I have been reading through a print copy of an older historical novel, ‘Arundel’ by Kenneth Roberts, first published in 1930 but my edition printed in the mid-Fifties. It is a decent tale of the Revolutionary War period but that is not what I wish to write of here.
What I immediately noted was the attractive typeface. It seemed — felt? — perfectly suited to the subject matter. And it was not overly difficult to identify: Caslon Old Face. As Caslons go, I would be inclined to favor it over most of the modern alternatives available from Adobe, et al. Good fonts, some of them, to be sure, but with a different feel. It would definitely be on my short list of typefaces for certain sorts of novels (including perhaps Westerns). And I do have rights to use the BitStream clone, which helps.
Caslons, in general, are good choices. More versatile than the plethora of Garamond variants out there? I don’t know, but pretty much up there with them. Caslon, in one form or another, has a long history of being a preferred nonfiction font, and has seen wide use in textbooks. Another variant of which I am somewhat fond is Imprint, a font in the Caslon style designed in the early Twentieth Century.
On the subject of typefaces, I received an order of a few copies of my novel ‘God of Rain’ a couple days ago. Now all my proofs had been perfect, as had my last order, but the fonts were messed up in the books I received this time. Why? It is hard to say but I can probably blame the Infini face I used in places — headers, footers, some titling. The text, in tried-and-true URW Garamond No.8, was fine. Lesson learned: stick to the safe stuff as much as possible for the book interiors and, maybe, avoid mixing fonts too much. It may have been a fluke, a bad printing batch, but I am redesigning GOR with pretty much all Garamond inside — that gave me an incentive to do another proofreading go-through, so that’s to the good.
Covers are, of course, another matter. Use whatever one wishes there!
It’s going to be converted to a graphic anyway. But if using the free (and sometimes less professional) stuff, be careful of kerning and so on. Anything can be made to look decent with a little effort — but a good Caslon is still a great choice.