Why does the horizontal stroke of the oldstyle 4 sit slightly above the baseline?

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In many typefaces with old style numerals, the horizontal of the 4 is not on baseline, but just a tad above . Is there any historical reason for this?

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  • Christian Thalmann
    Christian Thalmann Posts: 1,965
    edited June 2016
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    I think the /4 is not supposed to rest on the baseline like the /2, but float on its keel like a hovering fantasy ship. No a priori reason why that should be so, I guess... the /4 has always struck me as by far the most non-Latin shape among the numerals, and among the most non-Latin shapes in Latin typography overall.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,034
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    Essentially, is is about respecting the proportions of the numeral. Whenever you have a triangular shape, you have a strong dependency between height and width, which in the case of the 4 means allowing the horizontal to float in order to maintain the counter shape at an appropriate width relative to the height.
  • Kosal, could you show –or at least list– some examples?
  • Michael Jarboe
    Michael Jarboe Posts: 265
    edited June 2016
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    Yeah it's a funny thing when it comes very close to baseline, but not quite, the impulse is to make it rest. I don't imagine it was ever intended to align in that way. This doesn't necessarily happen across all weights within a family either, so you'd have to force the issue, and then what would be the point?
  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    Since  aligning the onum 4 to the baseline would make it stand out too strong from the rest, it makes sense to float it above.