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I want to experiment with fonts for a textbook (with math, so latex is the typesetting program). How can I find suitable and reasonably popular fonts that are halfway between serif and sans-serif --- maybe with smaller serifs or just some letters with serif?

I have been googling, but either such fonts are very obscure or I do not know the specific name I should be googling for.

(somewhat related: Serifs In Sans Serif Fonts)

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  • Can you share an example or two of fonts that are along the lines of what you're looking to find? Nov 6 '21 at 14:59
  • Have you looked at Omni font? Although, it comes in a gothic style font also (san-serif).
    – nocturns2
    Nov 7 '21 at 3:49
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You're probably looking for a "glyphic" sans-serif, one with visible stroke contrast and with swellings at the terminals.

I hugely recommend Heliotrope by Matthew Butterick. It's well-spaced and proportioned for body text, and has a fair price and a common-sense license.
Sample of Heliotrope font

Canela from Commercial Type is more expensive, but the main styles come free with a Mac if you use one. It comes with a lot of optical sizes, weights and features. Ayer from the same designer, Miguel Reyes, is a more expressive heading face. I'm starting to see this everywhere.

Sample of Canela Text font

You might also be interested in a humanist sans-serif (serif-style proportions, but a more monoline structure without serifs) like Ideal Sans.

Sample of Ideal Sans font

Or in Berthold Wolpe's Pegasus typeface, which is definitely a text face but has a kind of chiselled, metallic feel.

Sample of Pegasus font

The most famous design along these lines is Albertus, also by Wolpe, but it's a display typeface. It wouldn't work in a textbook, the contrast is far too high and the color wrong, but might be interesting as a companion for headings. It feels a bit arty for a maths textbook, though. There's a freeware digitization of the main weights.

Sample of Albertus font

Goudy Sans by Frederic Goudy is a typeface that looks great if you take care to use the right weight. The Bold and Black Italic weights are really cheerful and full of warmth. You'd have to have a heart of stone to hate them.

Sample of Goudy Sans font

The regular weight, I don't think so much of. The design concept seems stuck in the Art Nouveau era with that condensed "a" and tilted "e". But when you can license weights one by one it's not a problem.

Sample of Goudy Sans font

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    heliotrope indeed looks wonderful. I need to figure out what to use with it for math support however. mille grazie.
    – ivo Welch
    Nov 4 '21 at 15:49
  • "The regular weight, I don't think so much of" - Blasphemy! Regular-weight Goudy Sans is gorgeous!
    – Vikki
    Dec 29 '21 at 1:51
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What you are describing is commonly referred to as Semi-Serif typefaces (I). Typefaces which are neither serif nor sans-serif, but somewhere in between.

Like all fonts, to me some are more easily read than others. Whether or not they should be used for a "textbook" is more a matter of personal opinion than anything else - and of course, depends on the actual typeface.

Rockeby Semi-Serif is one of my favorite semi-serifs. There are many others though.

enter image description here

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  • are semi-serif the same as humanist typefaces?
    – Luciano
    Nov 4 '21 at 10:53
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    @Luciano no. Humanist in this context refers to the Italian Renaissance. They are typefaces that used early printing and handwriting style as inspiration. "Old Style" Fonts and also e.g. Gill Sans are both generally considered Humanist. I don't perceive Gill Sans as a semi-sans typeface, and most would call it sans-serif (despite the obvious dangly bits). It is a nebulous term, but its main distinction seems centered on geometric decoration
    – Yorik
    Nov 4 '21 at 14:19
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    It's an interesting design, but this doesn't seem like the right fit for a textbook. It's way too condensed; the proportions don't work for body text.
    – Copilot
    Nov 4 '21 at 15:05
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    I wasn't stating I'd use Rockeby for textbook.. merely that I like it. I, personally, would use a humanist serif for a textbook.
    – Scott
    Nov 4 '21 at 18:04
  • Optima is a classic. Also, Linux Biolinum is free and not bad.
    – Ash
    Nov 10 '21 at 18:06

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