Questionnaire about the needs of Greek typography end-users

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Tatiana Marza's picture
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Questionnaire about the needs of Greek typography end-users
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BACKGROUND:
During the last few decades Greek typography has been strongly influenced by Latin elements. Often, there is substitution of Greek letters by Latin ones. A few designers try to preserve characteristic Greek typographic elements into their work, but overall Greek typography appears to trend towards Latin assimilation.

AIMS:
a) To define what constitutes Greek characteristics in a font,
b) To delineate the needs and problems faced by contemporary Greek typography end-users (graphic designers, book publishers of Greek texts, etc.)

EXPLORATORY QUESTIONS:
a) How do you define or how do you approach the issue of a Greek characteristic in a font?
b) What questions would you have for end-users of your fonts?
c) Why do you design Greek fonts?

P.S. The results of this study, including all information from font-designers and end-users, will be posted in this blog in the end of June.

Tom Gewecke's picture
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Could you provide some examples of what you mean by "substitution of Greek letters by Latin ones"?

Tatiana Marza's picture
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< Could you provide some examples of what you mean by "substitution of Greek letters by Latin ones"?>

This is one of many examples:
Minion Pro retains the characteristics of each alphabet, while Tahoma obscures the difference (left - latin, right - greek)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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This is my favorite topic (although not specifically about Greek, but Latinization in general) so I think you have chosen your thesis topic* very well. :-)

* http://typophile.com/node/99450

I intend to reply in detail soon, but in the meantime I would recommend reading my article "Latinization: Prevention and Cure" which has been published in two journals: Spatium #4 (2004) and Hyphen #5 (2005).

hhp

Tatiana Marza's picture
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Hrant, I'm very glad to see your post here. Thank you for your contribution!

> To me calligraphy fails to promote -and in fact essentially opposes- functional or cultural progress in type design.<

I would be very interested in reading your point of view about this. Could you explain your statment, please?
If I understood correct, looking back to early Greek typography opresses the progress of Greek font design? (and I suppose you are speaking about the calligraphy of any other language)

The history of Greek typography reveals the big impact of byzantine scripts in the design of Greek fonts. While the latin typography evolved through a different path and always seemed modern. Based on which criteria could anyone desing a modern Greek font, but not using elements from calligraphic manuscripts?

I am not an expert at all, but it seems to me that some recent fonts have quite a contemporary look based on byzantine roots… What do you think?
See Maiola, Skolar, Colvert
http://rosettatype.com/index.php?action=carro/search_by_kw&kwId=3&kwName...
http://www.typographies.fr/uk/index.php?page=fontes&s=Colvert

Also, I see a preference in "calligraphic" Greek fonts which are more suitable for extended texts, because they have "fluidity", while the modern ones are static and "printed" rather than "written". Should we change our attitude towards letters? To accept that they are not written anymore, but designed on a computer?

John Savard's picture
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I am not a native speaker of Greek, so I cannot speak to the issue in a way useful to you. But I am curious about your findings.

My understanding of the situation is that Greek typography is weakly developed due to the long period of Turkish rule, when printing in the Greek language was suppressed.

Thus, it came to be that most readily available Greek typefaces were designed in Latin alphabet nations for use in study of the New Testament or the classics - or for use in mathematical formulae. The latter application led to the infamous Porson typeface, long the standard for Greek, where the upper case was upright and very much like that of Latin, while the lower case was cursive... and italicized.

The upper and lower case of the Latin alphabet are based on a compounding of Roman capitals with the uncial script done at the behest of Charlemagne, but over hundreds of years, the two scripts achieved a unity and complementarity - for most categories of typeface, this process seems less far along in Greek.

The Cyrillic alphabet, based on the Greek alphabet, of course, illustrates what a completely Latinized Greek script might look like. On the other hand, most of the typefaces designed to be based on authentic Greek sources are sans-serif - and the advantages of serifs for legibility are well-known.

So I suspect that typography in the Greek language faces many contradictions - and its difficulties, compared to the success of the Latin script, makes borrowing and assimilation a strong temptation.

Incidentally, I've seen the substitution of the Latin capital Y for the Greek Upsilon (Υ). The font used here does that! I suppose people could also use W for Omega, but I can't think of any other replacements (not counting digamma and qoph).

Andreas Stötzner's picture
Joined: 12 Mar 2007 - 10:21am
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I’m not quite sure about which end user you’re adressing, Tatiana. The reader? The typesetter?

It makes quite a difference wether you consider serifed faces or non-serifs. The more tricky and more interesting part is the serifes, of course.
– What about script faces, displays, blackletter?

Make sure you get hold of a copy of Viktor Scholderer’s Greek Printing Types, 1465-1927.
He himself tried out the third way of Hellenisation, as an possible alternative to Byzantinization and Romanisation. Worth consideration by all means.
My [[http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/andreas-stotzner/andron-1-gre-corpus/|own Greek]] took me about five years to finish. I would describe it as modern-classical yet rather non-historic, not byzantine nor romanized.
My 2 cents.

Cheers to wonderful Saloniki :-)

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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I’m not quite sure about which end user you’re adressing, Tatiana. The reader? The typesetter?

You left out the book interior designer, or graphic designer, for small pieces. In the book world anyway, the interior designer is the person who selects all the typefaces used. Occasionally the author gets a voice. Occasionally too, the book designer will ask the typesetter for a recommendation, when they have selected a typeface for the text that does not have a companion Greek.

FWIW, in the past 33 years, I think I've set one book that used a sans for the Greek. From 1980 to the late 1990s, Porson Greek (Monotype) was far and away the preferred font for academic works (essentially in English, but with classical Greek passages). Thank God that has changed...

In any case, I imagine it is the www world to which you're really directing your question...

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(a) I try to strike a balance between maintaining the conventional Greek letter forms, and respecting the thematic characteristics of the typeface.

(b) None. Type designers don’t do market research.

(c) Because Adobe has set a standard for OpenType fonts that includes both features and Pan-European language support, and because it interests me.

Herbert Elbrecht's picture
Joined: 13 Jan 2013 - 1:47pm
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Hi -

years ago I had to get a strictly-in-house solution to the problem of mixed Roman/Greek/etc texts - that's why I cut my "MT Joanna Greek SIR" version – after studying above Viktor Scholderer’s Greek Printing Types, 1465-1927. This is a very first cut only and for strictly-in-house use only - I never thought about finishing - but here you can get my reformation of Greek type:
[[http://www.elbrecht.com/sir/SIRlandscape.pdf]]
[[http://www.elbrecht.com/sir/SIRportrait.pdf]]
Now the official Monotype Joanna Greek is out - but see for yourself…

HE

Tatiana Marza's picture
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Due to the lack of time (less than 3 months), I will address my questionnaires only to graphic design studios, book publishers, Greek magazines, and I'll have to include the www world, because in one way or another they are all responsible for the chosen font people are reading daily.
A "usual reader", who is not accustomed to typography, cannot make the difference between a serif and a non serif font, he is more preoccupied with the legibility factor, so I cannot ask him technical and typographic questions.

< It makes quite a difference wether you consider serifed faces or non-serifs. The more tricky and more interesting part is the serifes, of course.
- What about script faces, diplays, blackletter?>

I would need some more specifications on this part, Andreas.
I'm just a graphic design student, not a typographer. I try to read as much as I can, but you are the experts :)
Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought there are no blackletters in Greek type history…
Thank you!

Andreas Stötzner's picture
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> blackletters in Greek type …

Tatiana Marza's picture
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Nick, may I ask why type designers don’t do market research? As graphic designers we were taught to think about our target group, because the final product will eventually reach them. Doesn't this apply to your sphere too?

Tatiana Marza's picture
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Andreas, you've got great taste for sweets:)

I've been in Sachsen for a MotoGP show few years ago! I felt like a dwarf amongst German spectators, quite weird for a woman being there. Of course, I didn't remember anything from the show, so I had to watch it once more on TV :)

Now, on typography… I liked very much your font. And I'm sure, the polytonic form is a big advantage of it. There are still people who prefer polytonic fonts for literary text. Since last month I continuously discover new, great, Greek fonts… Maybe I was totally wrong about the latinization of Greek typography? May I ask what elements influenced your design?

Thank you for you time, Andreas.

Jason Campbell's picture
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"(b) None. Type designers don’t do market research."

I think that probably is true of most retail fonts, simply because the potential audience is so varied. In fact I'd guess we've all been through cases where you think that a font has a target market, but then it's picked up and used someplace completely different.

But that's not always true. I imagine that if you're designing a font for a specific product or brand, you'd do a lot of research into the market that that product plays in.

Tatiana Marza's picture
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Andreas, I found some more examples of blackletters in Greek Typography. So, what about them? How could this letters be related to my research?

Andreas Stötzner's picture
Joined: 12 Mar 2007 - 10:21am
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> great taste for sweets

actually, I have even more taste for other sweet things in life :-) like spicy type

But now, seriously. The decision to support the polytonic range of characters is not just meant to be an advantage, but is clearly aimed at a specific user group: scholars of the classics who just need this entire set. As far as I can tell, Andron Greek is used more outside Greece by editors and scholars than by Greek customers.
Latinization. This is one of the most fascinating topics in type, actually. (By the way, one can cross-flavour every script with whatsoever writing style, you can do a chinese-looking Latin or an Arabic-looking Cyrillic; a Chinese blackletter face has been done recently… so far the game of it.)
The greek minuscule got under Latin pressure over the last 15 years not only because there was some wishful mood of getting Greek ‘modernized’ – whatever this may imply. More than that we still see (and feel?) that the Latin and the Greek letters are basically identical. So the wish *to see either alphabet on the same level* seems natural. Not to forget that both capital alphabets co-exist as close kin without the medieval-age metamorphosis history of the minuscules, to the day.
So the Latin journey of Greek was inevitable. When I started to work on Andron Greek I thought “make it look like Latin” in order to get a harmonized overall appearance. (I never intended to stick to one of the historic models like Garamond or Didot Greek.) The result was perfect: you couldn’t even spot a few greek phrases interspearsed in a Latin text because the likeness was extreme. But then I learned – again: inevitably! – that my achievement was ‘too much of a good thing’, the Greekness got lost and that was just bad. So I reworked it, several times. And I went back the path from Greekness to Latinitas, step by step. I found an old review image of that process, versions A to D in time order:


As you see I came quite back home to Hellas with the latest version D. But I was still not convinced. Some details were now “too Greek” – no. Not too Greek but too cursive, too scripty. The more traditional reverse contrast pattern (lambda, chi) did not fit in. I now knew I wanted it not more Latin, but more smart. And I compiled another version (M) from the previous ones:

But still this was not the end. At least three more versions got tested.
After a year something very important happened: I was in Greece :-) (in Saloniki, actually). And I digged in the very life of Greek type: newspapers, shopfronts, the wonderful και, menus, even silly espresso cups.
When I was back I screwed up the font again and did those version which remained the valid one till today:

I know that the result does not convince everyone. But the font found its way into use and that tells me that the solution is a possible one.

postscriptum. Last year I enjoyed visiting Corfu. I learned that the island, although belonging to Greece and being populated by Greeks, is rather Italian by kind of its fauna and style of its architecture. I found this most remarkable.

Andreas Stötzner's picture
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The examples you’ve just posted are actually no blackletter, although the appearance is somewhat similar. But strip off the serifs and you get basically quite a normal capital style.

John Hudson's picture
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To provide some context for the comments that follow, here are samples of some Greek typefaces that I have created. Note that Gabriola is a display face, intended for larger sizes, and looks too light in the screenshot; note also that the heavy horizontals in the SBL Greek are due to rounding at this size and resolution. Click on the image for a zoomable and printable PDF version.

Hrant's intervention introduced 'calligraphy' into this discussion, but I would prefer to return to the framework of Tatiana's original query. I don't consider any of my Greek types 'calligraphic'. The one that might seem on first glance to most obviously display calligraphic characteristics -- the Gabriola display face -- is actually the one that I created with least reference to scribal models, even less, it might surprise to learn, than the Helvetica World Greek.

So, some comments on how I 'define or ... approach the issue of a Greek characteristic in a font':

I think Tatiana is correct to say that the history of Greek typography reveals the strong influence of the Byzantine scribal hands. It is not the only influence: one sees sometimes reference to archaic styles, especially in display typography, and the Complutensian and related pre-Aldine types saw revival in the 19th and 20th Centuries (ignoring for now the importation of styles from other scripts as in the blackletter and woodtype examples shown in this thread). Overall, though, the Byzantine style has been the dominant influence, but not simply in terms of its most obvious historical stylistic aspects: intensive ligation and contraction, cursiveness, varying contrast patterns, etc., which frequently blind people to its most lasting influence. It is within this style that the Greek lowercase letters came into existence and persist in being written up to and through the introduction of type and print publishing. So it is entirely ordinary that it should have become the dominant model, just as the relatively unligated, formal and more regularised humanist book hand should have become the dominant model for Latin type: typography pretty much everywhere picks up whatever is the main scribal book hand of the day and runs with it.

When I am designing type, I'm generally thinking mostly about structure and texture rather than style. So the questions I ask myself are not about what consitute 'Greek characteristics' but about the structure of Greek letters and how these create a particular texture on the page that I associate with 'Greekness'.

In 2003, I designed the Constantia family for Microsoft, which was the last time I tried to harmonise Greek and Latin designs through stroke contrast pattern. There were a few reasons for this, one of which was that the ClearType rendering environment for which the types were designed is much more forgiving of thin horizontals and thick verticals than vice versa. At the same time, there are some Latinised contrast patterns in the Greek lowercase that I really find totally unconvincing -- too far removed from the historical evolution of the letter shapes --, so in Constantia there is a mix of contrast patterns (compare pattern of ο with that of π and τ; note pattern of λ). As I say, it is the last time I tried this approach, and Constantia Greek is my least favourite of my Greek designs (at least, of the ones I can still bear to look at). After the experience, I was left convinced that the shapes of the Greek lowercase letters, evolved through the Byzantine scribal model and its 350+ year typographic expression, naturally carry the pattern resulting from a more steeply held writing implement, and that this contributes massively to the Greekness of the texture on the page.

Around the same time as the Constantia project, I began work on the SBL Greek type for the Society of Biblical Literature, and used the opportunity to renew study of Robert Granjon's Greek types, which I had earlier used as a model for the uncompleted, heavily-ligatured Clio type shown at the first ICTVC conference in Thessaloniki. For SBL Greek, I ditched all but two of the ligatures (γγ and λλ, which have become a feature of most of my Greek types), but stuck very closely to scribal letter shapes and proportions, and the variable contrast pattern. One of the personal goals of the project was to get a better sense of how much of the texture of Byzantine manuscript and Renaissance print pages was the result of the ligation and contraction, and how much was the result of the lettershapes and contrast patterns. My conclusion -- also confirmed by my experience with lots of other writing systems -- is that texture is built up from layers of characteristics, beginning with relative proportions and letter frequencies, then stroke contrast patterns, and that these, before the influence of particular weights and styles, contribute to what I think of as the 'feel' of a particular script on the page. The observable qualities that constitute Greekness in both a heavily ligated page of Aldine, Grecs du Roi or Granjon types of the Renaissance and a mostly unligated Foulis Press edition of the 19th Century are the product of structure and contrast pattern.

As I wrote above, Gabriola is superficially 'calligraphic' in style -- which is to say that someone who doesn't know much about Greek calligraphy is likely to identify it as such --, but unlike the SBL Greek is not derived from a scribal model. The Gabriola Greek, because it doesn't include the same level of ornamentation options as the Latin and Cyrillic, includes a compensatory of ligatures to enliven things. But these are all what I think of as tying ligatures, i.e. in which the shapes of the underlying letters are not modified significantly, only linked to each other.

[This relates back to my study of the Granjon types, in which I classified Renaissance Greek ligatures into two kinds: connecting and morphographic. The three pages of this PDF show the same passage in the Clio type with, respectively, no ligatures, connecting ligatures, and both connecting and morphographic ligatures. In general, connecting ligatures present no problem for modern Greek readers, since the basic letter shapes are easily recognised; many of the morphographic ligatures from the Byzantine/Renaissance tradition present considerable problems, as a straw poll taken at the first ICTVC conference confirmed.]

As with the Latin and Cyrillic, the Gabriola Greek explores what happens to structure and texture when lettershapes traditionally associated with a translation stroke model are instead made with an expansion stroke model.

Gabriola is a display face, so shouldn't be taken as directly representing any ideas I have about Greek text types (even though we hinted it so that it bears up remarkably well at text sizes on screen (better than in print)). However, when I came to design the new Greek type for the academic publisher Brill, I made use of many of the same decisions that I had employed in Gabriola. My point of departure in this case, though, was the Didot Greek types of the 18th Century, which were informed by the dynamics of the contemporary split nib, and are the basis, via Monotype 90, for the famous απλά, i.e. simple or normal, style of Greek literary publishing. The Brill Greeks represent a regularisation and softening of the stroke contrast of the Didot types, maintaining the traditional Byzantine patterns but applying them to less cursive, more formal and upright structures. For comparison, here is a characteristic Didot Greek -- from Firmin Didot's 1828 edition of L'Iliade d'Homère -- shown above the Brill Greek regular and bold (obviously I've got very different ideas about wordspacing!):

It's been very gratifying to see the Brill Greek in frequent use in Brill publications, and to note among other things that it harmonises incredibly well with the Brill Latin, despite a completely different ductus and contrast pattern. This confirms again something that I discussed during my Beatrice Warde Memorial lecture Same Difference [some corruptions in that PDF resulting in missing characters] at St Brides a few years ago: cross-script harmony is firstly and most importantly a matter of weight and proportion, rather than of ductus and contrast pattern. It is possible to elegantly harmonise two different writing systems together on a page without forcing either into the dress of the other. It is possible for both to display their characteristics textures on the page and still harmonise. Indeed, to take the notion of harmony back to its musical origins, it is possible for the two voices to produce beautiful harmony without one trying to sound like the other.

Finally, a word on the earliest of my Greek designs shown here, the Helvetica World Greek that I designed for Linotype at the beginning of the millennium. See also this comparison of the design -- here under its earlier name Helvetica Linotype -- with Matthew Carter's original Helvetica Greek from the 1970s. Some people, especially at the time of the release of Helvetica World, interpreted my design in terms of ideas about correct and incorrect ways to design Greek types, especially sans serif types, which I suppose relates directly to Tatiana's questions. I was bemused to find that I had both champions and critics in Greece, and there were references to the 'Hudson way' as something to be emulated or disavowed. As time has passed, I've tried to get away from that interpretation, and one of the things that I find interesting about the project is that it shows how much designing an extension of an existing typeface for a new script is like a work of literary translation: more than one translation is possible, and each is likely to respond to different aspects of the original. The original Helvetica Greek reflects the contemporary associations of Helvetica with internationalism, standardisation and, it must be said, westernisation; the Helvetica World design reflects my interest in the relationship of the mid-20th Century Swiss/German grotesk to the structures of 18th Century romantic types (esp. Didot and Walbaum). So my Helvetica World Greek is thematically related to my most recent, Brill Greek, although one might not guess so from a simple comparison.

So that's a longish answer to Tatiana's question (a).

I'll give some thoughts to the other questions and try to respond in shorter manner.

Juergen Weltin's picture
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Just a short comment:
In my own designs i try to transport the ›feel‹ of the Latin forms into the Greek script. The latter follows the traditional Greek writing not too close but still visible. So, my aim is to make it harmonize with Latin but still being its own script. The structure and movement of the Greek script is clearly different to the Latin lowercase alphabet. It would look wrong if you’d latinize it.
I followed a more latinized approach for a geometric sanserif i did in commission for a large corporation. But there (similar to John Hudson’s Helvetica World approach) the typeface was intended more for display use.

Tatiana Marza's picture
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My Dear Typophiles, I am more than grateful for your contributions. You provide me precious information and I want to tell you a big THANK YOU!

P.S. the images of your designed Greek fonts and the process of their design are very useful. Also, the extended explanatory text doesn't bother me, vice versa.

Herbert Elbrecht's picture
Joined: 13 Jan 2013 - 1:47pm
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Well -

with all these Brave New Greek fonts available now - I still stick to what Eric Gill wrote on Greek in his 19[30/]36 'An Essay on Typography':
[[http://www.elbrecht.com/sir/Gill'n'Greek.pdf]]

HE

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What Gill knew about Greek would fit on the head of a pin. His comment that '...the leaders of typographic design in the fifteenth century never achieved for Greek what they did for Latin and modern languages' shows just how poor is his knowledge and superficial his analysis. In fact, the typographers of the 15th Century starting with Aldus achieved for Greek exactly what they achieved for Latin, i.e. the translation into type of the standard scribal book hand of the day. And although this cursive style became the dominant mode of typographic Greek, it wasn't the only mode and the non-cursive Greeks of the 15th Century all point to more fruitful directions in Greek type design -- as Scholderer demonstrated -- than Gill's embarrassing Perpetua Greek, whose only redeeming feature is that no one ever used it.

The thing that I find remarkable about Gill and Van Krimpen and others who set out to deliberately Latinise the Greek script -- whether they used that term or simply talk in terms of 'modernising' or 'formalising' --, is that they end up producing stiff, clumsy and lifeless forms that do not combine well, of a kind that they would never accept in their Latin type designs. It is as if they abandoned all their knowledge about what makes a typeface work, ignoring all that they knew from Latin script even as they try to 'Latinise' the Greek. So when Gill writes that 'Just as the capitals of the Perpetua Greek are of precisely the same family as the Perpetua Roman, so the Perpetua Greek lower-case is of the same family as the Perpetua Roman lower-case', my response is 'No. It isn't. The Perpetua Latin lowercase has life and elegance, and pleasing curves, and nice proportions that make the letters combine well into words. The Perpetua Greek has none of these characteristics.'

Tatiana Marza's picture
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> More than that we still see (and feel?) that the Latin and the Greek letters are basically identical. So the wish *to see either alphabet on the same level* seems natural.

In his book,"The history of Greek script", Antonios Sigalas (Ιστορία της ελληνικής γραφής, Αντώνιος Σιγάλας - I'm afraid is available only in Greek), shows how the handwriting of Latin and Greek languages at one point (first centuries AD) were so mixed, that with difficulty anyone could distinguish them. But this was due to social evolutions of Roman Empire, where Greek and Roman children were exposed to similar educational system, so the handwriting (dimotiki) on wax tablets was resembling, he says.
Despite this, through time, when Greek minuscule appeared (around 9th century AD) the letters distinguished themselves from Latin ones (because the Capitals of two alphabets had similarities and differences). [When someone tries to write fast, different alterations appear in letter forms, not to mention the natural conversion of upper to lower case. Try for yourself to write 'Γ' and then a very quick gamma, which will evolve steadily to 'γ'].
Aldus Manutius may be criticisezed for "negative influence", but in one way his printings preserved the characteristics of Greek letters and thus influenced greek typography for quite a long period. The lack of political and economic stability in Greece for few centuries (Ottoman rulling, revolution of 1821, WW1, WW2, again revolution, Hounda) didn't give the opportunity to the Greek type to flourish, as Latin did. Maybe this is an explanation why latin fonts always seemed more modern than greek and eventually dictated the style of contemporary fonts.

And at this point I will have the (naive?!) courage to put in discussion a relation of the following theory to Latinization: that people tend to be more open to things that they are most used to, because they feel more "comfortable", safe.
How is this related to Latinization?
Lately, my friends are asking me what project I am doing and I tell them that I found (yes, I too wasn't aware of it) a fenomenon concerning typography - latinization of greek alphabet. And they are all surprised that something like this exists, because is not easily perceived by society.
Latinization was introduced day by day into Greek typography. The reader was getting used to the micro changes and could not see the image from another point of view, except of typographers, graphic designers etc. But you see, the released typefaces were read by all Greek speakers and not only. Unconsciously, they accepted what they were served for dinner.

Let's see, hoω εαsγ γου cαη rεαδ τhις τεχτ?

If a English speaker is exposed for centuries to this king of metamorphosis of letters (which would occur with minor changes step by step), some day he will get used to it.
As Matthew Carter underlines (From tablets to pixels, [1996]," Which came first, the Greeks or the Romans?" ), every epoch has its specific demands and people are exposed to different typographical approaches.

It would be irattional to ask from a Greek to read today the complicated word "para- παρά" (see the image, up center) and from an English - "que" and "pre", says Carter. Even if these were the most common ligatures of the past when people could easily read them!

For me, there are some key points here:
1) Today, latin alphabet can be read everywere, in almost every society. Population is accustomed to it and as result, the phenomenon of latinization is unconsciously accepted.
2) The written forms of an alphabet is a cultural heritage, is the identity of every nation and social group. Aknowledge and education can prevent the Latinization process.
3) Even if we all agree that Latinization is a logical process of letter evolution, can you imagine universal type in 100 years? It will be all the same, no difference between latin, arabic, greek, thai, armenian, etc. Quite boring… and at some point, the return to roots will be inevitabile, I suppose. (I'm waiting for Hrant's :) critique about this)

So, I'm asking Andreas, "the wish *to see either alphabet on the same level* seems natural", is a intuitional statement or a unconsciously perspective directed from specific groups?

P.S.
1) John, thank you for the comments about Gill! :)
2) Soon I will reply to other comments - specifically reffering to what I found about the "characteristics of Greek letters"
3) did you know that in ancient times the fathers were obliged to educate their sons, otherwise they weren't entitled to ask for support and care when they would become old?

Maxim Zhukov's picture
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Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought there are no blackletters in Greek type history…

For your collection, Tatiana.

Tatiana Marza's picture
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Maxim, I was carried away by the information of Klimi Mastoridi that there are no blackletters in Greek as there were in Latin script. I think he meant that Greeks never used blackletters to write, albeit for some logos, as the images posted here.

John Savard's picture
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In any case, that Greek newspaper name came from a Greek-language newspaper published in New York City, surounded by Latin-alphabet users who thought that blackletter was the only style of printing suitable for a newspaper masthead - this was true until some time during the 1960s.

Early written Greek is almost indistinguishable from Phoenician, so one could argue that an authentic "modern" Greek ought to look like... Hebrew, with almost as much validity as to claim, on that ground, that it should look like Latin.

Although I have no love for Gill, or his Latinized Greek face, I do think that the comments quoted do have a bit of validity - Greek lowercase and Greek uppercase are not harmonized; Greek lowercase essentially only exists in a cursive form, and so doesn't match non-cursive uppercase.

The cure, though, is not to ape a Latin, Cyrillic, or even Armenian model. This will continue to prompt much experimentation by Greek type designers, and perhaps eventually the popular taste will favor some particular style. But this isn't a problem that can be "solved" overnight.

It can even be argued that this is not necessarily a problem, since it doesn't affect legibility or readability in a serious manner; the Greeks can read their own printed material just fine, even if it does not quite meet an aesthetic canon of foreigners. (Note, incidentally, that this may also suggest that the solution lies in making the capitals match the lowercase better, instead of the other way around - which Latin-script outsiders would favor, since they relate well to the capitals as they are.)

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It would be irattional to ask from a Greek to read today the complicated word "para- παρά" (see the image, up center) and from an English - "que" and "pre", says Carter. Even if these were the most common ligatures of the past when people could easily read them!

The (p with left-side hook) may be read as an abbreviation for pr, not always pre -- what came after the abbreviation would determine the reading --, but the point about the challenge for modern readers is the same. I think it is worth noting, though, that while the Greek παρα ligature is graphically more complex than the Latin abbreviations, it is decipherable because the underlying letter shapes and their order can be discerned in it (the Latin abbreviations cannot be deciphered from their shape, and one has to learn their meaning in order to read them). This is true of very many of the Greek ligatures, although some make use of neglected variant letter shapes, as in this γγ ligature

and a few obscure one or more of the underlying letter shapes almost completely, as in these επι and ος ligatures

[In my researches on Byzantine ligatures, I found that the letter ε was most frequently subject to shape change in ligation. There are some ligatures in which it is indistinguishable from ϲ (lunate sigma) and some in which it is reduced to a small curved stroke.]

As I tried to suggest in my long comment, I think the role of ligatures in terms of the characteristics of the Greek minuscule is easily overstated and can be a red herring -- as the free variant elaborations of the Arabic naskh style can be -- distracting attention from what contributes most to the characteristic texture of Greek on the page regardless of the presence, absence or number of ligatures employed. This, I maintain, is primarily the steep stroke contrast pattern and the letter structures that evolved from that model.

Since I mentioned Arabic, I'll point out that my review of Byzantine manuscripts led me to conclude that no rules existed for where and when particular ligatures or variant forms were used in Greek. So, unlike much of the letter shape modification and joining behaviour in Arabic, which is graphotactical (representing an aspect of a consistent script grammar), the Greek ligatures are free variants, whose use is a matter of personal preference or, sometimes, text fitting. With regard to the latter, it is interesting to note that Granjon's smaller sizes of Greek type include more ligatures than his larger fonts, and when one sees these small types used in marginalia and footnotes one can appreciate the space-saving value of many of these ligatures.
_____

Greek lowercase and Greek uppercase are not harmonized; Greek lowercase essentially only exists in a cursive form, and so doesn't match non-cursive uppercase.

I'd like to be careful in the use of terminology here, just to be clear what we are talking about. The term cursive can mean running in the sense of connected letters, which is clearly not what we're limited to talking about when it comes to Greek (indeed, in this sense the Byzantine manuscript style is at most semi-cursive). But if we apply the term to the internal construction of individual letters, then yes, the dominant model of Greek minuscule is cursive, i.e. the pen is not lifted in the writing of most letters, but instead strokes are reversed or turned to form transitions, as is the case with the humanist italic letters.

The relationship of Greek uppercase and lowercase letters is indeed complicated by their separate histories, although I think it is wrong to say that they are inherently 'not harmonised'. Better to say that they are a challenge to harmonise or, even more simply, that they do not harmonise in the same ways that Latin upper- and lowercase harmonise. The same can be said of Latin italic upper- and lowercase -- for exactly the same reason: uppercase letters with interrupted construction and lowercase letters with cursive construction --, and yet that doesn't prevent these being accepted as paired alphabets.

Who was the first person to pair Greek upper- and lowercase letters as a true bicameral system? Tatiana, is this something that Antonios Sigalas discusses? My impression is that this was either a typographic innovation or, at least, contemporary with the introduction of printing. Byzantine manuscripts are mostly unicameral, employing only lowercase letters. Uppercase forms are found occasionally in them, but mostly as initials at the beginnings of sections or paragraphs, and not used systematically within the text.

Another thing to point out about cursive construction is that while in Latin script it is associated with the informal (quickly written) scribal hands that lead to the italic style of typography, it is only one of the characteristics of such hands, and isn't necessarily linked to informality. Slant and horizontal compression are other characteristics of informal hands, and while these are characteristic of the late Byzantine manuscript styles on which Aldus based his Greek types, there are plentiful examples of more formal Bzyantine manuscripts hands with broad and upright letters. The cursive letter construction is still the norm, i.e. pen lifts are minimised, and many letters are still joined in ligatures, but the overall impression on the page is much more formal and quite different from the Aldine style.

This article on the library at Vatopaidi has some nice examples. [Right click on the images to view them at larger size.]

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I was carried away by the information of Klimi Mastoridi that there are no blackletters in Greek as there were in Latin script. I think he meant that Greeks never used blackletters to write, albeit for some logos, as the images posted here.

Are you sure there were no Greek blackletter-style typefaces in the 19th century? I thought that Greek typography of the 19th century was as influenced and inspired by the Romanticist movement as was its Russian sister. This is an example of a Cyrillic (Russian) blackletter, dated 1862:

And, sure enough, there were many attempts at applying the ‘Gothic’ style to Russian penmanship. This is a page from a copybook of 1902, by Semen Volchenok, showing a ‘Russian Gothic ABC’:

Another good example is this title page (or cover) of the first edition of Gogol’s Dead Souls (1842)—designed by Gogol himself: blackletter is used for the words Н. Гоголя.

Cyrillic blackletter was discussed on this list four years ago.

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Maxim, I can't say for sure whether any Greek blackletter types were produced in the 19th Century, but because of the circumstances of the Greek war of independence the association with Romanticism was linked to the latter's neo-classical rather than gothic expressions. It's no surprise that the foreign Romantic most closely associated with Greece was the most classical of the English Romantic poets, Byron, and the Greek revolutionaries deliberately emphasised a connection with classical Greece to garner support from western artists and intellectuals raised on Sophocles, Aristotle and Homer.

The Cyrillic blackletters are wonderfully weird, though!

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> Andreas, "the wish *to see either alphabet on the same level* seems natural", is a intuitional statement or a unconsciously perspective directed from specific groups?

I can’t say. But I guess, intuition does play a part in this.

Actually, this whole matter could well be a subject for field study. Which font designer decided when and how about it, favoring the one or the other way? Which magazin designer choose what and why for body copy of a Greek/English journal – ? What considerations led the CI designers of a bank make their decisions about fonts? And so on …

I wondered much about things like this:

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My Dear Typophiles,
As I mentioned earlier, due to the lack of time, I have to send the questionnaires as soon as possible (during the next days) to the end-users of Greek fonts. If you have any information you would like to elicit from them, meaning answering to my initial question:
b) What questions would you have for end-users of your fonts?
please, post them soon, so I could include them into the questionnaire.

Thank you!

PS. because I have to finish the questionnaire part of my project,please, give me a little bit more time to answer to your questions posted lately

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Tatiana, how are you defining 'end-users of Greek fonts'?

I presume from your location that you are thinking of end-users in terms of native Greek users. But one of the distinctive aspects of Greek script typography -- thanks to the classical heritage and early Christian heritage -- is that there is a very considerable user base that is outside of Greece and not made up of native readers.

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@John Hudson:
But one of the distinctive aspects of Greek script typography -- thanks to the classical heritage and early Christian heritage -- is that there is a very considerable user base that is outside of Greece and not made up of native readers.

An edition of the classics in the original, for use of students, or even a book of mathematics, can be a thing of typographic beauty. I don't dispute this.

But native speakers of a language have certain special requirements - high, effortless readability; naturalness; and a valid aesthetic sensibility fitting with their cultural context - that non-native speakers do not. And, as I've noted, for historical reasons, the evolution of Greek typography has only been in the hands of native speakers for a relatively short time.

So investigations concentrating on locating possible unmet needs of native speakers of Greek are legitimate and important, and setting non-native use of Greek typefaces aside from consideration is not arbitrary, as you seem to be suggesting.

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I didn't mean to suggest anything of the sort. I was just pointing out that the phrase 'end-users of Greek fonts' may be misleading or, at least, is very vague, because there are very different end-user groups. It should also be noted, of course, that there are different kinds of users within Greece, also with quite different needs (just as there is no uniform body of 'end users of Latin fonts'). People who only work with monotonic texts don't have the same needs as publishers working with polytonic text. Packaging designers don't have the same needs as editorial designers. So I think my question to Tatiana about how she is defining the end-users of Greek fonts for the purpose of her project as a valid one. Related to this question of who the users are, of course, is how she is planning to get her questionnaire to these users, and how she will correlate results. Nativeness in itself isn't a terribly interesting qualification -- and I'm not talking now just about Greek, but about any script --; what is much more interesting and important is knowing what sort of work a person is doing and what sorts of fonts that work involves. In order for information flowing from users to be useful, it is necessary to have some idea of who they are and, hence, the context of the comments. These days, of course, anyone who uses is a computer is an 'end-user of fonts', but I presume Tatiana won't be handing our her questionnaire on street corners. I presume she has some plan to garner responses from, say, graphic designers, maybe publishers, probably students and maybe their teachers, since they're often easiest to involve in such things. How broad will the response base be? How representative? What user groups are likely to be under-represented or perhaps not represented at all?

By the way, I recommend to you Konstantine Staikos' _Charta of Greek Printing_ which documents the important role of native Greek speakers in the evolution of Greek publishing and typography.

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@John Hudson:
I didn't mean to suggest anything of the sort.

Nativeness in itself isn't a terribly interesting qualification -- and I'm not talking now just about Greek, but about any script --; what is much more interesting and important is knowing what sort of work a person is doing and what sorts of fonts that work involves.

You could be seen as contradicting yourself. But you're right that nativeness in itself has no meaning, and I'm also willing to accept that you had not intentionally been grinding a political ax.

It's just that it's obvious to me that the use of a typeface for reading text in a language with which one is fully conversant is an important use, and that different cultures have their own aesthetic sensibilities.

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John, Andreas asked me from the beginning what I meant by end - user:

> Due to the lack of time (less than 3 months), I will address my questionnaires only to graphic design studios, book publishers, Greek magazines, and I'll have to include the www world, because in one way or another they are all responsible for the chosen font people are reading daily.

I will send the questionnaires via emails. It's the most quick way of communication. And of course, the results will be grouped by specialty, i.e. book designers, magazine designers, package designers, web designers and so on, information which will be provided by them. As you see, I have a lot of work to do.

To be sincere, I am so interested in this topic, that outside the boundaries of my university project, I would like to continue it and expand as possible. I do see a logic in questioning the non-native Greeks and also the 'ordinary' population of Greece (and yes, I will have to stand in the middle of streets to question them). But I intend to do this after June, because this involves different questionnaires and as you all understand, much more time, which I don't have now…

As for your recommendation of Konstantine Staikos' _Charta of Greek Printing, I am glad to hear that it exists in English too. It's one of first books I bought. Also, a very great book belongs to George D. Matthiopoulos - Anthology of Greek Typography.

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Tatiana: why no ad agencies on your list?

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Tatiana, I didn't note your earlier response to Andreas. Thanks for explaining your process in more detail. It seems a good approach.

Here are some questions that occur to me:

1. How would you estimate (percentage) the amount of monotonic and polytonic text you work with?

2. Whether you work with polytonic text personally or not, how important do you consider it for a Greek text type to include polytonic support?

3. Greek italic types tend to be less differentiated from their upright styles than is the case with Latin fonts; sometimes slant is the only distinguishing characteristic. Do you find this sufficient, or do you wish for more differentiation, e.g. variant forms of some letters or different stroke patterns?

4. Apart from upright and italic styles, what other features do you most want to have in a Greek font family? Additional weights (which?), true smallcaps, true superior letters (uppercase? lowercase?), or something else? If you want it all, how would you rank these things in importance?

5. Some types evoke particular associations, e.g. 'classic' or 'modern', 'reserved' or 'friendly', etc.. These associations are subjective and seldom precise, but they are conventionally recognised. When you think about available Greek types, what associations do you wish were better represented? For example, do you wish there were more 'fun' Greek types, or perhaps more 'elegant' ones?
_____

Also, a very great book belongs to George D. Matthiopoulos - Anthology of Greek Typography.

This is indeed a very good resource. One of the most interesting things I noted when leafing through this book is just how late it became a standard for tone and breathing marks to be set to the left of uppercase letters.

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NICK, thank you!
For some reason my brain overlooked this part of "shared pie". But, you know, in Greece is quite usual a graphic design studio to do all kind of work, from adv, web design, package, photography... I'll check about ad agencies, in order to include them as a separate group.

JOHN, great thoughts!
Can you give me some explanations on your questions, please? Forgive me my lack of knowledge, please.

question nr.3:
what does 'slant' mean in typography, esp. in a Greek font?

question nr.4:
>true smallcaps, true superior letters (uppercase? lowercase?)? <
I know about smallcaps, but not of true smallcaps and true superior letters. Any font which would have all this, so I could see them for myself?

I like your question nr. 5. I'm going to correlate it with a psychological question and will have some interesting results:)

Also, I included a question about serif and non serif fonts:
for the new designed Greek fonts, what percentage you would prefer to be serif and what percentage non serif?

Have you noticed that except of one font, the others designed and posted by all of you here are serif?
Do you have a inclination for serif? Or is a demand factor?

> One of the most interesting things I noted when leafing through this book is just how late it became a standard for tone and breathing marks to be set to the left of uppercase letters.<

You are right! There was a switch from right to left. Also, a middle version, see images (Anthology of Greek Typography) 258 - up, 259 (if it corresponds to English version). I didn't notice it. For some reason, the tone in uppercase letters bother me so much optically, so I excluded this information... Not wise at all! But, the middle version is quite great, by the way. How are you designing them now?

From an unreliable source, I found that these marks were inserted (again) during Roman Empire, as to say, for foreigners, in order to know how to pronounce Greek words. Because, for a Greek person they are almost useless (concerning the uppercase letters).

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what does 'slant' mean in typography, esp. in a Greek font?

Oblique angle off the vertical. So italic letters generally slant (lean) to the right.

In Latin script, the upright (roman) lowercase letters follow a formal construction model, i.e. if you were to write them with a pen, you would often lift the pen and put it back down on the page while writing many of the individual letters, but the italic letters follow a cursive construction model in which the pen stays in contact with the page much more, reversing direction to create new strokes rather than being lifted. As discussed earlier in this thread, the Greek lowercase letters have a cursive internal construction, which means that this distinction doesn't naturally exist between upright and italic styles for most Greek types. So often the only distinction between upright and italic is the slant to the right.

I know about smallcaps, but not of true smallcaps and true superior letters. Any font which would have all this, so I could see them for myself?

'True smallcaps' is a term often used to refer to designed smallcap glyphs in a font, these days typically accessed via OpenType Layout features, as distinct from fake smallcaps that have been mechanically produced by software (by scaling down and/or distorting regular caps). The same thing applies to superior letters (and numerals): these can either be designed glyphs in the font or are faked by software. In Latin fonts, it is now quite common to have a full set of lowercase superior letter glyphs in addition to a full set of superior (and inferior) numerals. When I've made fonts for scholars such as the SBL Greek or the new Brill types, I've been asked to include full upper- and lowercase Greek superior letter sets, because these are fairly frequently used in the apparatus (textual footnotes) of critical editions. This is what they look like in the Brill roman font:

What I am wondering is whether users in Greece have a need for superior letters.

Do you have a inclination for serif? Or is a demand factor?

I make custom fonts according to briefs from a client, so it just happens that most of my clients for Greek type design have wanted serif text faces. I designed another sans serif Greek, a corporate type for Heidelberg Druckmaschinen produced by Linotype (the Latin art directed by Erik Spiekermann and based on News Gothic):

_____

With regard to accent position, in almost all types I position them to the left of the uppercase letters (excepting the dialytika of course), because for better or worse that is now the accepted standard and I think most Greek readers would think it strange to see them anywhere else. But recently I made a typeface for the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, which is one of the world's most important holdings of Byzantine seals and coins. That font represents the wide variety of uncial forms that Greek letters took during the Byzantine Empire, so that scholars can transcribe the appearance of text on particular coins and seals. One of the things we determined when planning that project was that in the Byzantine uncial the accents were always written above the letters, not to the right or left. One sees this also in ikons and mosaics.

Here are some samples of that Greek (and Latin) typeface for seal and coin scholars. I suppose it too might be thought of as a kind of sans serif.

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This may be an aside for the diacriticals, and the author (Nick Nicholas) may or may not be wrong in some detail (I have no expertise to judge), but lacking anything else, I've used it for years whenever someone gets huffy about the proper περισπωμένη (perispomeni). Happens once every couple years...

There is also some discussion about what was done by Greek scribes, and by later, esp. British type founders.

http://www.tlg.uci.edu/~opoudjis/unicode/gkdiacritics.html

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Nick Nicholas' site has not be updated in a while (newer fonts are not listed), but that hardly matters since it is such a wealth of really solid information. I've made a lot of use of it over the years, and have also corresponded with him.

Regarding the perispomeni, in SBL Greek I used an asymmetrical tilde form, because that was representative of the renaissance types that were my primary inspiration. In the Brill Greek I used the inverted breve form, and would be inclined to do so in any new font. I now wish I had done so in the Gabriola type, although the swung tilde there works nicely with the subtle lean of the letters. The Athena Ruby font for sigillography and numismatics uses the inverted breve of course, since that is the form used in the Byzantine seals and coins.

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MAXIM,
I couldn't find any blackletters in the Greek script. I suppose they were used only for logos.

for JOHN:
First,
thank you for the detailed explanations! :)
Second,
>Who was the first person to pair Greek upper- and lower case letters as a true bicameral system? Tatiana, is this something that Antonios Sigalas discusses?<

I was looking for days in my books, and it seems that Greek bicameral system was introduced after Gutenberg, and not by every publisher/punch cutter. Sigalas doesn't discuss about it and I could deduct this information only from images. Also, I noticed that for codexes, up till year 1645, there is no bicameral system, only occasionally uses of upper letters, as you mentioned. So, is a 'typographic' innovation.

Do you know if the same happened to Latin? Or the bicameral system was introduced already in hand written texts before Gutenberg?

I was reflecting about one of the characteristics of Greek letters, and I found some interesting images for Typophile's collection (as the images appear, 215 AD, 8th century AD, 1060 AD, 1079 AD, 1305 AD)

for image 221 (the last): the first words are "ά]γωνισώμεθα΄χαλεπόν γάρ ".
Note that the ni "ν" in the word ά]γωνισώμεθα and χαλεπόν resembles a lot to "μ". And there are more examples of this kind.

WHAT MAKES A GREEK LETTER LOOK GREEK:

- ascenders and descenders (which are more in number in Greek alphabet than in Latin). If you cut them as much as possible, the result will be latinization of font

- another way to emphasize the Greekness is the unequal sizes of letters (the image below), but then you are loosing the harmonization

- serif and semi serif is another Greek element. Even in designing a sans serif Greek font, as Helvetica World or Whitney, it can not be a 'clean' sans serif (latin VS greek in Whitney font):

But exception are the capitals, as in John's project for Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
This is the reason why lowercase Latin and Greek are considered two different categories of letters, especially in a cross script font?

John, as I understood from your explanations about 'slant' factor, the Greek letters have a 'hidden system of implemented ligatures', and the design itself is based on this construction. Thus, the slant is the only distinction between upright and italic Greek letters.
- so we have another element: ligatures

Also:
- different x-height. But I couldn't find out if Greek's should be smaller than Latin's. Or is the designer who decides the proportions between them two?

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For Latin, the bicameral system was introduced under Charlemagne, and so it existed in handwritten texts long before Gutenberg, who made considerable efforts to copy the handwritten texts of his day.

At first, the bicameral system consisted of tacking Roman capitals on to the uncial script, and it likely did involve occasional capitals for a little while at the start. But by the tenth century, the system was well established:

[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolingian_minuscule]]

Incidentally, I see that your examples of Greek manuscripts suggest a small x-height. In Latin typefaces, though, x-height is quite variable, depending on the design goals of the script. Thus, oldstyle faces like Caslon or Cloister Lightface illustrate the traditional ideal x-height, while Times Roman or Corona have much larger x-heights to maximize legibility.

Armenian has a traditional "Bolorgir" form with a considerably smaller x-height than the Latin alphabet. The Armenian lowercase letterforms are suited to a small x-height, because they exclude two-storey letter forms; thus, lowercase S lies flat on its back. Greek lowercase, on the other hand, has a similar variety of letter shapes as Latin lowercase, so its natural x-height could not be much smaller.

(If you feel I am being noncommittal on this issue, you are correct. In my opinion, whether the x-height of Greek lowercase should naturally be lower than that of the Latin alphabet is a question that can really only be answered by generations of native speakers of Greek as type designers, as typographers who choose type designs, and as readers. Anyone who wants can study old inscriptions and design a "Greek" typeface, but a self-conscious effort to incorporate Greekness into a type design runs the risk of failing badly. Yet, without conscious attempts, there will be nothing to choose from but Latinized models. The only resolution I see is careful study of both traditional and folk sources - and patience.)

Andreas Stötzner's picture
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Tatiana,
I can’t access your message (this forum is famous for such things).
Please use [[http://www.signographie.de/cms/front_content.php?idart=7&changelang=2|this contact form]] for sending a pm.
ευχαριστώ

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The part referring to WHAT MAKES A GREEK LETTER LOOK GREEK is intended for an open discussion, of course! I wrote about my findings, but I will be more than obliged to all of you for any comments and corrections. As I said earlier, you are the experts, I'm just a student, gathering information.

By the way, except for John, does anyone else have questions for my font end-users?

And can anyone tell me, please, how EXACTLY to use the HTML code in order to get something emphasized, for example? Anything I've tried, doesn't work!

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How much time is left to submit questions?

For Italics you put "<em>" to open and "</em>" to close; for Bold use "<strong>" and "</strong>"; and you can combine them (by nesting). I also use "<blockquote>" and "</blockquote>" for quoting people.

hhp

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The Compose tips give you the html tags that are allowed on typophile, with examples.

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Hrant, welcome back! :)
I have time till this Friday to include more questions and to work on them as to suit the statistical criteria.
Thanks! and for HTML tips too:)

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John, as I understood from your explanations about 'slant' factor, the Greek letters have a 'hidden system of implemented ligatures', and the design itself is based on this construction.

No, what I was talking about is independent of ligation. To be clear: ligation involves visual connection between different letters. In Greek this is optional -- unlike e.g. Arabic, Syriac or Mongolian --, but was characteristic of the Byzantine book hand and hence of early typography. What I was talking about with regard to italics, is the internal construction of lowercase letters, not their connection to each other. [See also my comments earlier about the use of the term 'cursive', which can apply to either joining of letters or to internal construction.] To understand this, consider the two common forms of the Latin lowercase a: the roman a can only be written with the pen being lifted from the page at least once and repositioned, i.e. first the top and right stem are written, then the pen is lifted and repositioned to write the bowl (a calligrapher may in fact lift the pen twice, using two separate strokes to write the bowl, especially if working at larger size); the italic a can be written without lifting the pen from the page, i.e. starting in the top right, the bowl is written as a loop and then the pen reverses direction to form the stem. The roman a has a formal or interrupted construction; the italic a has a cursive construction. The Greek lowercase letters as inherited from their Byzantine origins mostly have a cursive construction; only a few letters -- λ π τ ψ -- require that the pen be lifted during writing (θ and φ have both interrupted and cursive forms).