I'm considering purchasing a font from Hoefler & Frere-Jones for my thesis (the font is called Requiem).

Does anybody have any experience with H&FJ fonts? In particular:

  • Are there any issues that I should expect to encounter? How did you resolve them?
  • I'm assuming that the font I'm looking at doesn't have all the characters I use, including Greek and math characters. Can LaTeX default to Computer Modern whenever the a character is not found in Requiem? Would that look good?
  • Are certain flavours of LaTeX better for this task? I currently use pdfLaTeX, but would I get better results with XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX?
  • I'd be interested in hearing what made you choose Requiem, or what it is that makes it perfect for this particular job -- as it's quite an idiosyncratic typeface, making a pretty strong statement of its own.
    – Nils L
    Jun 7, 2013 at 18:20
  • I discovered Requiem when I read Cloud Atlas. I like how thick lines transition to a fine swash, such as in the j, J and R. I like how the small t is shorter than in most fonts, and I think the 'th' combination looks nice together. I especially love the swash on the capital Q, as well as how the numerals are not all vertically aligned. I also enjoy the small caps. Altogether, I find it exotic enough that you notice something interesting about it without being distracted.
    – Anthony
    Jun 8, 2013 at 6:03

3 Answers 3


I have no experice with fonts from H&FJ, but I've licensed a few from a foundry that they collaborate with quite often. I haven't encountered anything I would call an issue (in 3 or so years, LuaLaTeX only). Technically, there isn't a difference between a commercial font and a ›free‹ one in terms of likeliness of causing trouble.

In your case, the font is probably going to be in OpenType format. That's the format pdfLaTeX isn't able to handle. You may convert the font (back) to Type1 or, if that's prohibited by the EULA, have the foundry provide you with Type1 files -- but a lot of the things that make OpenType fonts fun to use will get lost in the translation, or at least become harder to access. IMHO, there are a number of good reasons for switching to Xe/LuaLaTeX (unless you have reasons why you really can't move away from pdfTeX). Being able to use OpenType fonts is one of them.

Computer Modern isn't a font you'd want to use as a companion for Requiem, as visually, they don't have anything in common. Choose one that's rooted in the same period (the Renaissance). Minion is likely to be a good choice: you can use Minion itself for the Greek; for the math you can use one of the math packages that were made to be used with Minion (most notably Minion Math by Typoma).

  • I hadn't given much thought as to which font I would use for Greek characters. Thank you for pointing out Minion; it does look like a better companion to Requiem than Computer Modern. There's nothing tying me to pdfTeX; it's just the flavour I started with and I haven't had reason to change yet. I hear nice things about the others.
    – Anthony
    Jun 8, 2013 at 6:09

I’ve had to use a variety of fonts with LaTeX in the past; some proprietary, some not. These include Avenir, Lyon Text, Helvetica, various monospaced fonts and most recently Adobe Garamond. The font foundry (in your case, HF&J) should have no effect on how you can use them in LaTeX. I don’t think I have any experience with HF&J in particular.

If you have an OpenType font installed on your system (such as one accessible in the drop down menus in Microsoft Word), then XeLaTeX can see it and use it.

There are two packages that are good for this: fontspec and mathspec. Both require XeLaTeX (I think you can use XeTeX, but never tried it myself). Edit: as J.C. Salomon points out in the comments, you can also use LuaLaTeX. I was confusing my personal use of XeLaTeX as being the exclusive configuration.

The fontspec package allows you to use any OpenType font in a LaTeX document, by adding the lines


The different options you can use with regard to ligatures, fall back fonts, defining new font styles and so on are quite extensive, and described fully in the fontspec documentation. I recommend reading it, it’s not too long. (This is where you change stuff like the font you use for digits, Greek characters, etc.)

The second package, mathspec, is a superset of fontspec with some options for mathematical fonts. For example, you can customise the font that operations like \sin and \log are printed in. Again, I recommend reading the package documentation, for details, which covers it better than I can.

If you’re typesetting maths, then you want to use mathspec. Otherwise fontspec should be fine for you. The two packages are very similar, so if you start using fontspec and find you really need the features of mathspec, then changing is very easy.

To answer your three questions directly:

  • I haven’t had any major issues with the custom fonts that I’ve ever used. I’ve never used HF&J fonts (as far as I remember), but I don’t think it should cause any problems.
  • Maths characters usually default to the Computer Modern symbols unless told otherwise. In mathspec you can choose which parts of a typeface to use, so you can choose the digits from Requiem, and Greek characters from Times (for example). Section 4 of the mathspec documentation. Personally I quite like the SIL fonts for Greek.
  • I don’t think pdfLaTeX can handle custom fonts as easily; most people I know use XeLaTeX and LuaLaTeX for the job, and that works well for them.
  • 1
    fontspec works equally well with LuLaTeX; you might want to revise your answer accordingly. mathspec does not seem to use any XeTeX-only features like interchartoks, but is currently written only for XeLaTeX. But if one of the Unicode Math fonts is a match for Requiem (Asana Math in particular might fit), then unicode-math will work for XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX. Jun 7, 2013 at 18:17
  • The amount of control offered by fontspec is beyond anything that I expected, although I really shouldn't be surprised that such possibilities exist. It's good to hear that people have had good experiences with proprietary fonts.
    – Anthony
    Jun 8, 2013 at 6:19

The Requiem font is distributed in OpenType format. Unless you want to go through the trouble of converting the font files into a format that pdfLaTeX can handle, you're better off switching to either XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX.

If you have a Mac, you may be familiar with another H&FJ font, Hoefler Text, as it's one of the system fonts on MacOSX machines. Which non-Latin characters might you need, by the way: Greek? Cyrillic? Hebrew? Arabic? etc? How much math will you be dealing with?

You probably already know that Requiem comes with a slew of ligatures (especially in the italic font shape), including such oddities as fffl (possibly, but not necessarily, usable for some German words such as Sauerstoffflasche, Schlifffläche, and Kunststoffflügel...) and stfj (Västfjord, anyone?!) At the very real risk of sounding like I'm tooting my own horn here, you may want to look into using the selnolig package to help organize the chore of suppressing ligatures if they're not appropriate for the language(s) you'll be using. The selnolig package requires the use of LuaLaTeX.

  • > Sauerstof_f_f_lasche ...safest way to make any German publishing house with some decency reject your manuscript without batting an eyelid ;) »No ligatures across word boundaries in compound words«, that's the iron rule round here. Not that I'm fond of rules, but I'm okay with this one. It just looks odd to German readers, as we perceive the parts of our beloved compound words as pretty independent, despite their being stuck together. --> Sauerstof_f|f_lasche
    – Nils L
    Jun 7, 2013 at 19:08
  • @NilsL - Guess why I wrote "possibly, but not necessarily"? The selnolig package (when loaded with the ngerman language option) will automatically break up all fffl occurrences into ff and fl components. :-)
    – Mico
    Jun 7, 2013 at 20:11
  • I study chemistry, which tends to make heavy use of Greek characters. You rarely encounter any other non-Latin characters.
    – Anthony
    Jun 8, 2013 at 6:22

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