Glossary of fonts

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A small symbol used to represent an object that can be activated or manipulated by a computer user. Icons can represent applications you can open with a click or two of your mouse. They can also represent actions — for instance, in many applications clicking on a icon containing a picture of a printer will print the document that’s active on your screen.

The pictorial illustration of a subject; a given set of symbolic forms and conventions.

A stage in the development of the alphabet which utilized ideograms, pictures or symbols representing things or ideas, without actually being words or phrases.

The quality of being undecipherable, usually due to poor form in craft of writing or type.

The hand decoration of books, as in medieval manuscripts, with drawings and miniature paintings. Includes ornamentation and embellishments of initial letters and borders. Traditionally, gold must be used for the work to qualify as illuminated.

In printing, the arranging of pages on a larger sheet in the correct order and orientation so that when the sheet is folded the pages will appear in order.

A space between the left-hand margin of a line of type or handwriting and the beginning of a sentence or quotation. The beginning of a paragraph is usually indented. This is done to show a slight change in main idea, so first paragraphs of a chapter, section or anything following a subhead (of different type) are not indented.


The amount by which a line of type is set less than a full measure, as when the first line of a paragraph is begun with a blank space of some fixed width. The most familiar indention is the left indent found in the first line of a paragraph, known as the paragraph indention. The hanging indention is just the reverse; it is formed by keeping the first line of a paragraph flush with the left margin and then beginning the subsequent lines of the paragraph to the right of the left margin. This is especially useful for distinguishing headings in narrow columns, or for beginning lists. Indenting text from the right is rarely done except in conjunction with a left indent as well. The diagonal indention requires that the first line of a paragraph be set flush left, the last flush right, and any intermediate lines set to flow diagonally from top-left to bottom-right. It was once popular in newspaper headlines. Another seldom seen indention is made by centering at least three lines of text, each successive line being shorter than the one above it. This is known as inverted pyramid indention. It can be used for headings, but it hasn’t seen much use since the Victorian era.

initial caps
The beginning of a chapter or section is sometimes given emphasis by enlarging the initial letter of the first paragraph. A descending initial aligns the top of the enlarged character with the top of the first line of text, and aligns the bottom of the enlarged character with the base line of the last line of text that it displaces. An ascending initial keeps its baseline aligned with the first line of the paragraph. When an enlarged initial capital is used, the word, phrase, or line which it begins may be set uppercase or in small caps. If the first word of a proper name is set in this way, the remaining words of the name should be as well. Original decorated initial caps created for medieval manuscripts included calligraphic (containing fine pen flourishes), divided (split in two color areas), faceted (made of plane surfaces), figure (bodies of humans and or animals), foliate (decorated with/composed of foliage), histoirated (containing person/scene illustrating text it introduces), inhabited (contains humans/beasts), modelled (rounded or 3D), monogram (two or more intitials joined together), panelled (containing windows), plain (simple letterforms), zoomorphic (letter made by bodies of humans and/or beasts).


A letter in which the inner portions of the main strokes have been carved away, leaving the edges more or less intact. Inline faces lighten the color while preserving the shapes and proportions of the original face. Outline letters, on the other hand, are produced by drawing a line around the outsides of the letters and removing the entire original form. Outline letters, in consequence, are fatter than the originals and have less definition. Castellar and Romulus Open are examples of inline faces.

insular art
Style of art (manuscript decoration and illumination) which developed in 5th – 7th century Ireland; noted for intricate patterns of interlacing and fantastic beasts.

In printing, the arranging of pages on a larger sheet in the correct order and orientation so that when the sheet is folded the pages will appear in order.

A punctuation mark which is a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point.

inverted pyramid indention or internal vertical justification
A seldom seen indention. It is made by centering at least three lines of text, each successive line being shorter than the one above it. It can be used for headings, but it hasn’t seen much use since the Victorian era.

A word separating mark used in Roman inscriptions; usually a triangle.

iota Ι ι
Ninth Letter of the Greek Alphabet. The font Symbol most often used on American Computers to Type Cyrillic Letters places it in ASCII 73, the space for capital I. It looks just like an I.

International Organization for Standardization, headquartered in Geneva. An agency for international cooperation on industrial and scientific standards. Its membership consists of the national standards organizations of roughly one hundred countries.

ISO Latin 1
The font encoding recommended for generating fonts for Sun Systems computers.


A class of letterforms more cursive than roman but less cursive than script, first developed in Italy during the fifteenth century. After the first 10 to 15 years of printing, while the art spread throughout the Rhine Valley and into other parts of Germany, the greatest advances in technique were made in Italy. The early typefaces were mechanical imitations of the handwritten letters in books of the era. Probably the first pure roman type was used by the brothers John and Wendelin of Speier in Venice in 1469. The next year Nicolas Jenson, also a printer in Venice but a Frenchman by birth, produced a more distinguished roman font. It still serves as a model for type designers. Later the foremost printer in Venice was Aldus Manutius, who began in 1495 to publish the Greek and Latin classics. The greatest scholars in Europe — among them Erasmus, Marcus Musurus, Pietro Bembo, and Johann Reuchlin — edited his manuscripts. Aldus was the first to use the sloping type now called italic, in 1501. Sloped romans as a substitute for italics are a fairly recent innovation. Stanley Morrison for a while considered the sloped roman to be the ideal italic (see Fleuron #5), but later changed his mind. Nevertheless it had a strong influence on Eric Gill and the first italic for Perpetua, called Felicity, was a sloped roman. The final Perpetua italic that we have today retains the characteristics of a sloped roman, but has some cursive characters (notably a, f and g) included. The distinguishing mark of a true italic is the foot serif (look at the base of i, m, n etc.). A roman face generally has a foot serif which rests firmly on the baseline. Italics have a foot serif that curves upward. Bembo Narrow Italic (Fairbank) is an example of an italic which is characterized by its construction rather than its serif.

International Typeface Corporation, New York. A typeface licensing and distribution agency, founded in 1970.

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