Font Designer – Alfred Fairbank

Alfred Fairbank (born 12. 7. 1895 in Grimsby, died 14. 3. 1982 in Hove) created the font Fairbank™ in 2006.
Monotype Bembo™ is generally regarded as one of the most handsome revivals of Aldus Manutius’ 15th century roman type, but the original had no italic counterpart. The story is told that Stanley Morison commissioned Alfred Fairbank, a renowned calligrapher, to create the first italic for Bembo™, which was released as metal fonts in 1929. Alfred Fairbank, however, claimed that he drew the design as an independent project and then sold his drawings to Monotype. According to him, "the statement has been made that I was asked to design an italic for the Bembo roman. This is not so. Had the request been made, the italic type produced would have been different."

Whichever version you believe, it was obvious that Fairbank’s design – while undeniably beautiful – was not harmonious with Bembo roman. A second, more conventional italic was eventually drawn and added to the Bembo family.

Fairbank’s first design, which was based on the work of sixteenth-century writing master Ludovico degli Arrighi, managed to have a modest life of its own as a standalone font of metal type. It never made the leap into phototype fonts, however, and the face could have been lost, were it not for Robin Nicholas, Monotype’s Head of Typography in the United Kingdom, and Carl Crossgrove, a senior designer for Monotype in the US.

Nicholas and Crossgrove used the original drawings for Fairbank as the starting point for a new digital design, but this was only the beginning. They improved spacing, added subtle kerning and optimized the design for digital imaging. In addition, Nicholas created an alternative set of lowercase letters, fancy and swash capitals and enough alternate characters to personalize virtually any design project.

By the time his work was complete, Nicholas and Crossgrove had created a small type family that included Fairbank, a revived version of the earlier metal font, and Fairbank Chancery, a more calligraphic rendition of the design. An additional suite of ornate caps, elegant ligatures, and beginning and ending letters accompanies both fonts, as does a full complement of lowercase swash characters. Now, instead of a failed Bembo italic, Fairbank emerges in its true glory: a sumptuous, elegant design that will lend a note of grace to holiday greetings, invitations, and any application where its Italianate beauty is called for.


Fairbank Font Family is part of the Monotype Library OpenType Edition.
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Related products

Fairbank™ font family (Monotype Library)