The Typehead Chronicles: Centaur
      Of Thomas Christensen, ABCedminded Typesetter  

homeward bound




Identifying Characteristics

  • tail of J descends below baseline and points down
  • ball of 9 doesn’t close
  • diagonal bar on e
  • serifs on center bar of E
  • upper serifs of M are single-sided, pointing out
  • distinctive parens with unmodulated stroke


The roman capitals were designed as a titling font by Bruce Rogers for the Metropolitan Museum 1912–14. Subsequently lowercase letters were added, and the font was released by Monotype in 1929 (the same year it released Bembo). Based on roman type by Nicolas Jenson, Venice, 1469

The italic (called Arrighi) was designed by Frederic Warde, 1925, based on Ludovico Arrighi’s chancery font, Venice, 1520.

The typeface is named after the publication it was first used in, Maurice de Guérin's
The Centaur (printed in an edition of 660 copies at the Press of the Wooly Whale).

Character and Use

Digital Centaur’s lining figures are not particularly attractive and if they are needed (for example, with an all-caps head) consider substituting figures from another Venetian font.

If Centaur’s small caps appear too small, consider making them slightly larger.

Note that Centaur’s regular hyphen (-) is different from its italic hyphen (-). This can look odd in end-line stacks.

Centaur is at its best when set with generous (25–50%) leading.

Say What?

Printed letterpress, Centaur and Arrighi are unrivalled in their power to evoke the typographic spirit of the Venetian Renaissance, but in the two-dimensional world of digital composition and offset printing, this power is easily lost.”
      — Robert Bringhurst

Oddball coelecanth of a typeface.”
      — Joe Clark (“Toronto writer/editor and content consultant,”

For all-time most beautiful face, I nominate Bruce Rogers' Centaur. It's not a general-purpose face at all, like the usual Times or Helvetica (the latter still has a beauty that is underappreciated); but Centaur lives nobly on a page and yet invites its readers to honor both it and its message with their own intelligence and understanding.
      — Gary Munch






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