Font pairing for Caslon


I'm tinkering with a small booklet that contains an ancient Buddhist sutta text and modern commentary, interweaved in a form of reading monologue: some sutta text, some commentary, more sutta text, and so forth.

For the sutta text I thought to use Caslon (link) but can't quite come up with a font for the modern commentary. Something light and sans-serif, perhaps, even italic?

If not Caslon and a light sans-serif, then what other pairings would make sense? Somehow I'm not drawn to using normal/bold combination of the same font though.

EDIT After I've accepted Andrew Leach's answer, I started poking around FontShop for a while. I quite like the proposal of using the same family in serif/sans, and for example Milo (link) seems to make for a legible reading type. The old sutta text set in Milo Serif Medium:

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and descriptive commentary in the lighter and more modern looking Milo Light Italic:

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In that case, should I use size variations of Milo Light Italic for headings? There won't be any more than chapter headings. What about table of content, and opening pages?

2/13/2014 10:29:00 PM

Accepted Answer

One of the problems with Caslon is that it's very old-fashioned. That is obviously what has attracted you to using it, but its age and the style of the time is that the tracking is naturally quite wide:


When trying to get a sans to go with that, which is a good idea, you need to consider the letter-shapes (like the high cross-bar on e and the upward slope of the bowl of a and perhaps the little tail of u):

Rosemary Samuels

But you also need to consider x-height (this sans is too great) and although the overall width here is similar, each letter is wider and natural tracking is reduced. It may be possible to use a font like this — this is Rosemary Samuels — and tweak its metrics so that the letters are slightly narrower and they are spaced a little further apart.

Pehaps something like Linotype Projekt would do, although this doesn't appear to come in a lighter weight than this, which may need a heavier version of Caslon.

Linotype Projekt

On the other hand, if you can discount Caslon, there are a number of families which are available in both serif and sans form: those are bound to match. These are a couple of my favourites:


Scala Scala Sans


Calluna Calluna Sans

All images from

2/4/2014 9:44:00 AM