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glossary A

n. 1. One who teaches or studies the alphabet. 2. One who is just learning; a beginner. adj. 1. Having to do with the alphabet. 2. Being arranged alphabetically. 3. Elementary or rudimentary.

An alphabet intended for student learning.

abrupt serif
A serif which breaks suddenly from the stem at an angle.

Increasing a body of text by incorporating additions.

A word formed from the first letter (or letters) of each word in a phrase or name (e.g. SCUBA tank is Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).

A diacritical mark near or through a letter indicating a variation in pronunciation (ç à ò é Å).

acute ´
An accent used on vowels in French, Spanish, Italian, Icelandic, Hungarian, Navajo, Gaelic, Czech, and many other languages, and on consonants — c r s n — in Basque, Croation, Polish and romanized Sanskrit. In romanized Chinese, it is used with vowels to mark the rising tone. The accented vowels are included in many fonts as composite characters.

addressing resolution
The degree of fineness of position that the computer can specify for an output device.

adnate serif
A serif which flows smoothly to or from the stem. In older literature, referred to as bracketed serifs.

Software company that developed Type 1 PostScript print and type technology.

Adobe PDF Portable Document Format retains its formatting — text and graphics — and is cross-platform compatible. PDF documents can be read, using a Viewer utility, on Macintosh, MS-DOS and UNIX platforms. Generally, the documents cannot be altered by the receiver.

Adobe Expert Encoding
Encoding required for fonts known as “expert sets”. Typically include small caps, Swash caps, Old Style numerals, superior and inferior characters and special text symbols.

Adobe Type Manager (ATM)
A system extension that interprets Type 1 outline fonts for display on your screen within an application. (It is still necessary to have at least one bitmap font installed in order to coerce your computer into recognizing the font in application menus. Do not remove the ~ from before the name of ATM. This is so that it will load after other utilities with which it would share conflicting memory space.) ATM 4 Light is a freeware program that simply smooths the font display on your screen. ATM 4 Deluxe is a commercial utility that manages fonts and allows activation of fonts outside the System folder.

Adobe Type Reunion
A system extension that groups fonts in a certain family together within the font menu of applications.

A metrics file (.afm) which contains side bearing and kerning information in a plain text format (which can be opened in any text editor, allowing addition or editing of kerning pairs). The same information appears in the .pfm file, (but not in plain text).

A commercial font foundry which distributes and sub-licenses typefaces.

Relating to the publishing house in Venice by Aldus Manutius (1494–1515). Most of Aldus’ designs were cut by Francesco Griffo. Type that resembles their work is referred to as “Aldine.”

The misrepresentation of high frequencies from the original signal as low frequencies in the sampled result, due to undersampling. Aliasing distorts the letterforms and letter spacing.

The positioning of letters along lines, usually horizontal and in vertical columns.

alpha Α α
First letter of the Greek Alphabet. The font Symbol most often used on American Computers to Type Cyrillic Letters places it in the space for capital “A.” It looks like an “A” and the lowercase somewhat like a cursive “a.”

A set of abstract symbols employed in a particular writing system.

Any set of letters or other characters with which a language is written.

alphabetic string A string in which the characters are letters, or pertain to an agreed alphabet set.

alphanumeric characters A general term for alphabetic letters (A–Z), numerical digits (0–9), and special characters (@ # $ % & * % +) that are machine-processable.

Software company who initially developed Fontographer, one of the first commercially available software packages for typeface design. Now distributed by Macromedia.

Altsys Metric File
A standard text file that any word processor can read. More convenient to edit than an AFM or a PFM. Allows editing or creation of kerning pairs here that can be imported back into a font.

Altsys Spreadsheet A spreadsheet in Fontographer, with numeric displays for all characters in the character display section.

ampersand &
A scribal abbreviation for “and.” There are many forms and styles. Derived from the Latin word et, meaning “and.”

analog letterform
A glyph, drawn or printed, sometimes used as a model for creating a similar digitized shape. Analog letterform designs maybe expressed as smooth curves that are then digitized.

A typographical character used with the alphabet but lacking a place in the alphabetical order. Examples: the acute accent, the umlaut, the circumflax, and the asterisk.

anisotropic scaling
Enlarging or shrinking letters nonlinearly, so that, for example, they become disproportionately less bold and narrower for ther height as they are enlarged. Such transformations can create some of the traditional variations in shape of typefaces at different sizes.

A property of some output devices that gives different results on the x- and y-axes. In CRT, for example, black features crossed by the scan are narrowed preferentially compared with those running parrallel to the scan.

Removing alias frequencies from the sampled signal. In letterfoms, jaggedness can be minimized during reconstruction by using various grey levels at the edges of stokes.

Another way to describe letters with serifs.

The openings of letters such as C, c, S, s, a and e. Humanist faces such as Bembo and Centaur have large apertures, while Romantic faces such as Bodoni and realist faces such as Helvetica have small apertures. Very large apertures occur in archaic Greek inscriptions and in typefaces such as Lithos, which are derived from them.

Also called raised comma or single close-quote. A mark of elision in many languages. It grew from that use in, English to become also a sign of the possessive. [It’s = it is, but John’s = Johnes = John his = belonging to John.] In many Native American and Slavic languages written in Latin script, it is used with consonants- d’k’t’x’ - to indicate modified pronounciation. Used alone, it serves in many languages as a sign for the glottal stop.

Segment of a circle or ellipse, sometimes used to describe part of the boundary of a letterform.

Generally refers to Blackletter styles (like Bastarda) but sometimes used in reference to a Swash Font (like Poetica).

Art Deco
An art movement that was generally about finding beauty in geometric simplicity. First appeared in the 1920s–30s, then made a comeback in the 1970s–80s. Almost by definition, Art Deco meant sans serif type. The most common such face is Avant Garde (1974, Lubalin), which is striking but hard to read at length. A more graceful geometric sans is Futura (Renner, 1927–39). There are also more quirky faces in this category, such as Kabel (Koch, 1927–30). A recent popular Art Deco display face is ITC Anna (1991?).

Art Nouveau
The late Victorian era, 1880–World War I, characterized by this ornamental style of art, with its organic, asymmetrical, intricate and flowing lines. This “Art Nouveau” (French, meaning “new art”) produced similarly distinctive typography, which saw a revival during the 1960s. The more common digital art nouveau typefaces are Arnold Boecklin (Weisert, 1904), Artistik, Desdemona, Galadriel and Victorian.

That part of a lowercase letter that rises above the x-height, as in letters b, d, f, h, k, t and l.

A style of ornament using floral, animal and figure motifs to create a pattern of interlaced lines.

A curving line segment defined by two points on a circle and passing through every point in-between. Part of many letter shapes.

In alphabets, a perfect specimen used as model; in medieval manuscripts, a specific book from which many copies were made.

ascender line A line marking the topmost point of the ascenders within a font; in many fonts, placed above the cap line.

The portion of the letterform that rises to the Ascender.

The American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a standard character set defined by ANSI, the American National Standards Institure.

ASCII Art Low-brow art in a high-tech medium, using only the ASCII character set. Smileys, sideways faces, such as a :-) happy face and :-( frowning face, provide emotional and social context for electronic mail messages, and provide yet another genre for ASCII art.

aspect ratio
The ratio of width to height.

The symmetry propert possessed in varying degrees by a typeface that creates mirror relationships and other similarities of form between letters.

asterisk *
A superscript, used primarily to mark referents and keywords. In European typography, it is widely used to mark a person’s year of birth (as the dagger (†), substituting for a cross, is used to mark the year of the death). In philology and other sciences, it is used to mark hypothetically reconstructed or fetal forms. The asterisk takes many forms. It appears in the earliest Sumerian pictographic writing and has been in continuous typographic use for at least 5000 years.

Aspects of letterforms that depart from mirror images relationships between letter pairs, especially ‘b-d’ and ‘p-q’ , and within individual letters, such as ‘T’ in some typefaces.

An artist’s workshop or studio; a secular scriptorium.

The axis of a letter is the axis of its stroke is the angle of the pen used to create the letter. Thin strokes usually reveal the axis of the stroke. A letter may have multiple axes. Not to be confused with “slope.”



”Brief History of Type” by Thomas W. Phinney (Fonts Program Manager, Adobe Systems)

A Dictionary for Calligraphers by Robert C. Hyde Martin Press

The Elements of Typographical Style by Robert Bringhurst

The Non-designer’s Type Book by Robin Williams