Cyrillic Asian italic glyph forms

Nick Shinn's picture

This is for a font that will support Paratype's Cyrillic Asian codepage.
I've had a look at the Unicode examples, but they're in roman only.
I've had a look at some of the italic fonts at Paratype (eg Octava) which support the encoding, but there are still a few things I'd like to hear some opinion on. Would anybody like to comment?

paul d hunt's picture

i think what you have in the leftmost column is mostly correct. the only one i think is incorrect is the palochka (u+04CF), which is usually not cased and keeps the form of the I all the way through. so i believe that an italic I would be appropriate there. experts?

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks Paul.

Re. the Palochka: My theory is that in this kind of scripty italic, a roman "el" represents the "uncased" version of "I" stylistically, i.e. a tall baseline-to-cap-height stroke.

However, I could use the upper case italic "I" form, with four serifs, but make its stroke width much narrower, as I've done in the roman. In the italic, that wouldn't fit well with other characters, though. I wonder how the Palochka appears in text. Perhaps it's not an issue if it never appears in the middle of words. What language is it used in?

Nick Shinn's picture

On further investigation:

Unicode Standard, version 5: Palochka. U+04C0 “I” cyrillic letter palochka is used in Cyrillic orthographies for a number of Caucasian languages, such as Adyghe, Avar, Chechen, and Kabardian. The name palochka itself is based on the Russian word for “stick,” referring to the shape of the letter. The glyph for palochka is usually indistinguishable from an uppercase Latin “I” or U+0406 “I” cyrillic capital letter byelorussian-ukrainian i; however, in some serifed fonts it may be displayed without serifs to make it more visually distinct. In use, palochka typically modifies the reading of a preceding letter, indicating that it is an ejective. The palochka is generally caseless and should retain its form even in lowercased Cyrillic text. However, there is some evidence of distinctive lowercase forms; for those instances, U+04CF cyrillic small letter palochka may be used.

Here is how the Palochka appears when the font has a standard Cyrillic character set, and the typographer improvises:

Here it is with my first attempt at proper unicode characters. The roman is acceptable, as per the Unicode chart specimen, but the italic is suspect:

From a typographic perspective, one should look for correspondences in the alphabet.
Here is the Adyghe orthography:

There are two other characters with vertical strokes (other than those which incorporate the palotchka). The ef is not a good model in the italic, but the yeru is promising, and there is a pattern here, which the palotchka could fit into:

The practice referred to in the Unicode Standard, of a serifless stroke, should be discounted. Typographically, it is not enough like a letter, more like an accent or vertical bar. The "exit serif" in the italic serves to space the following character, and is not really something that can be dispensed with in this genre.

Therefore, for consistency within Adyghe typography, the following lower case forms seem appropriate for this kind of serifed face:

This design answers the question--if there are two characters in the alphabet with ascenders, why would they be given different serif treatments? (Which is what the Unicode chart specimen does, by following the ad hoc practice of using capital I.) And why should there not be consistency between the vertical strokes in ef, yeru, and palotchka?

However, as the roman ef shown above is an alternate, and the default in my font is this more exotic, symmetrical form, the Unicode configuration of palotchka roman is OK:

But this is tempting:

paul d hunt's picture

to me the ы looks as if it is missing the top right serif on the second element. this probably depends on what models you've been looking at, but i'd suspect that most Cyrillic typefaces would include the serif in this spot and if you follow this logic for a "lowercase" palochka, you would essentially arrive at a form similar to the uppercase I for the roman. adapting an italic version of this does seem that it would be a bit of a challenge. i think using an l-shaped palochka is a decent solution, but of course, i am no expert.

paul d hunt's picture

p.s. another difficult italic character you didn't list is the Ukrainian ґ. i'm interested in seeing which route you went in designing this glyph.

Nick Shinn's picture

missing the top right serif on the second element

Thanks for pointing that out. I thought I'd made a mistake in the font, but actually, what I showed above was the Bulgarian version. Damn, this gets confusing.

So, is my "final" design:

Another reason to have no top serif on the italic palotchka--to avoid incidental ligaturing in the titlecase digraphs:

Ukrainian ґ

paul d hunt's picture

good thing you lost the serif on the italic, because your "Pi Palochka" could be mistaken for an italic (cursive) Т. same with "El Palochka."

andrijtype's picture

Paul, ukrainian -ґ- not used in asian cyrillic afaik ;))

Viktor Kharyk make vote on public preference in italic -ґ- on examples of him current work here (if you can read ukrainian):

and result you can see on this picture:

i absolutely disagree myself with #2 because it has no historic roots at all, but people votes for it ))

Nick, upper left serif in your -ґ- is very unusually, but it can work, i think

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks for your comments Andrijko.

Yes, the upper left serif of "small ghe with upturn" is unusual, but I think it is OK in the context of this 19th century style of Scotch Modern. I had observed that historically in Adolf Darre's specimen (Harkov, 1888) this character, and "small em", had a horizontal left serif, not a "pot hook" like the rest of the italic lower case. While I generally stuck closely to Darre's letterforms, for some reason I felt I would rather change this detail. It's vanity I suppose, that no matter how good the original, there is always something a redesigner thinks he can improve upon.

I will post samples of my Cyrillic Swash alternates soon, in a new thread

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