Trajan's Columns

Dan Gayle's picture

I've decided that as part of my typophilic education I need to make my own version of the Roman letters on Trajan's column.

Only one problem.

Anyone have a copy of them? I've been hunting all over for a good photograph or rubbing or book specimen or anything. No luck. I bet I could find something, maybe, at the Library, but they don't like me because I keep books for too long ;(

Does anyone know of a good book with specimens to look for? Or does anyone have available a high res image or images?

I appreciate it advance by the way. Anything you can do will help.

AtoZ's picture

Claudio and Hrant,

It may be a type designer's preference that certain glyphs not be available. After all, in the case of the @ glyph, the user could simply spell out the word “at," but you know what happens in the real world -- if a glyph is not available, the user is likely to substitute one from another font instead. (If he or she wants an @, they will get one, one way or another.)

It seems better to me that type designers should control the design of all the glyphs that might be used in contemporary communication.

Glyphs are not only a design issue; they are also a content issue. Users should be allowed to say whatever they want, using a complete set of glyphs to choose from. Omitting glyphs because the type designer doesn't feel they are historically appropriate, results in a form of censorship: "You can’t say that using my font."

It seems better to me that type designers should control the design of all characters that might be used in communication, and also recognize the fact that their fonts are being used in the 21st Century (and hopefully beyond). If you create a font in the 21st Century, it should be capable of being fully used in contemporary documents; otherwise the font just becomes obsolete historical font, or worse a font where users mix in other fonts to add the missing glyphs.

In summary, type designers should not sit in judgment as to which of their glyphs may or may not be used once the font is released to the world, nor should they try control whether or not their fonts are used appropriately. (They, are of course, entitled to their own opinions, and are welcome to speak their minds, but they should not try to enforce those opinions on others by withholding glyphs they feel are inappropriate.)
 
         ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
         When going from A to Z,
         I often end up At Oz.

piccic's picture

It seems better to me that type designers should control the design of all the glyphs that might be used in contemporary communication.

I try to put it in a simpler way: if it is a "historical" lapidary alphabet, you do not have email.
If some user wishes to use a lapidary alphabet to compose email, there is a bigger cultural problem that does not even allow to understand what "censorship" means.

otherwise the font just becomes obsolete historical font, or worse a font where users mix in other fonts to add the missing glyphs.
Of course, but that's ignorance. As I see it, it's this aspect that should be addressed…

AtoZ's picture

“...if it is a ‘historical' lapidary alphabet, you do not have email."

Well, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree.

As I said in my original post on this subject, people "are NOT in ancient Rome craving the glyphs in stone — they are using them on paper and electronic devices worldwide in the 21st century, so there is already a built-in anachronism in the use of these fonts." If people want to use Trajan (or similar fonts) for e-mails, that should be their prerogative, not the type-designer's prerogative.

Should Caslon only be used for text about 18th Century England? Is it "wrong" to set an e-mail address in Calson? Should all historically-based fonts only be used for texts relating to time of their creation? I think not.

Glyphs should not be "censored" in any typeface for the sake of "historical accuracy."
 
         ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
         When going from A to Z,
         I often end up At Oz.

Dan Gayle's picture

As the Latin phrase goes, caveat emptor.

As a type designer, I can and should make the tool as I see fit. If I see fit to use Opentype features to replace an exclamation point with "IO", or "QUO" or whatever. That's the designer's prerogative. The same could be said for DANATDANGAYLEDOTCOM or whatever.

I could program it to render dan@dangayle.com as DANATDANGAYLEDOTCOM, but the beauty is that the underlying text remains the same. It would still be encoded as dan@dangayle.com in the document, and still useable.

CAVEAT EMPTOR
If you don't like it, don't buy it.

Now, the philosophical debate aside, a few years ago I created a giant poster for my school's photo club using Trajan on a giant photo of some marble. I thought it looked great, but it came at the expense of readability and understandability. THE PHOTO FORVM didn't fly so well, because the people in the club didn't understand what it meant, and the anachronism was totally lost on them.

Dan Gayle's picture

As to the IMPERIVM font, I've been working on a Roman typeface here. Not quite up IMPERIVM standards, but still fun to design :)

piccic's picture

AtoZ: I think we are talking of different things, and I'm not sure I am able to explain.
On the historical accuracy, the solution offered by Dan is effective.
I care about internal consistency, and conciliation of apparent rivalry, and if an alphabet design is based on a conceptual idea it could also propose censoring or altering, or the fostering of a constructive talk.

Probably we did not understand each other because you were thinking of normal typefaces which should address the expected uses, while I was talking more of an artistic approach with different degrees of functionality, since type design is always on a fascinating balance between art and technique, vision and analisys. I enjoy a constant confrontation between the two approaches, and of course my lapidary logic if modern would include an [@], if ancient, not.

AtoZ's picture

piccic: I agree that we have probably been approaching the subject from different viewpoints. As you point out, a type designer must find a "...balance between art and technique..." In that sense, type design is similar to architecture and other crafts that mix art with utility, and there are no firm rules as to where and how that balance should be achieved.

My own feeling is that if type designer is creating a typeface for his own use (or has been commissioned to create a typeface for a private use), then, of course, the typeface need only contain the glyphs that are needed and desired for it's particular use. However, if the typeface is released for public use, then I believe that the typeface should contain all the glyphs that users might reasonably be expected to use.

I am aware that some feel it would be unreasonable to include, for example, a @ glyph in a historically-based typeface even when released for public use, but to return to the comparison with architecture -- if one were to design a new public building in the style of a Greek temple, should the architect refuse to include rest rooms in the building, or air conditioning, since those items where not part of the original design vocabulary in ancient Greece?
 
         ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
         When going from A to Z,
         I often end up At Oz.

dberlow's picture

"Anyone have a copy of them?"

Isn't there an entire rubbing at Rochester Institute of Technology or somewhere?

Cheers!

Dan Gayle's picture

@dberlow

Ooo. Thanks for that hint! I'll start poking around.

Regarding some of the previous conversations, now past the 2 year mark, what would you as the head of major foundry and well respected in the industry say about another version of Trajan? Particularly, if some magazine were to come to you and say that they wanted their own Trajan, how would you approach it?

Obviously in that case the silliness of the opentype substitutions would be gone, and all of the requisite glyphs would need to be created, right?

dberlow's picture

"...if some magazine were to come to you and say that they wanted their own Trajan, how would you approach it?"

Well, first I'd make sure they were prepared for absolute authority, because that's what Trajan's about. Then 'd go about the usual specificational due diligence to end up with a few letters that fit the Imperial Roman ambitions of the spec. (why no silliness of the opentype substitutions?). Then, I'd take a minute to check and see if I was still the head of major foundry and well respected in the industry and I'd send them a bill. If they liked everything so far, I'd finish the face. I could not say from this point of view, what the contrast would be nor the extension of the R's leg might be into the future.

Cheers!

piccic's picture

Well, first I’d make sure they were prepared for absolute authority, because that’s what Trajan’s about.
That's what I was thinking about, and to reply AtoZ: yes, I am generally motivated on a personal level. I guess I'll never be a type designer full-time doing large families: I like to use type as much as to design it, and I think all that had motivated me most is when I don't find what I am looking for among existing typefaces (I recall Jon Barnbrook wrote something similar once).

About the Trajan, what I wonder is if it's better to have more than one model, especially for Capitalis. After all, there are other notable inscriptions from the period, and examples, which may not be so refined as the Trajan column inscriptions, but nonethelss give material for a more comprehensive inclusion.

Dan Gayle's picture

RE: Opentype
I meant only that the substitutional rhetoric would be done away with. The @ sign would be just that. Not "AT".

RE: Absolute Authority
That's an interesting perspective that I hadn't thought about before. Why else would they have erected such columns, if not to boast about their military prowess.

Perhaps that is why Trajan the typeface feels out of place on many movie posters, because it is used for the wrong reason, and without any thought to the attitude of the typeface.

I'll have to look into that more.

piccic's picture

Why else would they have erected such columns, if not to boast about their military prowess.
Hmm… I did not think about it in terms of "military prowess".
What's that suggests you such an association?
The adjective "authority" comes from the "author", which here is the designer (or stonecarver), the authoritative people which seriously and honestly study some matter, it's the "creator", anyone to which you could turn to if you need to grade your work and improve.

Negative associations with "authority" are more a modern phenomena, related to the apparent disillusion people nurture towards the conduction of a community, state et al. and towards the possibility of peace, refusing the idea of war, which is sometimes unavoidable.
It's a negative mood which sets a "pessimistic" view upon one's personal improvement and upon a charitative attitude which should be universal, and not just "tolerance".
Of course, the Roman model may not be the better to convey the inherently positive concept of "authority", but the forms are beautiful, associated with strenghth and grace, and – at least to me – friendly and not intimidatory.

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