Monday, July 31, 2023


The open license Linux Libertine typeface is sometimes touted as a Times New Roman replacement, though the two do not look particularly similar. Libertine is more in the style of such mid-20th Century neoclassical designs as Berling and Palatino.

But it is metrically equivalent to Times. That is, the same words in either typeface should take up about the same amount of space on a page. This means Libertine, as Times, is somewhat closely spaced, though it does not tend to look as cramped in long lines of text. We might compare it more to Adobe’s Minion, which is similarly economically spaced (and expresses a similar design aesthetic).

It may be noted that other typefaces also are equivalent to Times New Roman. That was a common goal in the early days of free typefaces, when TNR was ubiquitous both on and off line. The popular Gentium is one of the most successful of these, though it has more of a Goudy-like appearance (to us, anyway).

Is Libertine a decent typeface? Would we use it as book text? The answer must be a definite ‘maybe.’ One can pick at little details of the design but overall we feel it works pretty well. Definitely as well as many commercial fonts available. But, as Palatino, we might be inclined to reserve it for jobs other than novels. Poetry, perhaps—we have employed Gentium effectively for collections, making sure to keep it relatively large and well spaced. These are type faces that need room to breathe, that might look crowded on the page of a typical novel. Or, as with Minion (or even Times), Libertine could be effective in books or magazines with the text laid out in double columns, on wider pages.

This does not mean we would never use it a body text in a novel. We tested replacing the Berling we used in a couple novels with Linux Libertine and it fitted rather well. Yes, and it looked pretty good, too. So perhaps a future novel from Arachis Press will appear set in Libertine; we do intend to move to open license type, after all, and this one should give us no surprises. It can be one of those workmanlike choices we should all have available as a fall-back choice.

And we would be willing to recommend it as a choice for someone new to setting up a novel (or other book). It will work—and it’s way better than Times!

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