space for these to be penned in by hand, but only a few of the books have them filled in.

In the source texts words ending in m or n have the last letter replaced by a kicking leg version. I like how these letters look when used at a large font size, but in text it becomes distracting.

I experimented with having all h, m and n’s straight or all bend. In the end I decided to stick with the source convention – only kicking at the end of a word.

To achieve this I added some custom Python code to the font to substitute glyphs depending on where in a word they are located.

The Outcome


  • In a text setting x-height matters. If it is too small it looks strange.
  • Contrast matters too. Too much of it and at small sizes the thin parts of letters begin to disappear.
  • Get the weight, contrast and spacing right, and you’ll be in a good place.
  • Trust your eyes.
  • Latin uses a lot of abbreviations.
  • Printers in the 15th century didn’t seem all that precious about using hyphens when breaking words at the end of a line.
  • Preview on mac has a cool feature where you can select text in an image and it will convert it to real text.

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