Cyrillic Blackletter font

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PJMiller
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Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by PJMiller » Sat Jun 17, 2017 9:09 am

For reasons which are unlikely to become apparent I have started a Gothic font.

The Latin characters are OK. I downloaded a scan of some suitable old documents from the 14th century and have got most of the letters from that, the scans were messy and needed tidying up a lot but that is not a problem.

What is a problem is that this font must support Cyrillic.

It seems that Cyrillic has changed a LOT since the 14th century.

Even the alphabet has changed, some of the letters in old Cyrillic aren't used in modern Cyrillic.

So I either have to use modern Cyrillic letterforms and butcher them to look Gothic or I try to find contemporaneous documents (i have very little at present) and make the letterforms as they were in the 14th century but then they will probably appear unintelligible to modern Russians.

Any thoughts ? :?

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by honest.bern » Sat Jun 17, 2017 11:35 am

Two years ago in Salonica I took a picture of this shop sign (6552.jpg). It uses three Greek styles. The interesting one is the middle one. It appears to be Greek made to look like textura. I guess that it reads: “Γ. Ελεvιδη”. I think it shows a compromise between keeping Greek letter shapes and using the vertical lines of a textura.

I don’t know what sort of blackletter you have, but I suspect that if you are making a textura (textualis) font rather than rotunda, bastarda or whatever, then the upright structure of cyrillic should not be a problem. The problem will be what to do with the horizontal lines: which way you should tilt them.

In this case, could I suggest using something like
https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vect ... e-28060585
which shows a modern take on traditional vyaz' lettering. (The bottom line shows some obsolete letters.) The illustration is useful for showing how to deal with the round letters е and с.
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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by PJMiller » Sat Jun 17, 2017 12:39 pm

Thank you, I am no expert but I think the style is something like 'Gothica Textura Prescissa' comparing it to some examples that have that classification.

That just happens to corerespond to the document I found which had a good selection of characters, so I used it.

I will butcher modern Cyrillic to make it fit but I will adjust some of the characters to make them more like the old Cyrillic I have found.

I will also have to put in some of the obsolete characters.

Thank you for your help.

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by Psymon » Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:55 pm

Funny, I was just about to post a somewhat-related question to this board, and came across your post here (although it doesn't quite address the question that I had, so I'll still be posting that query, separately). :)

I've been working on a blackletter font over the last couple years, based on an actual 17th century font, and I "made up" both Cyrillic and Greek/Coptic character sets for it because I basically discovered the same thing you did -- after doing research on Cyrillic fonts from that period, they just looked SO different that I felt they'd be virtually unintelligible to modern audiences (and useless for modern uses). So I ended up just creating "modern" character sets for those essentially using bits and pieces from the Latin set.

I've posted my font (called "Wickednesse") here...

viewtopic.php?f=10&t=6966

...although after posting it (for the second time, just recently) I suddenly saw so many things wrong with it still, and have been working at fixing those things up. Oops! :shock:

I think you may have seen my font? Your name looks familiar, I'm sure you've commented on a post of mine somewhere before, although I don't see a post from you in this particular thread.

In any case, I'm thinking of just totally scrapping the Cyrillic, and Greek/Coptic, from my font because I just don't know what the heck I'm doing with those, really -- that was going to be my query (in another thread I was going to post), whether what I've done is "good enough" to keep them, or whether I should give them up. But in the meantime, I thought perhaps you might like a look at what I did, if for no other reason than for perhaps some ideas or something.

Good luck with your font, however it turns out! :)

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by PJMiller » Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:50 pm

Yes I have taken a good look at 'Wickednesse', it is a good font, well done. :D

My font is called 'Drumph Gothic', the basic character shapes I copied from 'The Luttrell Psalter' which is available at the British Library. For reasons of humour the font has to support Cyrillic but that became a bit of a compromise so I haven't done any work on it recently and it languishes on my hard disk, but one day I will finish it (hopefully some time soon-ish). :roll:

Yes there is a problem here, if it is to be historically accurate the Cyrillic needs to be very different from modern Cyrillic but to be useful as a contemporary font the Cyrillic needs to be comprehensible to modern users. Whatever solution I come up with will be a compromise between these two extremes.

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by Psymon » Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:21 pm

PJMiller wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:50 pm
Yes I have taken a good look at 'Wickednesse', it is a good font, well done. :D
Oh, thanks! I know I've had exchanges with you somewhere before, but I guess it must have been in some other thread -- your name does look VERY familiar (which, in my mind, means that you must have been VERY helpful with some problem or other I was having). :lol:
My font is called 'Drumph Gothic', the basic character shapes I copied from 'The Luttrell Psalter' which is available at the British Library. For reasons of humour the font has to support Cyrillic but that became a bit of a compromise so I haven't done any work on it recently and it languishes on my hard disk, but one day I will finish it (hopefully some time soon-ish). :roll:
Oh! I saw a reference to that the other day -- this is your, uh, political statement, eh? I think I saw a thread where you mentioned having an idea to do it -- nice to see you followed through on that! :mrgreen:
Yes there is a problem here, if it is to be historically accurate the Cyrillic needs to be very different from modern Cyrillic but to be useful as a contemporary font the Cyrillic needs to be comprehensible to modern users. Whatever solution I come up with will be a compromise between these two extremes.
Are you able to read/write in Cyrillic (i.e. in a language that uses it)? That's one of my problems with trying to design a font for that character set -- with the Latin character set, it's easy to come up with all sorts of words, etc. to try out to see how the letters look together, but I'm at a complete loss for being able to do that with Cyrillic (and Greek/Coptic). I could grab some Russian text (or something) off the web, I suppose, but even still it just looks like a bunch of doodly squiggles.

I can understand your dilemma, with your font, that you do really want to have that included, but for me I'm wondering if I've perhaps done such a lame job on those two character sets that I should just give them up and delete them from the font -- which was my query here in a separate thread. I haven't gotten any replies on that as yet, but I suppose that doesn't surprise me, I can see that people would probably just say "Well, that's up to you" or something. :/

Back to your font, though, indeed I also understand the question of how to go about "faking" a blackletter font for Cyrillic, since it looked so very different hundreds of years ago from how that looks now. I did think about doing something similar to what you're doing here, using online texts from that period to just do a REAL character set from that period (just as I've used as REAL period text for my Latin set), but although that would be kinda neat, in a way, at the same time it would be useless.

In any case, it does sound like you have a similar -- but different -- conundrum as mine, except to achieve your original goal you have to stick with it and come up with a solution. With my conundrum, I've already come up with a solution, but I'm too stupid (ignorant) to know if it's any good or of any use at all, and don't know whether to just give it up and scrap it!

I really don't know what to do -- good luck to us both, though, with our respective conundrums (conundra?). Look forward to seeing your font when it's done! I confess that I don't keep an eye on the various boards in here (let alone the "gallery" board), but please do feel free to pop me a message if you want to get my attention -- I'm definitely interested! :D

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by MikeW » Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:30 pm

One option would be to put the historically accurate versions of the Cyrillic into a stylistic set. Kind of a best of both worlds approach. People who desire to do readable Cyrillic (without learning about the historic forms) can do so if they are in the proper code points. And for those who wish to do a "period piece," could do so with a stylistic set.

That's more or less what I did on one of my typefaces.

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by Psymon » Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:49 pm

MikeW wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:30 pm
One option would be to put the historically accurate versions of the Cyrillic into a stylistic set. Kind of a best of both worlds approach. People who desire to do readable Cyrillic (without learning about the historic forms) can do so if they are in the proper code points. And for those who wish to do a "period piece," could do so with a stylistic set.
Pardon my ignorance, but I'm not sure what you mean by a "stylistic set" -- do you mean, like, add in those additional historically-accurate glyphs to the PUA or something? Even if you mean something different, I just don't know what use it would be to anyone -- who, among Cyrillic writers, would be interested in using an alphabet that's no longer used before (not for hundreds of years)? I can't think of a context in which one would do so.

And even still -- regardless of what you mean (since I'm confused) ;) -- there's still the problem of trying to get things to look right, re the kerning and various other aspects.

The more I think about this (and talk/write about it), the more I'm starting to lean toward just scrapping those character sets in my font -- but at the same time that would be rather a shame. I did put quite a bit of work into creating them (essentially "from scratch") but I hate the fact that they're so "ignorantly," and amateurishly, put together.

Crappity-crap, I just don't know what to do! And this doesn't help you with your somewhat-different dilemma, of course -- sorry. :roll:

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by MikeW » Wed Sep 20, 2017 7:41 pm

No worries.

Stylistic sets are a means of exchanging one or more glyphs (characters at its most simple) for another. You can jump to the appropriate explanation in the tag registry here:

https://www.microsoft.com/typography/ot ... t.htm#ssxx

In one of my fonts, I have 6 historical letter forms that get swapped out in Stylistic Set 2. There's more that's going on in this stylistic set as well by use of multiple substitution and chaining context lookups. But for the simple 1:1 single substitution aspect, it is highlighted in the screen shots below.

Note that other than the 5 characters in the single substitution that is highlighted, /s characters are also exchanged for the old form that looks sort of like an /f character (there are differences, though). As well, the chaining context applies rules for when/where this happens ina text run. But the point is the same.
capture-001404.png
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capture-001405.png
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I use kerning classes and judiciously apply side bearings carefully. So in the case of the medial (long) /s, because it is basically an /f character without a full crossbar, I have it added to the kern class that the /f is in. No extra work for kerning at all.

So a person using Word, InDesign, QuarkXPress, etc., to obtain the historical forms, they just need to turn on Stylistic Set 2 and all the "magic" of character swapping happens at once in the affected paragraph style or the highlighted text.

But it is not much work to make that happen (except the chaining context part that I don't think you would need).

If you are going to eb doing much with fonts, do use the Microsoft site I linked to for looking up features and what they do.

Mike

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by Psymon » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:23 pm

Very interesting -- very, very interesting, in fact. I'm a bit "scared" of what all you talk about there, though, I fear that it's probably WAY over my head (and knowledge/capabilities) at this point. :shock: At the same time, though, I do think there could be some wonderful possibilities for my font -- although in bringing that up here I don't mean to steer the subject away from PJ's original thread here.

If I might digress a little in that regard, though (and perhaps this will be of use/interest to PJ, too)...

If only to clarify what we're talking about here, I gather "substitution" is basically like ligatures? In fact, I gather that ligatures are just one form of substitution? I recall Bhikkhu mentioning that he had done something in one of his fonts where all the regular "s" characters would get swapped out for a longs -- as you seem to have done with your font, too (as shown here), but one doesn't just swap out EVERY "s" for a longs, of course, it depends on the context.

And I guess that's what "chaining" is about, i.e. to swap out an "s" for a longs (for example) depending on where/when it appears?

That would actually be something very interesting to do for my Wickednesse font, actually (once again, my apologies for hijacking your thread here, PJ). At least, I would do it if one could also swap out "u" and "v" as well -- the rules for how those were used (historically) are rather screwy as well, similar to the use of longs.

If I do understand that correctly, what "substitution" and "chaining" are, then indeed I think that's something that perhaps I should get "under my head" (rather than have it be over, as it currently is). That would be pretty cool, though, if people could just type out words/sentences "normally," switch those features on and then instantly everything gets converted according to those Renaissance-era typographic rules. ;)

Also, if I am understanding that correctly, do you know of a tutorial where I can learn about that stuff? I just did a quick search for "chaining" in the tutorials board here in these forums, and that yielded nothing, not a single thread. :( I guess I can keep searching, but if you happen to know, off-hand, a good tutorial to teach me about that, that'd be great. :)

Apart from that, I couldn't help noticing a couple things about your font -- if you don't mind a little constructive criticism.

If you want your font to be "historically accurate" with those substitutions turned on, then you might want to create ligatures for longs whenever it's next to a character with a tall ascender (like b, h, k, l, never mind the usual t, of course). That was pretty standard back in those days. In fact, some printers actually did the opposite, where they would instead use a regular "s" when it was next to a "b" or "k," (but use a ligature next to an h, k, l or t). You can see that latter done in the First Folio of Shakespeare (which is easy to find online).

It's VERY cool, though, that the way your substitutions work it does seem to work really well, in context! :) You do have one booboo in there, though -- in "crossstitch" that would substitute to a triple-longs, not alternating back and forth. You have me wondering now if I should create a triple-longs lig for my font, too, in fact.

Very interesting, you do have me quite intrigued with this -- even though I'm currently utterly ignorant about "chaining" and stuff, and it would naturally be a fair bit more work to do (I think?). Could be a very cool feature to have, though, in my font. Thanks for the reply, Mike! :)

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by MikeW » Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:08 pm

Hmm. dunno where to start...

General historical info regarding medial s. The rules for a medial s changed depending on what country and/or region of a country its usage is, and what period that usage is too. As the above font is French in design and was first used in the early 1800s in France (designed in the 1790s or so), I used those rules.

How about last first? Triple medial s. French rules (and in England during certain periods) dictate that a triple medial s has the "regular" s used in the middle location. And before a hyphen. And ... As far as I can do, the font follows the rules. There is one rule that I am not taking the time to resolve, and that is if an abbreviation ends with a period, the medial s is used. That can be seen in my screen shot. But I can resolve that with scripting in ID & QXP, so I don't care at this point. Maybe one day...

Chaining context lookups. There are a couple threads here. I can look later for one or more of them.

The u/v characters. Yep, it could be possible to do those according to rules as well. I just don't know what they are and hasn't applied to the above font so haven't looked them up. The substitution happens as one types, like ligatures, if the feature is turned on in a paragraph style.

Medial s ligatures. I have some in the font. Just need to turn them on...
capture-001408.png
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OK. Chaining context lookups can be daunting, especially at first. The order of the rules and lookups can have unexpected results. So it can take a little bit of time to get how one envisions and interprets the rules to work properly. And do note that some applications "break down" before they fully process rules in certain OT Features. So, for instance, QXP cannot currently process the medial s rules no matter how they are written. ID can, dunno about Word, Affinity Designer now can. In instances where there is willingness on the part of application designers, one can work with them to properly support the features. It's why InDesign & AD can properly process the features they do. Quark is working on it, and they have improved their feature support and processing, but there are core issues preventing accomplishment at this time.

I originally did the font for typesetting a series of journals. Now that that is done, I am extending the fonts to include Cyrillic (80% done) and Greek (50% done). Once the regular style is finished, those additions and the OT Feature coding changes need rolled into the bold & corresponding italics as well.

Mike

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by PJMiller » Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:36 pm

Psymon wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:21 pm
Are you able to read/write in Cyrillic (i.e. in a language that uses it)? That's one of my problems with trying to design a font for that character set -- with the Latin character set, it's easy to come up with all sorts of words, etc. to try out to see how the letters look together, but I'm at a complete loss for being able to do that with Cyrillic (and Greek/Coptic). I could grab some Russian text (or something) off the web, I suppose, but even still it just looks like a bunch of doodly squiggles.
No I don't speak or write in Cyrillic but I have one or two Russian texts which I sometimes use to see if things look well spaced and I have a Bulgarian friend who tells me if something looks wrong.

I don't mind the thread being taken in a new and interesting direction so no more talk of 'hijacking' my thread.

As for chaining contexts, I don't understand them, I experiment with them and sometimes just by trial and error I get it right but it still feels like I am stumbling around in the dark.

:D

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by Psymon » Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:51 pm

MikeW wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:08 pm
General historical info regarding medial s. The rules for a medial s changed depending on what country and/or region of a country its usage is, and what period that usage is too. As the above font is French in design and was first used in the early 1800s in France (designed in the 1790s or so), I used those rules.
Well, to some extent the rules for longs are really quite simple -- as a basic start, and which many early printers followed, every lowercase "s" would be typeset as a longs, unless it was the last letter in the word.

That's the basic rule -- but then there are certain exceptions that were made (such as some, even many, printers keeping a regular "s" if it was adjacent to a "b" or "k," in particular, and sometimes other letters as well). I did a sort of neo-facsimile ebook version of the First Folio edition of several Shakespeare plays, using an old-style font (not by me) embedded into the book, and in typesetting that I essentially followed the rules of the printer of that First Folio. If for whatever reason you're curious about that, and have an IOS device, you can get it on iTunes here (it's free)...

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shakes ... 1169487691

Back to the discussion at hand, this link here is a great overview of all the other various "rules" which one can find in relation to use of the longs, such as what you mentioned regarding punctuation, etc....

http://babelstone.blogspot.ca/2006/06/r ... ong-s.html

And for type designers, if you want to REALLY get nit-picky with your detail, this here is worth a look (along with the scans/images included there via links)...

http://www.fastanimals.com/type/gravestones/long-s/

The author of this latter is talking about his research into old gravestones, but it does provide some interesting food for thought for type designers, too.
How about last first? Triple medial s.
Huh?
French rules (and in England during certain periods) dictate that a triple medial s has the "regular" s used in the middle location.
Do you have a reference for that, that that was a "rule" (whether in France or anywhere else)? I've never seen that -- although I just searched through the digitized period texts that I've worked on in the past (and am working on now) and can't find a single instance of triple-longs, so I can't come up with an example to look at. If you ask me, though, it just looks weird to have alternating longs with a regular "s" (i.e. "ſsſ"), to me it would look better -- and to my understanding and knowledge of the use of longs, historically -- as simply a triple-longs ("ſſſ").

Of course, the instances of that occurring are very rare -- but to me, it really stands out, I noticed that immediately with your typesetting of "crossstitch."
And before a hyphen. And ... As far as I can do, the font follows the rules. There is one rule that I am not taking the time to resolve, and that is if an abbreviation ends with a period, the medial s is used. That can be seen in my screen shot. But I can resolve that with scripting in ID & QXP, so I don't care at this point. Maybe one day...
Of course, re hyphens and abbreviations. If there's a period, or hyphen, or whatever else, it's not about whether the word is an abbreviation or not, but the rule is about "where does that bunch of letters end" -- then it's a regular "s."
Chaining context lookups. There are a couple threads here. I can look later for one or more of them.
That would be great! Although I'm not sure if I'm going to "go there" now (see below), but I am sure that it's just a matter of time before I'll want to, so any links you might have would be of great help (now or later).
The u/v characters. Yep, it could be possible to do those according to rules as well. I just don't know what they are and hasn't applied to the above font so haven't looked them up. The substitution happens as one types, like ligatures, if the feature is turned on in a paragraph style.
Oh, that should be very easy for you to implement, actually -- if you've managed to do those longs substitutions, as you already have, then getting the "u" and "v" characters right should be a breeze.

The rule is very simple: any and every case of either "u" or "v" (lowercase) is typeset as a "u," unless it's the first letter in the word, then it's a "v."

And yes, that sounds totally wack-o, seems to make no sense at all (and certainly makes early texts that much more difficult to decipher at times -- for example, the medical/anatomical term "uvula" would be typeset as "vuula") -- but there is actually a logical explanation for why that was done.

Prior to printing with moveable type, books in Europe were all written in Latin. In Latin, there is actually no "v" character, what we think of as "v" was actually pronounced like a "u" -- or sort-of like a "w." You know that famous phrase "veni vidi vici"? In real Latin, as it originally was spoken, you don't pronounce the opening letters like a "v" but rather like a "w" -- it's actually pronounced "weni widi wici."

And that's how the use of "u" and "v" came about -- it was a stylistic thing, back when books were written (and copied) by scribes. The letter "v" -- as we know it and pronounce it in English (etc.) -- just simply didn't exist in classical Latin.

And, thus, when books began to be printed in English and other languages, that typesetting rule was just a carry-over from those earlier days.

And this is also why we refer to the letter "w" as "double-yoo" and not "double-vee," of course.

:)

Oh, and as far as uppercase "U" and "V" goes, that was always typeset as "V" (regardless of where it appears in the word) -- and very often one will also see uppercase "W" typeset as a double-"V" ("VV").
OK. Chaining context lookups can be daunting, especially at first. The order of the rules and lookups can have unexpected results. So it can take a little bit of time to get how one envisions and interprets the rules to work properly. And do note that some applications "break down" before they fully process rules in certain OT Features. So, for instance, QXP cannot currently process the medial s rules no matter how they are written. ID can, dunno about Word, Affinity Designer now can. In instances where there is willingness on the part of application designers, one can work with them to properly support the features. It's why InDesign & AD can properly process the features they do. Quark is working on it, and they have improved their feature support and processing, but there are core issues preventing accomplishment at this time.
Oh, in that case maybe I won't bother with chaining. Not merely because it's "daunting" to learn -- and that's bad enough! I've had a hard enough time working on this first "serious" font of mine as it is! ;) -- but if it's not commonly supported and can actually cause things to "crash" (so to speak) at times, well, it's probably not worth it for me to get into right now.

As it is, for the texts that I've done using these these old-style fonts, I've basically just typeset all my longs characters wherever they should be such (along with "u" and "v" as they should be, too). I'm pretty used to doing that -- despite it being somewhat of a pain to do so "manually," of course -- but the advantage of that is that if a person switches out the font the document is displaying in (as anyone can easily do with an ebook, for example, which has been my target platform in recent years) then at least the "spelling" of words will still be correct.
I originally did the font for typesetting a series of journals. Now that that is done, I am extending the fonts to include Cyrillic (80% done) and Greek (50% done). Once the regular style is finished, those additions and the OT Feature coding changes need rolled into the bold & corresponding italics as well.
Cool. You're definitely way ahead of me with all this stuff, but I guess the end conclusion, as far as my delving into chaining, etc. for my font, is that I'm probably better off leaving well enough alone for now.

Thanks very much for your replies here, Mike! You've most certainly piqued my interest and curiosity about some things here, even if I am going to just backburner it all for now. :)

(Thanks, too, to PJMiller for your reply -- not much to add here in response to that, I suppose, that hasn't already been discussed above!) ;)

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by MikeW » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:18 pm

Too much to respond to...

As regards a triple s, Bablestone reference mentions it in connection to 17th/18th century English...
Compound words with the first element ending in double s and the second element beginning with s are normally and correctly written with a dividing hyphen (e.g. Croſs-ſtitch, Croſs-ſtaff), but very occasionally may be written as a single word, in which case the middle letter 's' is written short (e.g. Croſsſtitch, croſsſtaff).
Because the font I was reproducing had that pattern, and I couldn't really decipher the scans I was originally using for the actual words, I used the words from Bablestone were those patterns occurred. The font was used in a set of journals wherein French text was quoted, sometimes at length. While Croſsſtitch did not occur, there were a few other words wherein that pattern did occur. In general, one has to make live text "agree with the picture." I eventually got the text in the Word document I mentioned, but not during font development.

I was lucky to obtain hi-res scans of a large volume the font was used for printing though. Those scans became the font...but it didn't help with whatever words were used in the text for the journals. I had to wait for months for the French that was being quoted. The author had simply plopped in cropped scans of the text into the Word document where the text would occur. But the images were crap as regards my use during tweaking the font.

If I were being historically accurate and typesetting Shakespeare, I would follow either early printed text of his work(s) or from the period I was reproducing. But I wasn't. The same would apply if I was doing/making your font. I would pick actual printed works from the period, make my choices (because there will be variance) and run with it, making the font work "like the picture" insomuch as was possible.

Mike

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Re: Cyrillic Blackletter font

Post by Psymon » Thu Sep 21, 2017 5:12 pm

MikeW wrote:
Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:18 pm
Too much to respond to...
Ha ha, sorry, I guess I got on a bit of a roll this morning (not just here, but elsewhere). ;)

I do stand duly corrected, though, re the triple-longs! Rest assured that I had read that Babelstone article in its entirety before (more than once, actually) but didn't re-read it again before sharing it here earlier -- I guess I should have! :roll:

So again, I stand corrected -- although even still, I think the alternating s/longs/s looks a bit weird, and that to me it would look more "correct" to simply be a triple-longs.

Obviously I don't know everything, though. ;)

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