Some questions about fonts specified in a colophon
February 19, 2007 8:32 PM   Subscribe

I have a book that, in the colophon, says, "Text: 9.5 / 12.5 Rotis Serif". I know Rotis Serif is the font, but what do the two numbers mean? I tried setting that font to 9.5 size and 12.5 leading but it doesn't look anything like the layout in the book. Same for reversing those numbers. (more)

The book also says "Display: Rotis Serif" which I assume refers to the titles of the stories in the book. But there's no numbers given for these. I tried 12.5 as the size of the titles and 9.5 as the body but, again, it doesn't look like the example in the book.

Lastly, the book specifies the font as "Rotis Serif" but all the Rotis Serif fonts I have have numerals after them (Rotis Serif 56; Rotis Serif 65; etc.). I assume these numbers are the weight or boldness of the font--how can I find out what was used in the book--is it possible there's a Rotis Serif that doesn't have a number after it? (I've searched and not found any.) Thanks!
posted by Manhasset to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
The 9.5 refers to the point size and the 12.5 the leading (linespace) between the lines. Depending on your software and settings and the source of your fonts you may end up with very different results from the book. There's also no guarantee the book pages weren't photographically enlarged or reduced during production.

The numbers were a European system for indicating relative font weights which is only used in a few cases (Univers, Helvetica Neue and a few others): for example 35 is ultralight, 55 is regular, 75 is bold, and the corresponding even numbers are the same weights obliqued.
posted by zadcat at 9:20 PM on February 19, 2007

The size/leading may be accurate but the horizontal scale may be something other than 100% (in other words, the type may be "squeezed") , either by design or accidentally.

Also, remember that 12.5 is hardly a display size-- and display fonts are designed specifically for display sizes.
posted by jouster at 9:37 PM on February 19, 2007

Manhasset, check your email. I've just sent you a PDF with the settings you have above. If it matches your book the problem is your end. I used Rotis Serif from Linotype (no numbers) and Quark XPress to produce the PDF.
posted by tellurian at 10:28 PM on February 19, 2007

Thanks all for your answers. tellurian, I wrote you back, thank you--your PDF helped.

My # 55 font seems to be the same as the unnumbered face you used.

Now, I can't seem to figure out why my phone doesn't have a left quotation mark. Weird.
posted by Manhasset at 10:03 AM on February 20, 2007

Yeah, I noticed that quotation thing after I emailed you. When I type over it, it appears as a correct open quotation. So no, it doesn't behave the way yours does. If you're on a mac try 'option key and open square bracket' and 'option plus shift key and open square bracket' for open and close quotation marks. “” 'Close square bracket' for singles. ‘’
posted by tellurian at 2:06 PM on February 20, 2007

9.5 / 12.5 doesn't mean 9.5 point type with 12.5 points additional space between the lines. Rather, it refers to the days of type cast in molten lead, with 9.5 point type cast on a 12.5 point body. Thus, there would be 3 points of extra space (12.5 minus 9.5) between the lines.

You can't measure the space and get this, however, since the lead body of the type for every character went from the top of the tallest letter possible (usually the lower case "l" (ell) to the bottom of the longest "descender" (usually the tail of the lower case "y").

Hot type is dead, but it rules us from its grave.
posted by KRS at 2:05 PM on February 21, 2007

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