A Guide to the Basic Characteristics of Old Style Fonts

Keys on antique typewriter keyboard
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In typography, Old Style is a style of serif font developed by Renaissance typographers to replace the Blackletter style of type.

Based on ancient Roman inscriptions, Old Style fonts are generally characterized by:

  • low contrast between thick and thin strokes
  • bracketed serifs
  • a left-leaning axis or stress

There are two groups of Old Style typefaces:

  1. Venetian (Renaissance): Characterized by obvious diagonal stress and a slanted bar on the lowercase e, some type classification systems put Venetian into its own class apart from Old Style.
  2. Garalde (Baroque): With a horizontal bar on the lowercase e, more wedge-like serifs, slightly less diagonal stress than the Venetian Old Style, and a little more contrast between thick and thin strokes. Some type classification systems further divide Old Style by country of origin —Italian, French, Dutch, English.

Examples: Centaur (Venetian Old Style), Garamond, Goudy Oldstyle, Century Oldstyle, Palatino, and Sabon (all Garalde Old Style) are classic serif fonts that are examples of Old Style Serif fonts.