Webfont that supports Latin, Greek, and Hebrew alphabets?

I'm designing a blog for a theologian, which means he'll be occasionally writing in (biblical) Hebrew and Greek. If possible I'd like to steer off the beaten path and use a webfont. Do you know of any webfonts that offer this kind of language support?

[I initially thought of Gentium, which would be a great choice, but the webfont version only includes the Latin alphabet.]

Thanks in advance for your help.

EDIT: just noticed Gentium does indeed include WOFF files for Gentium Plus, but I'm trying my best to avoid self-hosting the files. Still, I guess there's my first typeface for the list. Any others?

Dan B.'s picture

Karl, thanks for the suggestion, but I need to use the same font for all three alphabets.

This does bring up an interesting point, though: what happens when you're using glyphs a webfont does not have? Does it display them in the fallback font or merely replaces them with a "◻"?

Karl Stange's picture

I would think that it would display in the fallback font but have not done any testing with these kinds of scripts.

The sprungmarker.de web site has this overview of the major web fonts hosting services, including information about supported languages.

hrant's picture

I need to use the same font for all three alphabets.

This is a much thornier proposition than you might suspect...

hhp

Dan B.'s picture

I am aware it's thorny; but elaborate on how much please :)

If text in Hebrew falls back to the next (web-safe) font in the font stack, I can probably live with that. Just wanted to check if there's something that supports all three.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

First thought: Why do you have to use the same typeface? Why not look for some that work well together? Second thought: Check out rosettatype.com (although I didn’t see any hebrew there). Third thought: Good multiscript type families are rare, and multiscript type families suitable for text on the web probably even more so.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

If the glyph is not present in your first font the web browser will fall back to the next.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

FIY: Adobe Hebrew’s Latin characters appears to be Minion, and Minion Pro support Greek.

hrant's picture

When you go outside the Big Three (Latin, Cyrillic, Greek)* you're severely limiting your stylistic choices by demanding that a single font handle everything. You might be lucky to find one typeface that has all the scripts you need, and it probably won't be the style you want. And anyway, especially if you get into the more exotic NB3 scripts trying to match the style can become more damaging than useful.

* OK, new term suggestion: NB3 (non-Big_Three). Use it or lose it. :-)

Here's an approach that I think works: start with the NB3 script, which will have the fewest fonts; find one that works; find a B3 typeface that harmonizes; but if the NB3 is too distant from the B3 it's better to split up the B3 (so it's not like the B3 is a clique). And if you have to support more than one NB3 script then: you might need to compromise both choices a little bit; and it's much more likely you'll have to split the B3 choices.

Then there's the issue of hierarchy: quite often the various scripts aren't supposed to be equally important, and one (or more) could be subordinate in style. Ideally you want a "multilateral" system with both parallel and hierarchic branches. Of which there's still only one... :-)
http://www.granshan.org/works/2008/hrant.pdf

hhp

William Berkson's picture

Slimbach's Myriad now includes a Hebrew, as well as Latin and Greek alphabets. I see that Myriad Hebrew is included with Adobe CS 6, which is just becoming available. I think it was designed for web as well.

Dan B.'s picture

Thanks all for adding your voice.

Frode, I don't have to have the same type. I was just wondering if I can. It looks like I'll just rely on the web-safe font for Hebrew and try to find one typeface for Latin + Greek.

Hrant, I'm glad I asked you to elaborate :) Your approach is sensible. Of course, another deciding factor is the size of the files I'm going to have to load.

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
First thought: Why do you have to use the same typeface?

Presumably, avoiding the need for font commands avoids the need for specialized software for preparing the blog - the text can just be typed in, changing to a Hebrew or Greek keyboard as necessary.

I thought there was an obvious solution: TeX Gyre Termes. This supports not just Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, but also Cyrillic, Armenian and such languages as Thai, Burmese, Gurmukhi...

I know it's just a dull old Times Roman clone, but because it's an open-source font, there's no issue with using it as a web font, and so it fills the bill ideally for the original poster's issue as stated.

However, since the OP's issue involves Biblical Greek and not Modern Greek, there may be a requirement for typing polytonic Greek. In this case, the available options may be considerably more limited, and considering a separate typeface for Greek may be required.

This, of course, is also the case if it is desired to type Hebrew with vowel points and perhaps even cantillation marks. However, while TeX Gyre Termes lacks polytonic Greek, it does have at least the basic vowel points for Hebrew.

hrant's picture

BTW, about what proportion of (decent or better) Greek fonts are polytonic?

hhp

Dan B.'s picture

Quadibloc, you are correct: (1) I want the author of the blog to be able to type Greek and Hebrew by switching to the appropriate keyboard. (2) We are talking about polytonic Greek here (thanks for mentioning that). I don't know any Hebrew, so I'll have to look into that more closely.

hrant's picture

I'm not sure exactly what the limitations are, but the OS (or application?) should automatically switch to a font that supports the script in question. For example in MS Word when I switch the keyboard to Armenian, Sylfaen just kicks in; when I switch back to English, it's still Sylfaen (since it has Latin too). Hmmm, so you might need to strip the Latin out of the font (or pull the non-Latin out). Pretty messy. Or make a new font with everything in it. Still a bit messy.

hhp

Frode Bo Helland's picture

But, you can just define the Greek and Hebrew types as fallback options in the font stack.

font-family: "YourLatinFont", "YourHebrewFont", YourGreekFont";

Dan B.'s picture

Frode, yes, I'm looking into doing that. From Typekit support: "If a glyph is unavailable in a particular font, the behavior depends on the browser. I believe that the (in general) the browser will first try to use the glyph from the system font and, if that is not available either, will just not render the character."

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Yes, true, but if the glyph is available in on of the fonts in your font-stack it will use that one. I’m doing the same with my small caps webfonts. I only include the .smcp variants in the small cap font file, and set up my stack like this:

font-family: "Regular SC", "Regular";

When a glyph is missing in the first font, it picks the same glyph from the second.

Dan B.'s picture

Have you seen any variance in browser behavior or is it pretty consistent?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

As far as I can tell, consistent. I thought this was default behavior in HTML.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Ladoga from WebINK supports extended Latin, Hebrew and polytonic Greek. (Also Cyrillic.)
http://www.webink.com/font/ladoga

But I agree that it is perfectly reasonable to use separate fonts in one's fallback stack. However, using a single typeface will create a more stylistically consistent look.

Whatever is used, be careful about minimum size on Windows. Most fonts are not hand-hinted and many will not do so well at text sizes on screen, especially on Windows XP systems with default rendering settings.

Cheers,

T

riccard0's picture

I want the author of the blog to be able to type Greek and Hebrew by switching to the appropriate keyboard.

But in any case for Hebrew there will need to be some hookup in the HTML for setting the direction of writing (rtl vs. ltr).

Dan B.'s picture

Thanks, Thomas. I'm experimenting with 16-18px for the body copy, so hopefully rendering at that size won't be a problem :) But I'll test it anyway. There's still an old machine running XP at work!

Riccardo, I don't know how I'll approach that yet. I assume that most of the time Hebrew will be used for a couple of words in a running paragraph. Occasionally there might be full sentences, which would be right-aligned.

quadibloc's picture

Some of the typefaces for which fonts are available here:

http://www.greekfontsociety.gr/pages/en_typefaces1.html

support polytonic Greek as well, for example GFS Olga and GFS Pyrsos are shown explicitly to do so by the given type samples - and on the 19th Century page there are more choices with polytonic support.

Also, at least some of them include support for Latin characters as well, but not Hebrew.

However, in any case, I don't think there's an alternative to hosting the web font yourself, in the absence of the unlikely case of what you want being a Google webfont.

ahyangyi's picture

@quadibloc:

Does TeX Gyre Termes (or any other TeX Gyre font) really supports so many scripts? My version supports only Latin and Greek and it seems to be up-to-date already.

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