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Who, me? [userpic]

Released a new font: Essays 1743

October 5th, 2004 (09:23 pm)
pleased

current mood: pleased

I just released my new font, Essays 1743, based on a 1743 English translation of the essays of Montaigne. (This is the font I used for the "got freedom?" buttons, etc.)

It's not completely finished; I've got some work to do before I get it up to the standard I hit with Isabella. But it's got all of ASCII, Latin-1, and Latin Extended A, which means it's got the characters needed for all Western European languages, plus many Eastern European ones (the ones that used Roman-based alphabets, anyway).

As with Isabella, it's open source, under the LGPL.

Comments

Posted by: Ailish (oakleaf_mirror)
Posted at: October 6th, 2004 11:00 am (UTC)

Out of curiosity, what tools do you use to work on the fonts? I've used MetaFont in the past, but that can be a bit tedious. I used to know of Fontographer, but that hasn't had an update in 8 years, and won't run native on Mac OS X. Ideally, I want something that will let me handle multiple complex ligatures, and variable kerning. (Though some of that depends on the tools using the font.)

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 6th, 2004 11:15 am (UTC)

Pfaedit (now called FontForge); there's an OS X version, although it does require X Windows.

Pfaedit allegedly does ligatures, but I still haven't seen it work--I created some ligatures for Isabella, but I apparently haven't got any applications that would use them. Variable kerning--you mean, where the effective width of a character depends on the character that comes after it? I'm pretty sure pfaedit has that, though I haven't had use for it myself.

Posted by: Ailish (oakleaf_mirror)
Posted at: October 6th, 2004 10:39 pm (UTC)

Thanks! I know TeX can do ligatures with fonts produced by MetaFont. FontForge claims not to do hinting very well, and ligatures and kerning are the sorts of things that would typically be there, I think. I have to explore a bit to find a practical typesetting or word-processing solution that will work with whatever I make the font so that ligatures work. The font I want to make is based on the hand Luxeuil Minuscule, which is very ligature heavy. Yes, for variable kerning, I meant something like moving AV closer together so that there's not a large diagonal whitespace between them.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 7th, 2004 05:45 am (UTC)

I know TeX can do ligatures with fonts produced by MetaFont.

Ooh, maybe I should try that--FontForge can produce MetaFont fonts. What I'd love to try would be MetaFont's rumored ability to randomize the character appearance; that would be great for fonts that are supposed to look like calligraphic hands, or early printing.

The font I want to make is based on the hand Luxeuil Minuscule, which is very ligature heavy.
Yes, for variable kerning, I meant something like moving AV closer together so that there's not a large diagonal whitespace between them.

Yeah, I think I've played with that a bit. It's in the Metrics window; I mostly use that window as a preview pane, but you can also put two characters side-by-side and tweak the kerning between them.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 9th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC)

Yes, for variable kerning, I meant something like moving AV closer together

I gave it a try, and it does work.

Posted by: Justin du Coeur (jducoeur)
Posted at: October 7th, 2004 10:29 am (UTC)

Very pretty! I'll have to grab that: it's a little too clean to be plausibly period, but is otherwise close enough to a good Elizabethan font to do nicely for many of my purposes.

BTW -- having first seen the Isabella in the A&S display last weekend, I have to say I'm *very* impressed. It's the first time I can recall ever finding myself staring hard at a printout, going "Are you *sure* this isn't hand-calligraphed? You're pulling my leg, right?" I suspect it's going to become a key tool for me: it's just close enough to modern to be legible to most people, while still *screaming* I'm A Period Font Dammit. Really, really lovely work...

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 7th, 2004 10:54 am (UTC)

Very pretty!

Thanks!

close enough to a good Elizabethan font

Maybe I should look again at doing something Elizabethan; the typefaces I've seen have been close enough to my 1743 typeface that I've decided not to bother. Part of the problem is money; the further back I go, the more I have to spend to get a book instead of just a single leaf (which won't have as many of the obscure characters--sometimes not even the full alphabet). One big advantage of this edition of Montaigne is that it has lots of italics, which means I can generate an italic version of the font, too.

My next font project is actually from 1628; but it's German, somewhere between blackletter and Fraktur. Not so hot for Elizabethan England. ;-) And one of these days I'd love to try working from a Greek exemplar, contemporary with one of my other fonts, so I can include Greek letters. (I looked at Hebrew, too, but I don't know the alphabet, so I wouldn't have any feel for whether I was doing a good job.)

It's the first time I can recall ever finding myself staring hard at a printout, going "Are you *sure* this isn't hand-calligraphed? You're pulling my leg, right?"

Heh. Yeah, Cynthia said there were people wanting to treat it with utmost care, as being obviously a vast investment of calligraphy. (I was surprised, but then realized that I was thinking like a scribe: I know that calligraphy on lightweight paper like that would be a doomed effort.) That's part of what got me thinking again about Metafont randomization, to make it even harder to tell from the real thing. ;-)

I suspect it's going to become a key tool for me: it's just close enough to modern to be legible to most people, while still *screaming* I'm A Period Font Dammit.

Yeah, that's a large part of why I did it: I learned the hand, and stuck with it, because it was beautifully period but still legible. And then, when I discovered pfaedit, that hand was the obvious candidate, for the same reason.

Really, really lovely work...

Thank you. :-)

Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: October 7th, 2004 04:57 pm (UTC)
Wedding

Cynthia said there were people wanting to treat it with utmost care

Well, Harold/Mike said that to me after cleanup, and I repeated it.

he further back I go, the more I have to spend to get a book instead of just a single leaf

Surely there are facsimilie editions of something from the time you want, just like you did with Isabella?

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 06:04 am (UTC)

Most of the books I've got/seen are compilations, with one, maybe two pages from lots of different books; and they're heavy on the illumination. I have one book that's just the Isabella Breviary, but even that isn't a full facsimile, and, again, it's mostly illumination. That's why I was so pleased to find a couple of originals that were more or less affordable. But Justin's facsimiles (see below) sound like a much better solution. :-)

Posted by: Justin du Coeur (jducoeur)
Posted at: October 7th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC)

Part of the problem is money; the further back I go, the more I have to spend to get a book instead of just a single leaf

Well, if the problem is just getting type samples, that's easy: I have *oodles* of period facsimiles, mostly more or less Elizabethan. Brandeis (my alma mater) has the complete Early English Text Series microfilms -- basically every extant book published in English prior to 1700. So any books I want, I make myself facsimiles of...

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 06:01 am (UTC)
Ooh!

Oh, that'd be great! I'll have to ping you after the German project, then.

How's the effective resolution? I've never taken a close look at something printed from microfilm. When scanning from paper, I've found that 600dpi is barely enough for getting the letters; 300dpi doesn't really cut it (unless the original letters are unusually large, of course).

Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 06:32 am (UTC)
Re: Ooh!

I think the value-add for your projects is much stronger with calligraphy examples than with typeset. But both are good, and I know calligraphy takes you longer.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 06:36 am (UTC)
Re: Ooh!

I think the value-add for your projects is much stronger with calligraphy examples than with typeset.

True. But the other viewpoint is that the potential user base is wider for more readable fonts. Also, the value-add that I, and other open-source geeks, see includes the fact that these fonts are open-source. Plenty of fonts are available for free, but most of them aren't open-source.

I should get back to doing some calligraphy-based fonts at some point--I've got a subset-replica of the Luttrell Psalter (similar to the one for the Isabella Breviary), which would let me do something authentically early.

Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 06:40 am (UTC)
Re: Ooh!

Plenty of fonts are available for free, but most of them aren't open-source.

Right; I see that value also. And I've looked at medieval font packages (Dover has some), and most of them are so polished that they don't look real. Possibly Victorian typesetting of same. Whereas you had A&S geeks ready to worship at the feet of a laser-printed page.

So I see a strong value in REAL calligraphy fonts.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 06:41 am (UTC)
Re: Ooh!

Whereas you had A&S geeks ready to worship at the feet of a laser-printed page.

Yeah, that is a point. :-)

Posted by: Justin du Coeur (jducoeur)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 07:13 am (UTC)
Re: Ooh!

Resolution is pretty good, I believe, but quality is highly variable. Exposure varies from page to page, and there are often lots of artifacts. You would definitely have to dig around to get samples that you like. But I do have hundreds of pages of various books to work from. (And Brandeis has literally thousands of rolls of microfilm, available to anyone who wants to come down with a bag of dimes for the copier...)

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 8th, 2004 07:33 am (UTC)
Re: Ooh!

OK, I'll keep it in mind for after the German one and one or two calligraphic fonts. Thanks!

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