Glossary of fonts


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negative leading
Leading of less than the body size. Type set 16/14, for example, is set with negative leading.

negative letterspacing
A type specification in which the space characters is reduced beyond the default setting either by kerning or tracking.

Letterforms reflecting the twentieth-century revival of humanist principles are called neohumanist

When one object is tucked inside another object, literally or figuratively, it is considered to be nested. This can refer to documents nested inside one folder inside another folder. It can also refer to EPS files nested inside EPS files-a bad thing.

nonbreaking space
In typesetting, a special space character placed between two words to keep the words from being separated by a line break.

nu Ν ν
Fourteenth letter of the Greek Alphabet. The font Symbol most often used on American Computers to Type Cyrillic Letters places it in ASCII 78, the space for capital “N.” It looks exactly like a capital “N”. the lowercase nu looks mush like a lowercase “v.”

number sign #
This mark has several common names: ‘hash’ , ‘hatch’ , ‘pound sign’ , and ‘octothorp’ among them. The name “pound sign” is an Americanism that causes some confusion in countries that use the pound for currency. It was also noted that the # is a medieval abbreviation for Latin “numerus” — it is a cursive ‘n’ with a horizontal slash through it, much modified and abstracted.

numeral mark
In classical Roman inscriptions, a horizontal line drawn over those letters which were in fact numerals.

see en




A slanted sans serif face. Many new designers call a font face that is actually oblique italic, not understanding that the italic form is more than just a skewed version of the Roman form.

Distributed by the company that actually manufactures a given piece of hardware, unlike the value-added reseller (VAR) — the company that changes, configures, repackages, and sells the hardware. For example, only a few companies such as Canon, Toshiba, and Ricoh make the print engines used in laser printers. These engines are installed in housings with other components and sold by VARs such as Hewlett-Packard.

offset lithography
The most common commercial printing process in which the ink is offset from the plate to a rubber blanket cylinder before being transferred to the paper.

Old Style Typefaces

(Centaur, Bembo, Jenson, Garamond, Caslon) Generally considered “warm” or friendly typestyle, thanks to its origins in Renaissance humanism. The main characteristics of oldstyle typefaces are low contrast with diagonal stress, and cove or “bracketed” serifs (serifs with a rounded join to the stem of the letter). The earliest (Venetian or Renaissance) old style typefaces (originally 15th-16th Century) have very minimal contrast, and a sloped cross-bar on the lower-case “e.” One such is Bruce Rogers’ Centaur (1916), based on Jenson. Similarly, Monotype’s Bembo (1929) is based on the work of Francesco Griffo, circa 1499. Italics at this point were still independent designs, and were generally used completely separately; a whole book could be set in italics. Probably the most famous italic of the period is Arrighi’s (1524), which may be seen today as the italic form of Centaur. Likewise, the italic form of Bembo is based on the italic of Tagliente (also 1524). Later or baroque old style type (17th Century) generally has more contrast, with a somewhat variable axis, and more slope of italic. The most common examples are the types of Garamond and Caslon, many variant revivals of which exist in digital form. After the death of Aldus in 1515, leadership shifted to France. There the family Estienne (Stephanus in Latin) printed many books that were beautiful as well as textually significant. Other famous 16th-century French printers were Simon de Colines and Geoffroy Tory. The finest printing of all these Frenchmen was done with types that were designed by Claude Garamond. The Garamond types were the ancestors of Caslon and other faces classified as old style. After 1560 Christophe Plantin, at Antwerp, produced fine work ornamented with engravings after Rubens and other artists. Early in the 17th century the Elzevir family at Leyden and Amsterdam became major international publishers. Their editions of the classics are still sought by collectors. Their best types, designed by Christopher van Dyck, are a refinement of Garamond. In France under Louis XIV a series of fine fonts was cut about 1693 for the exclusive use of the Imprimerie Royale (Royal Printing House). About 1722 William Caslon, an Englishman, designed a new face. Caslon’s old-style designs are still in use and widely adapted. They suffered a temporary eclipse late in the 18th century. Then the greatest influence was that of John Baskerville, who had his papers, inks, and types especially made to produce a book to be truly elegant in appearance. Baskerville’s faces are regarded as transitional between old-style and modern designs.

Old-style Figures
A poor but common synonym for text figures.

omega Ω ω
Twenty-fourth (and final) letter of the Greek Alphabet. It looks like an inverted “U” pinched at the bottom with outward serifs. The lowercase omega looks exactly like a sideways “3”.

omicron Ο ο
Fifteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet. The font Symbol most often used on American Computers to Type Cyrillic Letters places it in ASCII 79 — the space for capital “O”. It looks exactly like a capital “O”. The lowercase omicron looks exactly like a lowercase “o”.

A new cross platform font format developed by Adobe and Microsoft. Contains a wider range of characters than PostScript Type 1 or TrueType could map.

A font by Hermann Zapf, which keeps the stroke-weight variations which sans-serifs usually reject. sans-serif fonts are generally reckoned to be slightly less legible than good serifed fonts. They’re suitable for display work. Hermann Zapf is not particularly pleased with any of the phototypesetting versions of Optima. As a lead face, Optima is very beautiful. His typeface “World”, used in the World Book Encyclopedia is one recutting for photocomp which improves the font somewhat. He is on record as saying that if he had been asked, he would have designed a new font for the technology.

Ancient Roman who prepared and penned the text of an inscription.


The First line of a paragraph occurring at the bottom of a page.

The art of writing words with the preper letters and according to accepted usage; correct spelling.

outline font
A printer font or screen font in which a mathematical formula generates each character, producing a graceful and undistorted outline of the character, which the printer then fills in. Mathematical formulas, rather than bit maps, produce the graceful arcs and lines of outline characters. The printer can easily change the type size of an outline font without introducing the distortion common with bit-mapped fonts. (You may need to reduce the weight of small font sizes by using a process called hinting, which prevents the loss of fine detail.)

The other side of a sheet printed on both sides, specifically the page in a book after a right hand page.

In order to appeal to the eye and suggest that letters within a certain font are the same size and color, Certain letters need to be a little larger. Generally, the bowls of the letters O, C, and D dip 2% or less below the baseline and 2% or less above the topline. This encourages the eye to believe they are the same size and is referred to as overshoot.


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