I’ve been looking for some fonts that look “colonial” or ancient. This led to finding IM Fell which are Google Free fonts that actually digitized from some existing tests done by Dr. John Fell that were cut in 1672 or so.
The Fell Types: a history and some revival fonts created by Igino Marini using iKern
Source: A history and some revival fonts < The Fell Types
It’s a bit confusing because it is actually a family of related fonts with different digitization sources. John Fell, D.D. was Bishop of Oxford and DEan of Christ Church. From 1668 until his death in 1886, he spent a lifetime creating a learned press at Oxford. He collected fonts from Europe and then decided to create his own but the larger fonts were cut by Peter de Walpergen. They are crude which is part of their charm. Here are the ones that have been duplicated in Google Fonts. Note that these faces had original sizes, so when you are using that keep that in mind, you might use IM Fell French Canon for instance for titles. As an aside, the IM in the letters stands for Igino Marini, the fellow who digitized these.
The Great Primer is probably the most characteristic of these fonts. When ported to Google Fonts, there are a bunch of conventions used and it is a hard to decode. For example, you see the suffix SC after some of these fonts.
I first I thought this referred to the language type. So there are CJK meaning works for Chinese, Japanese and Korean, SC means simplified Chinese vs TC Traditional Chinese, so if you ever think you are going to add Chinese to the site those fonts are a bit bigger, but will work (although Noto is going to work better in all cases since it has so many glyphs).
But this doesn’t make much sense for a Western language fonts like this, but in looking at the fonts, it is pretty clear, it actually means Small Caps. That is, these are fonts where the lower case are just smaller versions of capitals
There are 10 versions available on Google Fonts, so listed on his site are six fonts and it is easy to figure out three of them, but one is a puzzle and one seems to be missing.
- The English Roman and Italic (aka IM Fell English (SC for Small Caps Version).) Fonts in Use says that this is actually cut by Christoffel van Dijck not De Walpergen and was acquired relatively earlier in 1672. Match at 13.5 points. Note the name has been shorted and changed from the original text
- Three Lines Pica. 48 points in the original. 1686.
- IM Fell French Canon (SC). 39 points to match the original. 1686.
- IM Fell Double Pica. (SC). 21 points original. 1684
- IM Fell Great Primer (SC). 17 points original. 1895 and 1687.
- De Walpergen’s Pica (akaIM Fell DW Pica (SC).) 12.5 points original. 1692. Fonts In Use says this is the 12.5 font so that makes sense DW stands for De Walpergen’s Pica.
So it does seem like the most authentic use is to have French Canon for titles, Double Pica for headings as well as Great Primer and then use DW Pica for body text.
In Fonts in Use, they mention one other font that is not in Google Fonts which is IM Fell Flowers. This is a set of ornaments and border elements cut by Robert Granjon.
Some other options and pairings
If you want the next in the line of popular fonts in that era, the Caslon fonts then superseded the Fell fonts, but were revived in 1864 in a revival of the times. Unfortunately, Caslon is not open source, so not an option.
Pairing this is a little tricky as the modern fonts don’t look good with it. One suggestion from Typewolf is to use Libre Franklin, this is an open source version of Franklin Gothic. This was designed in 1902 by Morris Fuller Benton and is named after Benjamin Franklin, it is supposed to give the “newspaper” feel and traditional look.
There is a need tool call Archetype which lets you see actual layouts and recommends types for heading and body. They suggest Lora to go with IM Fell French Primer for example