If you are looking for some nice decorative lettering for your copy, free dauphin font may be just the thing. In spite of a checkered history, the font has proven useful and popular across the web and in print.
An Imperfect Copy
Unlike many other fonts that are supposedly free, you would be hard-pressed to find a place to actually buy Dauphin. The font is actually a bastardized version of the Linotype font ''Delphin," which is a calligraphy-based font characterized by long, curving strokes on letters such as "h" and n, as well a wider series of Roman-style caps. It is technically a serif font, though many of the letters look san-serif (especially the lower-case).
During the battles in the 1990's over standardizing font types (TrueType, OpenType, Microsoft and Apple and Adobe all being involved) there was one company called Corel that tried to contend with the other desktop publishing companies. With applications such as CorelDraw and CorelWrite, they did not want to have to license from other companies to use Delphin - so they simply created their own version, known as Dauphin. There are minor differences - mainly in the way strokes are finished off - but to the layman's eye the two fonts are almost completely identical.
While Corel did not survive the difficulties of the dot com crash, the Dauphin font did, and it is now available for free from many websites. While many "free" font websites have either amateur font creations or bootlegged versions (which makes downloading them the equivalent of stealing) Dauphin is one of the few that is professionally created and also actually available for free - in fact, an extensive Google search reveals no place where you could actually purchase the font.
Some of the places to download the free Dauphin font are:
Because it is free, not many of the sites offering Dauphin offer the kinds of preview features that most fonts on major sites such as Fonts.com have. However, you can see a pretty close approximation of what the lettering would look like by using the preview feature for Delphin instead.
Where to Use the Free Dauphin Font
Keep in mind that the Dauphin font is decorative. This means that a large block of text in the font would be rather difficult to read. It is more often used in headings or to lend an air of European history to a poster. The flowing strokes of the lower-case letters combined with the strong, squared-off authority of the capitals make it a sophisticated font for elegant messages - probably not the thing for a child's birthday invitation.
It also is a bit flamboyant, and so would probably not be appropriate for business presentations or more serious signs. One way you could try and decide whether the font would be appropriate would be to ask yourself "Would flowers be appropriate with this sign/presentation/invitation/whatever?" If the answer is no, then you may want to reconsider using the free Dauphin font. If you do decide to use it for a lot of text, make sure you adjust the line height, word spacing, and kerning so that the letters have enough space to be legible.
One way that Dauphin font can really help you is in using it in combination with other fonts. Keep in mind, however, that using more than two fonts on any document is a dangerous business in terms of design - while it's allowable, you really have to know what you're doing to make it work. Some designers do advocate the use of serif with sans-serif fonts if you are going to combine fonts, but again be careful - using the Dauphin font, which is more squared-off, with a vertically based rectangular font like Helvetica would probably clash.
Your best bet is to design your piece and then have several people look at it, and give you an honest opinion about whether it looks legible and friendly to the eye.