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Typeface Review

Libertine

Reviewed by André Mora on January 25, 2012

In the OpenType arms race for swashes, contextual ligatures, and alternates that look more like elephants than letters, it’s easy to forget that all scripts must first be judged by how they look.

Libertine is dagger-sharp and sexy. Don’t let the relatively short descenders or that charming ‘g’ fool you. There’s something devious in how quickly the letters shoot up and down. Like a paper cut, it sneaks up on you. This script has its curves but is far more interested in angles, leading to boxy apertures and a trenchant tone.

Now, Libertine still has a robust glyph palette that will surely help when repetitive characters hurt the typography. But, for the most part, the alternates serve as slight, deft touches, rather than overwrought flourishes that demand to be tried. There’s nothing worse in setting scripts than getting to the end of a treatment and finding you’ve unleashed every trick.

The biggest surprise is in the numbers. Most notably, the ‘2’, ‘3’, and ‘5’ show off a sort of handmade feel. It’s this kind of crafty finish that keeps Libertine from aged classicism and allows it to work so well in a contemporary setting. It pairs easily with bold sans serifs.

Go ahead, slice pages in half with 500-point drop caps. Give your perfect little Swiss grid some much needed energy. Remind yourself that every stroke need not be “pretty”. At $50, Libertine will set you free.

André Mora is an editor and typographer at Font Bureau. He has designed a lot of magazines and taught Publishing Design at Cornish College of the Arts. He likes it when fonts are printed on paper.

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Typographica is a review of typefaces and type books, with occasional commentary on fonts and typographic design. Edited by Stephen Coles and designed by Chris Hamamoto. Founded in 2002 by Joshua Lurie-Terrell. Relaunched in 2009 by Coles and Hamamoto.

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