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John Savard


John Savard
Last Active
  • Re: What are 'true italics'?

    BTW, just like cursiveness, Latinization has its place. Just not as a default.
    My position is that I agree with you that there's no need to Latinize Armenian, but I disagree with the idea that Cyrillic letterforms should go back to what existed before Peter the Great.

    The Cyrillic letter shapes are sufficiently closely related to those of the Latin alphabet and of Greek, at least in the upper case, that the whole Latin alphabet apparatus of typefaces, lettering styles, and script styles really belongs as naturally to the Cyrillic script as to the Latin script.

    The traditional Armenian typeface often appeared either entirely in italics, or with the lower case in italics - slanted italics, not cursive. Instead of simply accepting yours as an outsider's perspective, I suppose one could (hopefully, in jest) try to make the claim that out of revenge for Latinization, perhaps this proposal for italics is an attempt to Armenianize the Latin script!

    In the typesetting of mathematics, occasionally the capital letters from Fraktur are used as symbols. Also, script - the default Spencerian kind - is sometimes used for certain purposes. This is perhaps a function of what happens to be lying around the printing office in any case, so as to avoid delays or extra expense as new characters are cut and cast.

    First, the Aldine press typeset entire books in italics so as to save space, and allow the printing of inexpensive compact editions. (Presumably, if they knew better back then, they would have come up with something like Corona.)

    Then this alternate typeface that they happened to have lying around got used for emphasis as an alternative to letterspacing - which is what was used before, and then continued to be used with Fraktur.

    And so we see in typefaces like Caslon and Baskerville that the italics are much narrower than the Roman.

    That needed fixing, and it got fixed.

    I've felt that there is a mismatch in the conventional serif typefaces for Greek between an upper case that looks much like that of Roman and a highly cursive lower case. Given the history of Greece, the proper development of Greek typography was interrupted, and Porson Greek was developed by people who didn't speak Greek as their own language, but who wanted something useful for studying the classics, the New Testament, and for use in mathematical formulas. So it's plausible that it could be flawed.

    The Latin script, on the other hand, has been in the hands of a number of wealthy and powerful nations, and enjoys dominance. Which means that its users haven't been denied the opportunity to develop it according to their preferences. And there are subtle differences between English, French, Italian, and Polish typography which would seem to serve as evidence that there has been the opportunity to try out different approaches.

    Right now, slanted italics for Roman typefaces most commonly occur under two particular circumstances: typefaces designed by people who are native speakers of Chinese or Japanese, or printing done digitally where slanting the letters to make an italic saves having a second typeface template present. So they have a bad reputation.

    None of this really negates your point that the use of a different script form as a basis for italics brings in extraneous context.

    At one time, again, for convenience in limiting the number of fonts a printing shop would have to buy, a Scotch Roman might have used a Clarendon as its boldface instead of a bold version of the same typeface. Looking at the bold versions of, say, Baskerville and Times Roman, though, even though in both cases there are definite changes making their bold versions different from what you would get due to, say, double-printing with offset, as was done to make bold with daisywheel printers once upon a time, the differences are much less than are the case with italics.

    Thus, I think you could have a point in an abstract sense, even if, in the concrete world of existing script users and their ingrained preferences, there is both limited opportunity for change and limited urgency for change.
  • Re: What are 'true italics'?

    Ben Blom said:

    Let’s keep things simple, like this: italic = slanted = oblique (and it doesn’t matter whether italics have a shape more related to fluid writing than to mechanical composition, or not—like it doesn’t matter for uprights).

    I almost agree.

    Italics are, indeed, slanted letters. So mechanically obliqued Roman is a kind of italic, even if it is not considered to be the best kind.

    Since, though, traditionally, most italics are cursive - at least when one is dealing with a serif typeface instead of a sans-serif one - one can refer to this kind of italic as "classical italic" or "traditional italic", instead of only as "cursive italic"; that is, while italic does not imply cursive, italic does suggest cursive. Which is also why one can get away with calling a certain type of letter an "upright italic".

    Once again, this gets into the question of how humans use language. Natural languages don't work in the precise fashion of programming languages or mathematical notation; they make a considerably more fluid use of the associations of words in addition to their actual meanings.

    Keeping things simple - yes. But trying to make things simpler than they can be for terminology employed by human beings won't succeed.
  • Re: Does that “y” exist?

    Clearly I'm no professional type designer. The only thing I could see (apparently) wrong with the typeface sample that began this thread was that the capital Y should have had a shallower V-part and a longer stem. The width of the letter U completely escaped me.

    Now, the typeface is unusual in that the upper case is a conventional geometric sans-serif, while the letterforms in the lower case have a special rounded shape. Since the specimen given shows the two alphabets separately, I can't judge whether their juxtaposition will be problematic.

    As for the lowercase w, it looks like the lowercase v, not the lowercase u, in most typefaces, so I don't see that the wrong shape was chosen for it.

    Thanks to Jan Middendorp, I know that there were Dutch type designers who DID complain about the German standard baseline, although not as much as Van Krimpen complained about Monotype’s 18-unit system (is it possible for anyone to complain about anything as much as he went on about that?).
    Obviously, if anything actually happened, then it is possible for it to have happened. :)

    However, I am still surprised that the 18-unit system is a significant cause for complaint. I had not found the coarseness of the 9-unit system of the IBM Selectric Composer to be visibly apparent.

    That does not mean that it did not have limitations. The letters M, m, and W should have been 11 units wide, not 9 units, to be in correct proportion. Also, unlike the situation with the Monotype caster, all typefaces were spaced the same way, which led to the same painful limitation for italics as found on Linotype - and further problems for any typeface other than Times Roman, for which they spacing chosen was appropriate.

    However, that an 11-unit system would not have caused problems for the reader of a text doesn't mean that it could not have meant much more work for the type designer.
  • Re: Monospaced ligatures

    I have seen ligatures in monospaced typestyles used with the older Hammond typewriters that preceded the Vari-Typer. Some of the catalogs in which the styles are illustrated are online. So I know it's been done, strange though it may seem.

    Here is an image of where this is proclaimed as a feature:

  • Re: Council for German Orthography officially allows use of u+1E9E

    What about W?
    After I posted that, I thought of Æ and Œ. Of course, they, like W, if considered as a ligature for V V, or the Dutch IJ, all do retain the full capital form of the joined letters.

    A ligature for SS can't follow Æ and Œ exactly, as joining the two letters by having them in contact would look messy. So a bar joining them would be a reasonable way to link them.

    Approaches involving opening up the letter S so that the open space of one letter could overlap with the line of the other could have unfortunate associations, so I would not suggest anything in that area.

    I disagree with your design proposals, though. Since ß is a monolithic glyph rather than a ligature in German, the same must go for its capital. Barred S or trainwreck-SS sound alien and ungainly.

    This, of course, was a suggestion that is relentlessly within the Roman character tradition, and so it's appropriate for conventional serif typefaces. Sans-serif ones, on the other hand, have a better opportunity to show respect for the Fraktur heritage of German script, and so something like the existing versions of capital eszet is appropriate for them.

    But I do think it's difficult to find an appropriate capital form for the eszet qua single glyph, and all the existing forms shown in this thread seem flawed to me.

    This link,
    illustrates some of the historical versions of the capital eszet noted as existing earlier in this thread. It also explains why a capital eszet is very much needed in German, which is interesting.

    The Schelter & Giesecke 1912 design could be used for a Roman version of the capital eszet instead of my suggestion, I'm happy to accept that it is better.

    is a 1912 version from the Bauer typefoundry.

    Then there's
    illustrating that again along with others.