Are these glyphs *really* used in any languages?

dan_reynolds's picture


I am considering removing the following glyphs from the character sets of fonts that I produce in the future (or not designing them at all for fonts I design in the future):

1. Aringacute (U+01FA)
2. AEacute (U+01FC)
3. Oslashacute (U+01FE)
4. aringacute (U+01FB)
5. aeacute (U+01FD)
6. oslashacute (U+01FF)
7. dotlessj (U+0237)

Aside from the dotlessj, I had heard that the other glyphs were for Danish, but that they are not used in contemporary, written Danish. Can anyone point to references where they are used?

Are any of these glyphs used in any other languages? If not, I do not feel that it is necessary to include them in standard character sets any further, as least as far as fonts that I produce go. I am not sure if their being in older character sets or in other fonts' character sets (from e.g., Microsoft? Adobe?) is a convincing enough argument. What do you think?

charles ellertson's picture

I'd only remark that if you don't support certain languages, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that those who use them won't by your fonts. Sadly, the reverse is not true . . .

blank's picture

…it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that those who use them won’t by your fonts.

That much is obvious. My point is that if I’m not doing the language support correctly in the first place, am I really doing anyone a favor by selling the font?

paul d hunt's picture

just do it correctly in the first place. typophile is a great resource that links in many cases to other resources that can help you educate yourself on such matters. for example, you might start with eth in the characters wiki...

Nick Shinn's picture

Sindre--even if I were to include Oogonekacute in a typeface, would scholars buy it, or would they think that something else, such as insular g, was missing?

I have actually included what I naïvely assume to be support for Old English, Middle English, and Gothic Transliteration in the Modern Suite fonts (all weights and small caps), but AFAIK have not yet sold any fonts to the scholastic market. Admittedly, they might not be aware the Modern Suite exists, so how would I go about publicizing it?

paul d hunt's picture

hmmm, bad example on my part. i guess i have to more wiki-ing, but there IS a page for links to drawing international characters:

Sindre's picture

Nick—your first question is a hard one. I really don't know. Scholars and scientists are never satisfied with anything. That's why they're scholars and scientists.

If I were you, I would approach the relevant linguistic institutes of larger universities, the more prestigious, the better, and tell them I can solve their transcription problems once and for all. Make a highbrow-looking type specimen, with complex texts set in languages relevant to them. Send it by ordinary mail. Give them a telephone call subsequently. If you at all can stand being a salesman.

When some prestigious language institutes all of a sudden starts publishing much better looking papers, word-of-mouth and academic envy will work its magic. Possibly.

Regarding your wonderful Modern Suite, you'd have another selling point in that the Scotch Micro will make their notes so much more legible.

Si_Daniels's picture

Quick note on OpenType spec requirements. If a font claims "code page" support it should contain all the characters in that code page. If it claims "Unicode range" support then it should include functional coverage for that range, and what constitutes functional is at the type designers discretion.

DTY's picture

Scholars and scholastic publishers, it seems to me, want every obscure character/glyph ever used, and if a character is not in a system font will make hacks or acquire freeware fonts made by other scholars, rather than buy fonts.

The scholars generally won't buy them; they'll use Gentium. But the publishers do buy fonts, and they do take glyph coverage into account, as long as someone who knows typesetting has any say in the matter. For example, one publisher I've worked for a fair amount chose Minion Pro for their house style several years ago, specifically because they need a well-integrated polytonic Greek for a lot of their books. The same logic applies to Scotch Modern, but it's also more distinctive.

John Hudson's picture

Sindre, I'm coming up on halfway through a two-year development of a set of fonts for the venerable academic publisher Brill. The current intent is for these fonts to be made freely available to scholars. They're the most extensive fonts I've made, and mediaevalist usage is one of the targeted fields.

Brill recently made some information about this project public via their annual report.

[I'm not responsible for the sheep-stealer subhead settings.]

Chris_Harvey's picture

The oogonekmacron is used in Kaska Dene (northwestern Canada). That said, there are a bunch of other vowel-diacritic combos in that language which require combining diacritics: a-ogonek-macron-acute. The oogonek, however, is very important for many indigenous languages in the Americas, notably Navajo.

Sindre's picture

John, that's fabulous news! That's a brilliant typeface. Is there an approximate release date yet?

dezcom's picture

Aringacute is a test for getting into the NBA.


Nick Shinn's picture

John, will Brill have small caps and optical sizes for footnotes?

John Hudson's picture

I should complete work on the Brill types in October 2010.

Nick, yes, the Brill types will have full smallcaps, plus a range of different numeral styles, symbols for critical apparatus, fraktur, and a pile of other stuff either already used in Brill publications or anticipated. Also GPOS mark-to-base and mark-to-mark positioning for arbitrary diacritics.

There won't be an optical size for footnotes, because the budget wasn't available, but Brill's standard footnote size is not very small. Their standard text is 11 cicero points and their notes and captions are 9 cicero points. So I'm designing the type to work well at both sizes.

Nick Shinn's picture

That leaves a bit of a window for retail scholastic types: sans serif, and footnotes.

But otherwise, a blanket "non-commercial" licence for Brill will effectively kill any potential scholastic market for fonts, if freeware and Adobe and Microsoft bundling haven't already done so.

However, distribution via "fonts on CD with book" might play out differently.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: a blanket “non-commercial” licence for Brill will effectively kill any potential scholastic market for fonts

Only among individual scholars. The market among publishers would remain.

Brill have not finalised their plans for how to release the fonts.

hrant's picture

FWIW, certain types of street signs in LA have the "i" and the "j" sans dot.

Dan, contemporary?
People set non-contemporary stuff all the time (pardon the pun).

Satya, I've seen both of those in use.

>> "Having no true function, it has no authentic form."

That's b-s on so many levels.

> I would be inclined to map a $ sign to all of those code-points.

Plus an email address.
Or better yet: when you try to enter a missing character you
automatically get hooked up to a live chat with the foundry!


blank's picture

FWIW, certain types of street signs in LA have the “i” and the “j” sans dot.

Do you mean as an effect or in support of a non-english languages?

hrant's picture

No, that's the standard they follow. I'm talking about
large, official highway signs. I'll post an image soon.


Si_Daniels's picture

>No, that’s the standard they follow.

Maybe the dots were stolen?

Nick Shinn's picture

Only among individual scholars.

That's not the scholastic market!
The primary (potential) scholastic market for fonts is not publishers, but educational institutions, and the scholars are faculty and students, who could buy (licence) the fonts they use, just as they or their institution buy the books they use.
A non-commercial licence of Brill fonts for students and faculty (assuming faculty are "non-commercial") would make Brill books a first-choice for mandatory text-books, but wouldn't Brill be ignoring a profit-centre in not charging for fonts?

This is difficult to think all the way through, but one would assume that other publishers will develop their own 6000-character non-commercial scholastic fonts, to stay in the game. If their fonts aren't as good as the Brill fonts, or are "similar to", then scholars (and institutions) who haven't bought Brill books will be able to use superior quality Brill fonts and not buy Brill books.

How about bundling "fonts on CD with book purchase"? That would consolidate everyone's understanding of the fonts' dual function in textbook and in student work.

John Hudson's picture

Nick, I'll mention all these ideas as options when I meet with the Brill people later this year. Brill's idea in making fonts available to scholars would be a) to aid scholarship, something that they've been doing in various ways for 325 years and b) to attract scholars to publish with Brill. Fonts on CD with book purchase adds a cost for Brill, and restricts legitimate use of the fonts in a way that Brill might not see as beneficial. Anyway, I think all ideas are on the table at this stage.

blank's picture

I tend to agree with Nick on this one. As a newbie font designer I find myself quite disinclined to go near large character sets if I have to compete not only with Robert Slimbach’s bundled designs, but also with free fonts by Tiro. Of course, given the budget for scholarly work, that might be entirely irrelevant.

farquart's picture

...gravy sucking pigs...

Nick Shinn's picture

Well, scholars may get their fonts for free, but it's hardly their fault, and they are under no moral obligation to buy commercial fonts.

Similarly, small, independent foundries are under no moral obligation to become ragged-trousered philanthropists, providing character sets for markets that don't buy enough fonts to make a return on the investment required.

Those who do support minority encodings in their fonts have their own agendas: Brill wants to prosper in the academic publishing market; Microsoft and Adobe want to help sell their big money-makers (systems and applications); SIL (Gentium) is a religious organization; and freeware fonts created by academics are done on company time, to facilitate their work.

paragraph's picture

James, if you stick to display fonts, you do not have to worry about Old Norse or scholars IMHO. Then there is my rather naive assumption that if I include cyrillics in a font that becomes popular by some fluke, I'd be encouraging thousands more visitors for the pirate sites in Russia.

Nick, I agree with your position, but fear that the horse has bolted already.

Ray Larabie's picture

Is there any need for ĸ kgreenlandic 0138 or ʼn napostrophe 0149 in display fonts?

clauses's picture

Is there any need for ĸ kgreenlandic 0138 or ʼn napostrophe 0149 in display fonts?

gaultney's picture

But otherwise, a blanket “non-commercial” licence for Brill will effectively kill any potential scholastic market for fonts, if freeware and Adobe and Microsoft bundling haven’t already done so.

Actually, the Brill fonts prove the opposite. We (SIL) have a number of freely available fonts (Gentium and others) that do a reasonable job of meeting most scholars' need for linguistic Latin fonts. Brill took a good look at them, and decided that there were particular publishing needs that our fonts did not attempt to meet. So Brill decided to spend good money to hire an expert designer to spend months creating a new type family, and make them available to the publishing community. The existence of free fonts did not harm the market, but rather stimulated more commissioned work to fill in the existing gaps.

This is a benefit for everyone. Scholars get a wider variety of 'standard' fonts to use for research and publishing. Brill gets great PR and goodwill, and very likely a richer base of authors. Typographers may get better-quality fonts to use when typesetting odd academic texts. Designers get more fonts to study as they try to figure out what rather odd letters are 'supposed' to look like. Overall, the typographic quality of academic publications gets a boost.

Neither the Brill fonts, or ours, will meet all the needs. There will still be room for more work by professional designers. There may even be increased demand, as other publishers want to get into the game, and as the academic community grows in their appreciation for fine typography and fine type design.

I never used to spend money on beer - a result of growing up around mediocre American stuff. I didn't even like it when it was free at a party. After a few friends here in England bought me pints of English Real Ale, I got used to how good a beer could get, and now find myself making special visits to my favourite brewery. A free bit of the Good Stuff can develop a habit of paying for more of it.

Nick Shinn's picture

The existence of free fonts did not harm the market, but rather stimulated more commissioned work to fill in the existing gaps.

I was referring to the market for fonts, not commissioned work.

The idea that flooding potential consumers with free product somehow stimulates the market is erroneous: while a small percentage of users may be interested enough to go out and buy something different than the bulk of their peers, it's a minority sale achieved at the cost of surrendering the bulk of the market. This situation may seem to benefit consumers, but it impoverishes content production in general, channelling it into the hands of a small group of commissioned workers who may be well paid, but undermining the potential greater income to be made from creative work by spreading it around. After all, you can't make money from something you don't own. The real money is in the mass market.

Do consumers benefit from the situation where content producers are not making mass sales? No, because they still have to pay for media, whether it be digital devices or internet access. So "free" digital product just shifts profit from the creative sector to the hardware sector (and that includes Internet access).

And ultimately, all consumers are content creators. So if, as a consumer, you play the game where you get free creative content, you are endorsing a system that restricts your ability to derive income from creative work.

Beyond that, creative work gets redefined, stripping its value, becoming craft and production work that is bought outright by manufacturers, rather than warranting "points".

Sindre's picture

Is there any need for ĸ kgreenlandic [...]

Kgreenlandic ("kra") was deprecated in 1973, and replaced with q.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Brill gets great PR and goodwill, and very likely a richer base of authors.

Not to spoil the party, but I would prefer that Brill lowered its excessive subscription prices for the poorer institutions in the Third World. THAT would be great PR.

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Theunis de Jong's picture

Commission a custom font from a top designer, making this font freely available, and lower their prices? You think they won the lottery?

David W. Goodrich's picture

I'm with Mr. Gaultney. We've had the font wars and the browser wars, now we're supposed to believe that Brill will squirrel the academic market for type if they do not charge for non-commercial use of their new font? Or at least ruin that fraction of the market not already ruined by the big boys' bundling of high-quality fonts with operating systems and design apps? I earn my living setting linguistically-challenging type, occasionally for Brill, and the appearance of this font will make it easier to replace my services. Happily, not everyone wants their publications to look like Brill's. Style still counts.


.00's picture

A free bit of the Good Stuff can develop a habit of paying for more of it.

I wonder how much good beer you would be willing to buy if the free stuff your friends turned you on to continued to flow from a tap in your kitchen, and never ran out?

hrant's picture

Some people don't drink lousy beer (like American, Canadian
and Italian) even if it's free and flowing. Now, if you PAID me...


Nick Shinn's picture

...the appearance of this font will make it easier to replace my services.

Then surely it would be in your interests if the font had to be sought out and purchased, a disincentive to cheap and cutthroat competition.

...not everyone wants their publications to look like Brill’s.

That's a point I've already made. The majority of users standardize on the free product, while a minority pay to be different.
The retail market is squeezed to the sidelines, the bell curve distorted.

David W. Goodrich's picture

Those involved in scholarly publishing have been hearing that the sky is falling so long now that we cannot help but take new threats with a certain equanimity. As for "cheap and cutthroat" competition, the usual strategy is to offer something better. Of course, one of the things we all appreciate about the font John Hudson is working on is that it isn't cheap (assuming he isn't some weirdo "ragged-trousered philanthropist").

As for John's work ever becoming a "profit center" for Brill, I have my doubts. It doesn't take a genius to suppose that Brill commissioned the font to simplify their production of scholarly material covering a very wide range of subject areas and languages (more subtle is the need control licensing for use in their on-line publications). Limiting the font's free distribution to published authors isn't practical: authors of books and articles not yet written are just as deserving -- and one hopes there will be sufficient scholarly "competition" so that poorer mss. can be rejected. Bert Vanderveen has already referred to Brill's prices as limiting readership, and many with access to an institutional subscription forego a personal purchase, especially when on-line is so convenient: does Brill want to look like they're trying to squeeze something extra out of individuals already accustomed to reading for free? I suspect they'd rather enjoy the gratitude of having made a tool developed for their own benefit available to anyone interested (where most of that category is both a prospective customer and makes library recommendations).

Then there's the current economic situation. But even here, beer offers us hope: according to this morning's National Public Radio, here in the U.S. craft beer (less than 2 million barrels per annum) is doing better despite the downturn. Anheuser-Busch may control much of the market, but there is room for competition based on quality.


hrant's picture

> one of the things we all appreciate about the font
> John Hudson is working on is that it isn’t cheap

What's cheap and not cheap?
How much is Brill paying for the font(s)?


hrant's picture

BTW, I'm not trying to be too clever. If this information is supposed to
be confidential, please ignore my question (at least the second one).


Nick Shinn's picture

...the usual strategy is to offer something better.

I'll play that game if I have to, but I don't like the way big business bends the rules.

hrant's picture

Bends? Big business MAKES the rules.
The rest is carefully crafted illusion.


John Hudson's picture

Of course this information is confidential, Hrant; however, as Mr Goodrich assumes correctly, I am not some weirdo ragged-trouser philanthropist.

There are plenty of economic benefits to a company like Brill commissioning its own typeface at this time, in terms of simplifying the author-editor-production workflow, standardising on Unicode text processing, etc. The new type is also more space efficient than the Baskerville they have been using for a long time, and based on testing to date we gain a line or two per page, which over the length of a book, size of a print run and number of books they publish every year will reduce their paper costs per annum. I suspect the folks at Brill who approved the project have a pretty good idea of how long it will take to pay for itself.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: The retail market is squeezed to the sidelines, the bell curve distorted.

This seems to assume that the retail font licensing market is naturally the central business of type, and hence something that marginalises this market is a distortion. I'd counter that the retail market as we know it is a recent phenomenon, invented in the latter 20th century during the phototype period. Prior to that, the manufacturing costs led to a closer balance of custom and off-the-shelf type purchase, with even the latter necessarily calculated as an investment cost for most customers. I make my living designing custom typefaces. I don't engage in the retail market at all, and I make no apologies about that: I reject the notion that there is something normal or preferred in the retailing of fonts, or that this market deserves some kind of protection.

Nick Shinn's picture

...the retail market as we know it is a recent phenomenon...

I was comparing revenue from the volume retail sale of pre-designed fonts with revenue from custom work for single clients.
In that sense, font retailing has been going on a long time, as founders sold their type to printers in the days of letterpress.

I reject the notion that there is something normal or preferred in the retailing of fonts,

I agree, I don't think either custom or retail work is more normal or preferred. BTW, I make a significant part of my living from custom work.

However, is it fair that retail font manufacturers have to compete with custom fonts that are given away free (e.g. bundled) to help promote some other product such as computer operating systems (Microsoft), software applications (Adobe), and now books (Brill)?

Nick Shinn's picture

...or that this market deserves some kind of protection.

It's not markets that deserve protection, but people, hence the fact that most governments have laws against unfair trade practices, to protect mom and pop shops from big business.

Theunis de Jong's picture


You do realise the font is targeted at a very small and highly specialized market? I don't think Brill expects to see menus and business cards using their font. (OTOH, it seems they wouldn't be able to do anything against that.)

.. if the IPA characters were supported in more fonts, like, say, Danish or Icelandic characters (not too outrageous), they wouldn't need to commission a specialty font ..

Nick Shinn's picture

...the font is targeted at a very small and highly specialized market?

Whether or not a business practice is unfair has nothing to do with its scale.

Nick Shinn's picture

.. if the ... characters were supported in more fonts ... they wouldn’t need to commission a specialty font

My concern is that academics have no incentive to pay to licence my Modern Suite fonts, which contain support for at least one "ancient" language (Polytonic Greek), when they have ready access to Polytonic Greek fonts from large corporations that are not foundries (Adobe and Brill).

Are Greek scholars (as opposed to publishers) a viable font market? Why shouldn't they pay for their fonts?

David W. Goodrich's picture

If they choose to do so, many academics can pay for your fonts, and a surprising variety of other things (such as espresso machines), with the funny money of research grants. Style still counts.

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