How to Buy Fonts, or, Beware of non-Pro Fonts

I’m not exactly in the market for ordering fonts (strictly limited budget), but I’ve been playing around on the web sites of various foundries looking for a font that gets the late-19th century look for text that I want. I think I’ve found one: Monotype Modern.

It was the first font cut by the new Monotype corporation for their new typesetting machine, in the 1890s, so it reflected the design sentiments of the time. Plus it comes in various widths and variants, which is important if you want to do things like set headings in a condensed, expanded-spaced version of the body text (as was the fashion in the era).

But, the fonts come in a confusing number of varieties: a plain version, a “Std” version, and a “Pro” version. Some quick testing revealed that the plain versions of fonts typically lack all ligatures, the “Std” version has “fi” and “fl” only, and the “Pro” version has the full set of ligatures.

So, basically, if you’re not ordering the “Pro” version, you’re ordering some dumbed-down garbage being marketed to computer geeks who know virtually nothing about proper typography. Note that the original Monotype Modern font came with a full set of ligatures, so it’s totally honest to paint non-Pro fonts as subpar. Because they are.

And that explains why Times Roman is such a mess. The “Times New Roman” that Apple distributes via Microsoft is the plain version of the font. The “Times” they distribute is the “Std” version. The only “Pro” grade serif fonts distributed with Mac OSX are Baskerville and Hoefler Text.

It’s a pity that Apple chose to distribute what amounts to a subpar variant of Times Roman. It’s not a surprise Microsoft would choose the lowest of the low quality grades, but one tends to expect better of Apple.

The consolation is that the Hoefler Text and Baskerville fonts they ship are top-quality serif fonts well-suited to body texts. I highly doubt if Microsoft ship anything remotely comparable with Windows as a standard item.

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