When was Garamond invented?

Adobe Garamond Premier Pro italic ampersand
Adobe Garamond Premier Pro italic ampersand

A friend asked me the other day when Garamond was invented, and I really didn’t know what to say. Garamond is a popular and widely used typeface, or font.

When I bought my first laser printer nearly twenty years ago, it came bundled with a version of Garamond (a kind of technological “gift-with-purchase”): Agfa Garamond, which came in four German-named varieties: Garamond Antiqua, Kursiv, Halbfett and Kursive Halbfett (standard roman, italic, bold and bold italic). It’s a clean and very usable interpretation of the font, though it is a little plain and stiff for my liking. But it’s not really Garamond.

Why not?

Well, no font is really Garamond.

Claude Garamond (c. 1480–1561), the French punch-cutter (that is, typeface designer and maker, of the generation or two before Shakespeare, 1564-1616), never named a font after himself, and the dozens of modern interpretations of the font that looks like one of the many fonts he cut, more or less, are really based on a mix of his and other people’s designs.

After his death, the roman face he mainly used was taken up and developed further by French punch-cutter Jean Jannon. In a 1926 article in «The Fleuron», Beatrice Warde revealed that many of the revivals said to be based on Claude Garamond’s designs were actually designed originally by Jannon; but the Garamond name had stuck. (The 1920s saw a remarkable efflorescence of English typography, by the way.)

And the italics of most contemporary versions of Garamond are based on the italics of Garamond’s assistant Robert Granjon.

And then there’s a very nice typeface called Granjon, which type historian Alexander Lawson says is ‘the best modern recutting of the original Garamond design’! Ugh! Very messy!

To my mind the most elegant version of all is the current Adobe Garamond Premier Pro face, cut (sorry, ‘designed’) by the master typographer Robert Slimbach, a Californian, believe it or not. It comes free when you buy an Adobe program like InDesign. (Uh… did I say ‘free’? Before you buy the wonderful type layout program InDesign, you really should have a frank talk with your bank manager.)

Even then, I find the lower-case italic ‘a’ too squashed for my taste. But typefaces are all about taste in the end, and as the ancient Romans use to say, ‘De gustibus non disputandum est’… there’s no arguing about taste.

Here’s Monotype Garamond Italic:

Monotype Garamond Italic
Monotype Garamond Italic

And here below is the Afga Garamond Kursiv I was talking about earlier:

Agfa Garamond Kursiv
Agfa Garamond Kursiv

They may both be called “Garamond”, but they are hardly the same, are they?

And to wind up, here are some links to some enlightening samples of more varieties of Garamond than you can poke a composing stick at, at http://fontseek.com/fonts/garamond.htm:

Berthold Garamond (Berthold)
AGaramond (Adobe)
Adobe Garamond (Adobe)
Garamond (Adobe)
Garamond (Adobe)
GaramondBE (Adobe)
GaramondThree (Adobe)
ITC Garamond (Adobe)
ITCGaramondMM (Adobe)
SimonciniGaramond (Adobe)
Stempel Garamond (Adobe)    
AmericanGaramondBT (Bitstream)    
ClassicalGaramondBT (Bitstream)    
ElegantGaramondBT (Bitstream)    
GaramondITCbyBT (Bitstream)    
ItalianGaramondBT (Bitstream)    
OriginalGaramondBT (Bitstream)    
GaramondNo2DCD (Deneba)    
GaramondNo2SCT (Deneba)    
GaramondNo2T (Deneba)
GaramondNo4T (Deneba)
GaramondNo5 (Deneba)
GaramondNo9T (Deneba)    
GaramondSteD-Medi (Deneba)    
URWGaramondSteD-Demi (Deneba)    
URWGaramondT (Deneba)    
Garamond Condensed (Fonthaus)    
AGaramond (Linotype)    
Adobe Garamond (Linotype)    
Garamond #3 (Linotype)    
Garamond No. 5 EF (Linotype)    
Garamond (Linotype)    
ITC Garamond (Linotype)    
Simoncini Garamond (Linotype)    
SimonciniGaramond (Linotype)    
Stempel Garamond (Linotype)    
StempelGaramond (Linotype)    
AGaramond (Monotype)    
AGaramondAlt (Monotype)    
AGaramondExp (Monotype)    
Garamond (Monotype)    
SimonciniGaramond (Monotype)    
StempelGaramond (Monotype)    
Garamond Adobe Alternate (Nagtype)    
Garamond Adobe (Nagtype)    
Garamond ITC by Bitstream (Nagtype)    
Garamond ITC by Linotype (Nagtype)    
Garamond ITC by URW (Nagtype)    
Garamond Italian (Nagtype)    
Garamond Simoncini (Nagtype)    
Garamond Three (Nagtype)    
Garamond Two Medium (Nagtype)    
Garamond Two Regular (Nagtype)    
Garamond URW (Nagtype)    
Garamond American (Tiger’sTypeSpecialists)    
1520 Garamond (Tiro)    
Garamond (URW)    
Garamond American (Xara)    
Garamond (Typos Type)    
Garamond Expert (Typos Type)