Page 1


a Typeface by Bruce Rogers

About the Creator Albert Bruce Rogers, the creator of the Centaur Typeface, was born in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1870. Rogers had a long and prolific career as a designer, and was acclaimed by Daniel Berkeley Updike as “the most distinguished designer of books of our time.” 1 Among the many books Rogers designed, three works, all set in his typeface Centaur, stand out as his greatest accomplishments. The T.E. Shaw translations of Homer’s Odyssey, Stanley morison’s essay Fra Luca de Pacioli, and his masterpiece, a folio edition of the Oxford Lecturn Bible. These books are considered among the finest books ever made. From 1896 through 1900, Rogers worked as a book designer at Houghton Mifflin in Boston. There he developed his hallmark style, which, according to his biographer, was characterized by a “direct and forthright approach, a subtle lightness in the seemingly easy placement of words on a page, and above all, a sense of order. Rogers believed that books were meant to be read; his were rarely precious or flamboyant; never objects d’art to be preserved behind glass.” 2


Top Sample of Nicolas Jenson’s typeface, 1470's Bottom First page of Nicolas Jenson’s Eusebius of 1470

Looking to the Past After viewing Jenson’s Eusebius, Rogers was inspired to create his own typeface, in which he copied Jenson’s letter forms as closely as he could. Rogers named his first typeface Montaigne, after the book in which is was first used.

S “At an exhibition of books at the Boston Public Library, I saw for the first time a copy of Nicolas Jenson’s Eusebius of 1470... I was at once impressed by the loveliness of its page, indifferently printed though as they were. The early judgment was confirmed for me many years later when Berkeley Updike wrote of them: ‘to look at the work of Jenson is to think but of its beauty, and almost to forget that it was made with hands.’” 3 – Bruce Rogers


The Creation of Centaur Yet the Montaigne typeface was not entirely satisfactory for Rogers. He used the same Jenson model for his next typeface, Centaur, cut a dozen years later and was finally pleased with the result. Rogers considered the design of his new typeface S“an original design of successful because it exemplified cultivation and grace.” 4 Named after the publication it was first set in, Maurice De Guerin’s Centaur, Rogers’ typeface has come to be accepted as one of the great designs of type. Early uses of Centaur were exclusively for the signage and titling work produced at the Metropolitan Museum in New York as well as for Rogers’s personal book projects. It wasn’t until 15 years later in 1929 that a commercial version of Centaur was made available to machine composition by the English Monotype Company.

S “I have often been asked what I think of Centaur, and although one usually has a bias in favor of his own productions the whole matter is not so far in the past that I believe I can view it without prejudice. My opinion, then, is whatever its intrinsic merits may be, it is too definitely an Italian Renaissance letter, which I have tried to suggest by the classic column in my initial drawing…” 5

Top Cover for Fra Luca de Pacioli of Borgo S. Sepulcro by Stanley Morison, designed by Bruce Rogers using Centaur Bottom Cover for H.G. Well’s The Door in the Wall, Set in Centaur


Characteristics Like other Old Style typefaces, Centaur is characterized by a small x-height, low contrast in weight, diagonal stress, and bracketed serifs.

S “The three qualities named sharp, hard, and definite, are no doubt admirable ones in their place; but Centaur does not take them too readily and naturally, and profits most when somewhat carelessly printed on paper that wouldn’t be passed as perfect in any modern paper mill. It looks surprisingly well on news stock, but we can’t make books of that. It is what might be called a ‘cool’ type unless humored in the composition and press-work.” 5

Centaur Centaur Centaur Centaur

100 pt

72 pt

60 pt

48 pt


36 pt


30 pt


24 pt


18 pt


14 pt


12 pt


aMe single sided serif

large aperture

Slanted crossbar

Oblique stress

Top Centaur Regular, 257 pt Bottom Centaur Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic, 53 pt

Wide capitals

abcdef ghi jklmnopq rstuvwxyz ABCDEFG HIJKLMN O P Q R ST UVW XY Z

9jE Steep serif

slightly open ball

Slanted serif

downward angle descends below baseline

abcdef ghi jklmnopqr s t u v w x y z A B C D E F GHIJKLM N O P Q R ST UVW X Y Z 9

Adobe Jenson Like Centaur, Adobe Jenson's Roman styles are based on the text face cut by Nicolas Jenson in 1470, with it's italics based on those by Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi. The result is an organic, somewhat idiosyncratic font, with a low x-height, and inconsistencies that help differentiate letters to make it a highly readable typeface appropriate for large amounts of text.

Adobe Jenson Regular, 28 pt

Bembo Bembo is a 20th-century revival of the old style typeface cut by Francesco Griffo around 1495, with the current design under the direction of Stanley Morison for the Monotype Corporation in 1929. Bembo is considered an exemplary typeface for expressing classic beauty and elegance in typographic design, often used in book.s

Bembo Regular, 28 pt


Similar Typefaces Adobe Jenson, Bembo and Centaur are characteristic examples of old style, humanist typefaces. The classic old style traits seen in these three fonts include small x-heights, oblique stress,

g g

short, bracketed serifs and minimal variation in stroke weights.

Adobe Jenson Regular, 200 pt

Bembo Regular, 200 pt

Centaur Regular, 200 pt


References 2 Ibid, 10. 3 Ibid, 13. 4 Ibid, 33. 5 Bruce Rogers, The Centaur Type (Chicago: October House, 1949), 13.

Bibliography Sheilah M. Barrett, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces (New York: RC Publications), 72-79. Carter, Sebastian. Twentieth Century Type Designers. Great Britain: Lund Humphries, 2002 (A&A: Z250 A2 C364 1995 and Vault ) Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style. Vancouver: Hartley and Marks, 1997. (A&A: Z246 B745 1996 and Vault) Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces, essays by Carolyn Annand ... [et al.]; edited by Philip B. Meggs and Roy McKelvey, New York: RC Publications, 2000. (A&A: Z250.R45 2000)

This book was made in the Fall of 2010 by Julia Gordon, a Communication Design student at Washington University in St. Louis for Typography 1. Book set in Centaur, additional fonts used include Bembo and Adobe Jenson .

Centaur Book  

Book about the typeface Centaur