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Indices : History : Trajan

Trajan 1: Marcus Ulpius Traianus. Born 53 AD. Died 117 AD. Roman Emperor from 98–117 (during which point the Empire would reach it’s greatest extent).

Indices : Typefaces : Trajan

Trajan 2: A typeface designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly for Adobe.

Trajan, i.e., the lettered inscription on the base of Trajan’s Column in Rome, is often regarded as one of the best models of the Imperial Roman alphabet. Trajan’s Column was erected by the Senate and People of Rome as a memorial the Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus’ wars, which slightly extended the Empire’s frontiers even further into “barbarian” territory than it had already been.

Contrary to the belif of some, the lettering on the base of Trajan’s Column was neither the debut of the Roman Alphabet, nor the first time that it had used serifs. It is, however, probably the most famous example of both.

While Roman handwriting was very different from Roman monumental lettering (whether hand painted, engraved, cut out of metal, or cut into stone), the letters on Trajan’s Column represent one of the best examples left to us from antiquity. Trajan’s Column, and samples like it, would go on to influence the development of the Roman alphabet, and later typeface design, for the next 2,000 years.

What was so special about the Roman’s inscriptional lettering? The Romans—who did not invent the idea of the alphabet—were the first to put serifs on their letters. It is speculated that the Serif’s origin was a result of applying a brush to the stone before it was carved. Others speculate the serifs were purely an aesthetic addition, put there by the stone carver(s).

There have been several typefaces that are direct “revivals” of the lettering on Trajan’s Column. The most direct and most popular—and the only one to simply bear the name “Trajan”—is Twombly’s cut for Adobe. Other notable versions include Goudy Trajan and Imperium. Cyan is an attempt to add a lowercase to the classical roman square capitals.

Adobe’s Trajan is an all caps alphabet. Small Capitals take the place of the lowercase glyphs, as Trajan’s Coulumn certainly did not have any symbols similar to our present-days lowercase letters on them (these were invented centuries later).

An Alternative Font for Trajan Pro
Additional Articles:
Trajan: the Fallback Font for Lazy Movie Marketers