You may be familiar with the Adam-Tannery edition of the works of Descartes (it's canonical). If so, you know how beautifully it was set. If you don't know it, feast your eyes on one of the best post-didone French design. A wonderful "elzevirien." Just look at how soothing and transparent that face is. Beatrice Warde, eat your heart out!
I know that Mr Mario Feliciano has been working on a text version of his font, Parnaso. I hope he'll look to this French design for inspiration. If any old face deserves a revival, it's this one.
Incidentally, at around the same time, the Dutch Academy of Sciences was putting out Huygens' complete works. It's the most fantastic version of metal-press Fleischmann I've ever seen. I'll look for a good sample to post here. Unfortunately, it'll just put to shame most of the digital revivals we have of 18th-c. Dutch Baroque faces. Still, worth seeing it.
(BTW, I think one thing that makes this Fleischmann superior -- for the reading experience -- is the lower x-height, relative to the modern revivals. And, of course, the lower contrast that comes from the ink spread. So wonderful...
I know I sound like An Old, but when I see these books, I must exclaim, "They don't make'em like they used to...")
You're right about the Elzevirien coming in optical sizes. I compared the glyphs in the main text and the footnotes, and it's clear.
Lastly, I'm going to go out on a limb and say, yes, even for economic reasons, a revival of that French font would we a good idea. A good serif would make money. I've seen Lyon, Freight, Ogg, Sang Bleu, and Ivar on a lot of websites, billboards, web ads, and posters. I'd bet a lot of money a good, wide-ranging revival would sell really well. I wish I knew why the folks at Production Type didn't choose this path, when they made Spectral. They had to go and rip off Porchez' Le Monde. Why?!.....
And another, even smaller.
For comparison, I submit another version of Corps Douze italics that were in vogue then, very beautifully but also understated, just the way Frutiger liked a text font. These ones went by the strange name of Elzevir Plantin.
But, I'm more optimistic about this one, if it were done right. There's already a small corner in the market that an elzevirien could take over and grow from there:
Part of the "taste" aspect nowadays is ruthless self-promotion, I feel. Exempli gratia: a lot of graphic design kewl kidz go with LL Bradford, which is far from a good font. But, 10 years in the making! But, expensive! But, Swiss! Same goes for the serif fonts coming out from those two other Western European way-hipper-than-thou foundries, which I leave unnamed for the sake of decency. Aren't they just novelties that feel stale after 15 minutes, unless you're an unread, insecure kid fresh out of design school? So, yeah, maybe it wouldn't make a big splash. But, if it comes out made well, it might stick around for a decade or so, until the excitement over the next gimmick from Lineto wears off, and enough people can think with a cool head.
To restate my point, I can't see how a good digitization of the French face we've discussed above could possibly do any worse than these ones.
We put Henry Moore and Brancusi in museums, and we all genuflect to Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano -- it's high time we put Stanley Morison on that pedestal, too. He's more than earned his right to it.
McGill Serif: Shame nobody noticed the caps are honkingly too large (killing readability whenever there's an acronym).