I'm looking for the font used in the following text:

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The book in question is Beowulf, ed. A. J. Wyatt, published 1894 at the Cambridge University Press. You can see scans of it here.

This looks quite similar to a ''Century'' font, especially the long tail on the 't' that ends vertical and the spurs on letters like d and u. However, the '"valley" in the top of the "r" looks much smaller. Also, this book was printed in 1894, which was the very year Century was first introduced (ATF having being founded in 1892 in the US), which gives me pause, since this is a UK book. Also the thorn (þ) is radically different from the modern font (it looked more like a wynn, ƿ, in the original). Also the serif on the 7 goes up and down in the original.

ITC Century Book:

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Is "Century-with-a-different-thorn" the correct font here?

1 Answer 1


This is a generic "modern serif" type, or Didone font. There were dozens of them in the late nineteenth century, it was the standard style of font for most printing. Every type foundry of the time made fonts of this style. So this one won't have had a name or a famous designer, and the thorn likely was designed as a separate character as an extension to the original font. This specimen book shows you what I mean, the modern faces go on for pages. None have names or credited designers.

It's hard to recommend a specific font given your linguistic needs, but Theano Didot is designed for academic use, and Brunel from Commercial Type is probably the most complete modern font of this design. It's a huge family with many styles for different sizes of text, but I've linked to the Text optical size which is likely closest to what you need.

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The nineteenth century was a period when names of font designers often get hard to come by: foundries employed lots of engravers to make new fonts, in contrast to previous centuries when engravers would set up their own foundries which primarily sold types they personally cut, and the twentieth century when brand-name font designers like Tiemann or Gill or Goudy or Renner emerge, people who drew fonts out to be made into fonts using pantograph engraving machines or later phototypesetting (which often involved a lot of redrawing by anonymous technical drawing staff, of course, who you could argue did a lot of work behind the scenes uncredited, but this is another story).

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