Upper case italics

Frode Bo Helland's picture

How come the norm for italic serifs is slanted roman capitals, when the lowercase often departs from the lowercase roman? Did anyone ever try a different approach?

brianskywalker's picture

I do believe so. From Robert Slimbach, Minion Italic has true italic capitals (as swash cap variants). It seems somewhat unusual to depart from slanted roman for italic caps, regardless of whether it's serifs or sans. Although, I don't see why it is so uncommon. For the most part, italic caps are either slanted or swash, although they don't quite have to be either, in my opinion. Auto, the triple italic sans serif by Underware does seem to have achieved some visibly cursive italic capitals in italic 2, without being ostentatiously swashy. Even italic 1 has some forms that vary from the roman. Italic 3, of course, has lots of swash and attitude to it.

With Neuton'ssecond italic, I'm going to have capitals with a noticeably cursive disposition is structure, and the serifs will have modified serifs that are also leaning more towards cursive, although not so obviously. I do not yet have examples of the digitized yet, although it's in my sketches. The first italic will have more traditional slanted capitals.

I'm sure there are other fonts that take a more cursive approach to the italic capitals.

riccard0's picture

I think the drawback in using cursive shapes for uppercase italics is that they would look clumsy in an all-caps word.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Many typefaces also have swashed lowercase. They primarly serve a decorative purpose (at least in modern typography) but obviously have more in common with cursive lc than slanted roman capitals. What I’m talking about is something cursive in construction, but not necessarily as expressive as swashed capitals.

Didn’t some early italics have upright roman capitals? Did we just slant them and leave it at that?

Auto Italic 2 is very interesting, btw. I hadn’t noticed those caps before.

eliason's picture

I think the lowercase, with its roots in pen-drawn forms, simply accomodates cursive adaptation better than the inscription-based capital forms.

brianskywalker's picture

@frode, Yeah, I thought you were more talking about cursive structure than with swash forms. I think the early italic capitals were simply roman capitals, and then later started to be slanted. Don't quote me on this, but I believe I read Baskerville was the first to use swash capitals. Although, I might be confusing that with Caslon. (Or am remembering wrong.)

Auto Italic 2 caps definitely are a good variation on the norm.

@riccard0 Hmm, you do have a point about the more cursive capitals working less well in lines of caps. Contextual alternates for all-cap settings?

Nick Shinn's picture


Many typefaces have a set of swash capitals as alternates, intended for use in U&lc setting (1, Caslon).
But that doesn't work for all caps (2), which is why they're alternates.

However, some types have implemented the swash form into some characters, e.g. Baskerville (3), and several of Goudy's types.

Robert Slimbach created a full set of "all-cap-able" swash caps for Minion (4). I suspect that the way InDesign functions had some bearing on that.

I like that idea too, which I came to when working on Fontesque (7), which uses the swash form as the default for caps.

I've also implemented it in the swash caps of Oneleigh (5) and Scotch Modern (6)

Khaled Hosny's picture

Because italic was always lower case?

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