What are 'true italics'?

I spotted this http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/kyryll-tkachev/kolyada/ which claims to have true italics, yet to my eye they are upright italics. What are 'true italics'? I always assumed the expression was used to differentiate from mechanical obliques, is that not true?


  • You have the definition right. This font maker is defining the style with cursive forms of certain letters (a, g, v, y) as "true italic". The rest of the letterforms are the same as the standard/upright style and all the styles have the same slant, so "alternate" or "cursive" would be more appropriate.
  • I'm assuming the designer is using 'true italics' to describe the continuous stroke in his alternate glyphs, as opposed to the abrupt strokes used to form a letter in his non alternates. If such use of 'true italics' respects all the properties expected from the label - I'm not so sure.
  • If you're into masochism, there is a typobile thread somewhere where the usual suspects pontificated the shit out of this.
  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 228
    edited April 2013
    (I need that lol button now for both Jackon and John :-)
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,628
    edited April 2013
    Technically peanuts aren’t nuts, and tomatoes are fruit.

    However, tomatoes are generally considered vegetables because of their cultural (rather than biological) function, being used in savory dishes.

    By the same logic, as italics are generally used for contrast with roman/upright styles, any upright style, even if it can be argued that it is technically an italic, ain’t.

    The phylogenetic categorization preferred to the taxonomic.

    Calling this a true italic is provocative, drawing more attention to the structure of the face than the more obvious “upright italic”. A clever idea!
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,962
    Provocative, yes. Also wrong (IMO).

    To be a true italic requires both a noticeable slant and correction of any distortions induced by obliquing. Most would also say that it requires structural changes—which are present in Kolyada, but without the slant.

    My take: Structural change is arguably necessary, but certainly not sufficient, to create a true italic.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    So being noticeable slanted, is a necessary condition for an italic font. Because of this, "upright italic" is a misnomer/oxymoron.
  • I see no problem in a upright italic. As I understand it, the difference between the upright and the italic is in the glyphs structure. So fonts like Helvetic do not have an italic. They just have a slanted version and e.g. the FF Seria Italic from Martin Majoor is clearly an italic.
  • An "italic" in type first referred to those made in Italy intended to mimic the writing styles then in use. Upright Italic always refers to fonts intended to mimic writing without, or with hardly a slant. Because other kinds of slanted fonts became possible via mechanization, photography and computerization, true italic was used to define that which was handmade vs not. So, I think the requirements of an italic are it either has a slant or it mimics writing italically.

    Kolyada has upright italic, I can see. Maybe even True Upright Italic, but it's funny not to include an italic after doing all the work but slanting.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,727
    Maybe “true italics” is just a bullshit terms used to fluff up marketing copy.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,046
    Italics derive, ultimately, from the Italian secretarial hand of the 15th Century, which is to say that they derive from the cursive, informal scribal hand, while romans derive from the formal bookhand. The characteristics of the informal style reflect the speed with which it is written: cursive letter construction (stroke reversals and turns instead of lifting and repositioning of the pen), slant, and horizontal compression. Almost every mature scribal culture produces both formal and informal hands. My take on what is necessary for an italic type to function as such -- to be sufficiently visually distinct from the roman to operate in an articulatory role, while also recognisably belonging to the family of italic styles (as distinct from, say, being differentiated from the roman by weight) -- is that a slant of more than 4 degrees off vertical is the most easily discerned differentiating feature, such that even mechanically sloped romans are interpreted by readers as italics. If the slant is absent or minimal, then the other characteristic features of the informal scribal style must be strongly present, i.e. cursive letter construction and horizontal compression.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,628
    Then true italics, James, are in opposition to the faux italics of certain WP applications.
    “True” italics only makes sense in relation to classic old style faces.
    When Frutiger was revised with “true” italics, that was nothing of the sort, really should have been termed “old style” italics.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    edited April 2013
    I did some dictionary research, and collected some definitions of "italic" (both in English and in some other languages).
    • italic = In typography, slanted letters. They were first produced in 1506 by the Italian designer Aldus Manutius, who slanted letters to give words special emphasis.
    • italic = (a:) of or relating to a type style with characters that slant upward to the right (as in “these words are italic”) — compare roman. (b:) of or relating to a style of slanted cursive handwriting developed in the 15th and 16th centuries.
    • More definitions in English of "italic" are here.
    • German: kursiv = (von Druckschriften) schräg, nach rechts geneigt.
    • Spanish: cursivo = [Carácter o letra de imprenta] inclinado a la derecha.
    • French: italique = caractère d'imprimerie penché vers la droite.
    • Italian: corsivo = Carattere a mano o a stampa inclinato a destra.
    From these definitions I conclude, that italic letters are essentially slanted letters. Calling an upright letter "italic", conflicts with these dictionary definitions. It seems that the use of the phrase "upright italic", is based on a lack of understanding of the meaning of "italic".
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,090
    ...and don't get me started on "homeschooling," "motorbikes," "rock opera," and "nonalcoholic beer."
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,247
    “Upright cursive” might be a better term.
  • Dictionaries are not encyclopedias, and therefore always give generalisations meant for the general public, instead of giving the most accurate definition meant for professionals.
    (Stating that Aldus Manutius slanted letters is a gross oversimplification of facts, for instance.)

    In the typographic field the definition for “italic” is pretty much as John Hudson explains above. Therefore “upright italic” is just as valid a term as “slanted roman”.
  • I think downright cursive is feeling left out.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,048
    There was a time when italics were slanted, now it's optional. If they're upright and they function as italics, then they can be italics.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    Paul, you have a point. I agree that the general public's definition of "italic", is not necessarily the same as one for professionals — how overwhelming this general public's definition is. Although many here seem to feel that upright glyphs can be called "italic", there is no consensus about this. Some here seem to feel that being noticeable slanted, is a necessary condition for an italic font. I would never call an upright glyph "italic", because doing so, creates unnecessary confusion. It would just "hurt or dilute" the clear meaning of "italic".

    If any upright text which "functions as italics" (which emphasizes or contrasts), can be called "italic", then we can call bold text "italic" too. [Of course, this last remark is not true, if "function as italics" means that "other characteristic features of the informal scribal style are strongly present".]
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,962
    Even if I were to assume that slant is not necessary for an italic (a dubious proposition IMO), the Kolyada "italic" has insufficient structural differentiation from the upright to function like an italic. The nominally non-italic faces have italic-like entry and exit strokes. The "italic" has slightly lower joins on letters like m and n, but not enough so. The italic weight is a smidge lighter, but there is no width difference. Interesting, but not successful in filling the usual italic role.
  • Adding to Thomas' assessment... why do the i and the q come to a blunt end if it is truly mimicking the written letter? This omission/slip can be seen in a number of characters that end abruptly.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,628
    Never mind truth, this is a lazy italic.
    The designer couldn’t be bothered to draw a slanted italic, so just did a few glyphs and otherwise repeated the roman.
    Many fonts these days include such “schoolbook” alternates as a Stylistic Set.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,247
    Maybe it would work if the “roman” were back-slanted.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    Suggesting that the use of "upright italic", may be based on a lack of understanding of the meaning of "italic", was not right. Sorry about that.
    Let's consider the end users of fonts. An "upright italic" font which ends up with an expert, is not a problem, when the expert knows the concept "upright italic". But what about an "upright italic" font which ends up with the general public? Imagine those millions of non-experts, who happen to use a word processor with an italic style link button. When they would click that button, and an "upright italic" font would appear — I bet most of them will be disappointed.
  • I have a hard time believing the designer of this typeface is actually Italian.
  • Just the term "upright italic" is a stretch for me.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,046
    Michael, as a calligrapher, what term would you use to describe or categorise letters with the ductus of the Italian renaissance cursive hand, but written without a significant slant?
  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 138
    edited April 2013
    John, as a lettering artist/type designer, born of a strong calligraphic heritage, I find non-slanted forms a disqualifier for wearing the "italic badge." I think a lot of terms in type have lost their historic edge, partially as a result of technology and from the "dumbing down" of the field by extraneous forces and the ill informed. I gave up fighting a long time ago because it was a battle not worthy of energy when I can go about my business and just watch from the sidelines, uncaring. I thought I heard Arrighi groan the other day as this discussion was going on.

    I find it odd that width and branching are considered the "go ahead" qualifiers for an italic moniker but slant is ignored. Just an ill informed calligrapher I guess... emoticon deleted!
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,046
    But do you have a term that you would favour for an upright writing style with the width and branching characteristic of italics? If we're not to call them upright italics, is there a better term?
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