What font specification commands should I have in my Tufte-based document if I'm rendering it using XeLaTex?

My document renders as expected using pdfLaTeX, but when I switch to XeLaTeX, though everything else works fine, the fonts revert to the bland defaults, and look nothing like those in Tufte's books.

I understand I need something like:


So my question boils down (I think) to what those ?s should be.

  • It is not clear if you want to copy Tufte's typefaces or get advice on other candidate typefaces.
    – user10274
    Feb 7, 2012 at 0:44
  • Both (and either). The result I'm starting from is (as stated) the result I get (without the answers below) looks nothing at all like Tufte because of the fonts used.
    – orome
    Feb 7, 2012 at 0:55
  • OK, so yo do seem to want to follow Tufte in his choice of style. Bembo is the main font in Visual Display of Quntitative Information, which is the only of his books I have (they're expensive:) What kind of document are you working on?
    – user10274
    Feb 7, 2012 at 1:02
  • @MarcvanDongen: Mostly short idea papers, for which I find Tufte excellently suited. (I'm a beginner too, so partly I'm also interested in kicking the tires and figuring out how things work.)
    – orome
    Feb 7, 2012 at 1:23

2 Answers 2


Tufte used a slightly modified version of Bembo for the headings and body text. You can purchase Bembo online from Monotype Agfa (search that site for Bembo to find other packages and individual fonts). There's a knock-off version that provides the entire family of fonts cheaply and a few of the fonts for free.

Tufte used Gill Sans in some of his tables, illustrations, and other places. I believe that Gill Sans comes free with Mac OS X. If I remember correctly, the Gill Sans design is no longer covered by copyright (though typeface designs in the US are never covered by copyright), so you may be able to find new renderings of it more easily now. (Note that TrueType and OpenType font files themselves may be covered by copyright even if the font design isn't.)

In the Tufte-LaTeX document classes, I've set the monospaced font to use Bitstream Vera Sans. This font is freely available from GNOME. You might also be interested in a derivation of Bitstream Vera called DejaVu which has an extended character set and is still being actively improved and developed.

Having said all that, by using XeLaTeX, all of the fonts installed on your computer are available for you to use and you're welcome to select any that you like.

As for the font features, here is the setup that I've used for XeLaTeX with these fonts. You're welcome to customize it to your liking.

\setsansfont[Mapping=tex-text,Numbers=OldStyle,Scale=MatchLowercase]{Gill Sans}
\setmonofont[Mapping=tex-text,Scale=MatchLowercase]{DejaVu Sans Mono}

The Scale=MatchLowercase option scales the typeface so that the height of the x in each font is the same.

  • Are Bembo and Gill Sans fonts available as LaTeX fonts for use with pdfLaTeX?
    – orome
    Feb 6, 2012 at 22:06
  • 1
    @raxacoricofallapatorius: Not that I'm aware of. There was an older version of the Bergamo fonts that could be converted for use with pdfLaTeX (and the Chantilly fonts from the same site could serve as a replacement for Gill Sans), but I haven't tried those scripts in eons (certainly not since the fonts were updated from TrueType to OpenType).
    – godbyk
    Feb 6, 2012 at 23:15

You should have sample-book.pdf on your system in the tufte documentation tree (.../doc/latex/tufte-latex/sample-book.pdf). On page 19 it says

Tufte’s books primarily use two typefaces: Bembo and Gill Sans. Bembo is used for the headings and body text, while Gill Sans is used for the title page and opening epigraphs in Beautiful Evidence.

Since neither Bembo nor Gill Sans are available in default LaTeX installations, the Tufte-LaTeX document classes default to using Palatino and Helvetica, respectively. In addition, the Bera Mono typeface is used for monospaced type.

Thus I would say

\setromanfont[Ligatures=TeX]{TeX Gyre Pagella}
\setsansfont[Ligatures=TeX,Scale=MatchLowercase]{TeX Gyre Heros}

Unless you have Bembo and Gill Sans, of course. I don't know if there is an OpenType version of Bera Mono.

  • Pagella has no fi ligature
    – user2478
    Feb 6, 2012 at 22:39
  • Why should it? The "f" doesn't bump into the "i"
    – egreg
    Feb 6, 2012 at 22:42
  • @egreg fi ligatures are nice:-)
    – user10274
    Feb 6, 2012 at 23:59
  • @MarcvanDongen I believe that Zapf designed Palatino in order not to have ligatures.
    – egreg
    Feb 7, 2012 at 0:05
  • @egreg If you don't need ligatures you don't. Personally, I love an f with a large hook that's overlooking the following letter. Perhaps that's why I never liked Palatino. Looking at a sample of Palatino, strengthens my belief: the f looks as if it's not allowed to say anything interesting. It's too narrow. Finally (I'd normally have started a paragraph here but the system doesn't let me), with _f_s with large hooks you're bound to need ligatures, which is perhaps why I like them:-).
    – user10274
    Feb 7, 2012 at 0:25

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