What is a colophon?

I may have first encountered the notion of a colophon in a Chinese humanities class in undergrad, during a section on handscrolls (like the one below, apparently made around 1310 CE). These were typically commentaries by later scholars and artists, providing context for the work and/or artist and expressing admiration.

A minimalist calligraphic brush painting of a landscape in which mountains are in the background and pines are in the foreground. The painting is on a scroll meant to be viewed from right to left, and seals and text adorn each side.
Twin Pines, Level Distance, by Zhao Mengfu (趙孟頫), retrieved from The Met’s Open Access collection.

The colophons for this painting are in separate images but translated on The Met’s page for the work, linked to in the caption. I've excerpted them below because they’re wonderful.

From Yang Zai (楊載):

My native home is a hut beside the great river,
But for many years now I have lived away in the capital.
Today it is as if a fishing pole had come into my hands,
As I enjoy perusing this painting.

From Tong Xuan (童軒), born more than 100 years after this painting was made:

The Twin Pines, Pure and Distant scroll, painted and inscribed with a colophon by the respectable Zhao Wenmin [Zhao Mengfu] of Wuxing [in Zhekiang], has been acquired by Academician Suxuan [Qian Ning], who appreciates it profoundly. Suxuan’s character and family background compare closely with Wenmin’s, so, respecting the man, he loves his painting.

Or I may have first encountered the notion in William Bringhurst’s gorgeous book The Elements of Typographic Style, after which I’ve wanted to use Minion for just about everything. This aligns more with how websites typically employ a colophon.

The cover of the book The Elements of Typographic Style, in which the background is black and the title is white. In the lower right corner is an a cluser of the letter 'e' in different languages and typefaces.
Image of colophon. The text reads “This book was designed by Robert Bringhurst.
							It was edited and set into type in Canada, then printed and bound by C&C in Hong Kong.
							The text face is Minion Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach.
							This is an enlargement and revision of Slimbach's original Minion type issued by Adobe Systems. Mountain View, California, in 1989.
							The captions are set in Scala Sans, part of a family of type designed in the Netherlands by Martin Majoor. The face was issued by FontShop International, Berlin, and its affiliates in 1994.
							The paper is Glatfelter Laid, made at the Spring Grove Mill in Pennsylvania.
							It is of archival quality and acid-free.”


This site is built using Astro, and is based on their portfolio template. I'm not very skilled with JavaScript, but I've had to use very little to get this running. My favorite feature of Astro is likely the built-in APIs for managing what it calls “content collections,” often used for, say, blog posts, but which I’ve used so far to manage my portfolio pages, all composed in Markdown.


Body text (like this) is set in Work Sans, a free, libre, open source typeface by Wei Huang.

Headers are set in Cormorant Garamond; that is, the Garamond style of the Cormorant family developed by Christian Thalmann. Cormorant is also free and open source, and you can contribute to it on GitHub or read about it on Behance.

And the site title and navigation are set in Cormorant Infant because I find it delightful.