A small thing, addendum: Type and language coverage!

posted in: Books, Creativity, Knitting, Publishing | 2

I’m a member of what’s called the P22 Club. That means I sign up in advance with the P22 Type Foundry (and pay a fee) and over the course of the year I get a discount on type, advance notification of new releases, and a few other goodies. I’ve always gotten my money’s worth (or my daughter’s: a number of years she’s given me a membership as a combined birthday/holiday/Mother’s Day present).

This is kind of like receiving a very large punch-card at your favorite coffee shop or ice cream stand. This particular punch card has lots of flavors—over the years, P22 has grown to add IHOF (International House of Fonts), Lanston Type Company, Rimmer Type Foundry, and the Sherwood Type Collection. I’ve used fonts from all those groups. They also offer some fonts that I’m not quite sure I’ll ever need, although they’re fun to look at.


Today I received e-mail notification from P22 of an expanded version of a very plain (but not boring), extremely legible sans serif font that has massively extended language support. If you want to know what languages are included (approximately 5000 glyphs for each weight of the face should cover a few), take a look at this link and search on the page for "language coverage."

Yep, Lithuanian. And more. The face looks like it will work for the "nearly invisible" functions I have in mind for it, which require extreme clarity and legibility at many sizes, especially quite small. I won’t know whether the font will really do what I want it to until I try it out, and I can’t try it for real without buying it. This will definitely exceed my type budget (inveterate link-clickers may have noticed in the preceding paragraph that the basic set for this typeface can be obtained for about $40 and the extended version runs almost eight times as much . . . versatility has a price, and the large complement of alternatives required a lot of work to design). The array of glyphs does not, as far as I can tell, include Japanese, which will be required for one of the books in my future—but Japanese characters are also, oddly, somewhat easier to locate than Lithuanian ones, if not necessarily to use.

For the seriously curious, there’s this resource: Unicode code charts. My three hard-to-find Lithuanian characters are in the Latin Extended A set. They are 0117 (Latin lowercase e with dot above), 016B (Latin lowercase u with macron), and 0173 (Latin lowercase u with ogonek).

Just so it’s clear that I look for the best fonts for my projects, not just the best fonts within P22’s linked sites:


The photo includes a handful of physical type catalogs, including selections from Emigre, FontShop, T.26, FontFont, AGFA/Monotype, image resource Veer (fond of these shirts, yet I will always buy type first—I can knit a sweater, but I’m not yet designing type), and, of course, Adobe. And then there’s ITC, and Joe Treacy (love his TFArrow and use it a lot), and Leslie Cabarga (I’m reading his Logo, Font & Lettering Bible), and David Bergsland, and Storm. . . . (Hendel’s On Book Design isn’t a type catalog but joined the collection for reasons unknown.)

Most type catalogs are now online. That has advantages, including the ability to set a few words of your choice in the fonts you’re considering, but I still like the paper catalogs. This Emigre publication is one of my favorites (beyond dog-eared). It says, "Now in full color!" on the cover:


You can see from part of the inside how that statement is true:


The matter of language, including calligraphy and typography (and chiseled letterforms, and symbols stamped in clay, . . . ) is a long-standing interest of mine. In eighth grade, I remember winning a couple of science fair prizes for a project that traced the development of both written and spoken languages.

This was in the era when kids still did their own science fair projects completely solo (I hear things have changed).

Mine was a weird project because it wasn’t "science" as anyone around me defined that word, but it was what I was fascinated by, and whoever was in charge of science fair entries may have let me slip through a crack in the categories. My area of interest was far closer to anthropology, which we hadn’t heard of in eighth grade, than to biology, chemistry, or physics, to which we had been briefly introduced.

I had already established the habit of checking books out of the library and tracing letterforms (among others, Koch’s Neuland, favorite versions of which today are Richard Kegler’s from P22 (P22 Koch Nueland . . . yes, the spelling is correct) and Joe Treacy’s (Neue Neuland, which has a lowercase; the original(s) didn’t). I had already started to study (not in depth, of course) whatever languages were hidden between the covers of the books shelved in the Dewey Decimal 400s: French, Spanish, Greek, Hawaiian. One of my favorite books at home was an Encyclopedia Britannica dictionary that had five (or maybe more) languages, in columns across the pages: each word lined up with its closest equivalents in the other languages. I knew even then that each language was a different lens through which people could look at the world and see things from varying perspectives. I figured out later that language not only lets us express ourselves; it also helps create the ways in which we think. (This connects to knitting. Knitting is a language, or a connected set of languages: cables and traveling stitches are related to each other, just as Portuguese and Spanish are.)

If I’d had an adviser for the science fair project, I would probably have been told to do either one or the other: written or spoken language. Unadvised, I blundered happily along. The visual portion of my presentation covered written language and the supporting paper discussed spoken language, including dialects, jargon, and the ways language changes as it moves from one place to another.

I remember reading parts (maybe all?) of The Decipherment of Linear B by John Chadwick and The Loom of Language by Frederick Bodmer, both books then still in their first editions. I don’t remember much about them, of course. It might be time to read them again. (I also read a lot of Mary Renault‘s books.)

I did well enough at the local junior high science fair (500 students) that I was sent to represent the school at the state science fair, held at the Museum of Science and Industry, which my father referred to as the Rosenwald Museum (its name until 1928). I apparently comported myself well enough there to be called up at the end of the fair to stand on the big curving staircase with a bunch of other kids who impressed the judges. I have the impression that the kids on the stairs were a small subset of the entire group of preteens with projects.

As your basically over-shy person, I don’t have a clue how I got there. I must have been so immersed in my topics that when the terrifying judges came by my booth (something like a card table, as I recall) to ask questions, I managed to open my mouth and some phrases that  appeared to make sense fell out.

No, I don’t have copies of any of the materials I prepared. I don’t know if my recollection of the Great Hall and the staircase is correct. I was sufficiently overwhelmed by the whole experience that I may have made it all up; it doesn’t feel like it was a real part of my life.

I have much more reliable and concrete memories of checking a book of typefaces out of the
library—the lettering design books were located on the small mezzanine,
more like a balcony, while the languages were below, in the stacks on the first floor. When
I got home, I’d put tracing paper over a page of letters that I liked
and slide a pencil lightly around the profile of each individual
letter, to understand it at the physical level. I was careful not to
press so hard that I’d damage the underlying book.

A dozen or so years later, I carved the letters of Bookman into plastic erasers that could be used as rubber stamps: uppercase, lowercase, and numbers. More than thirty years after that, I still have all the little bits.


The definition of sanity depends on the context. I didn’t carve punctuation, fractions, or any of Bookman’s wonderful swash characters.

If you have fine-tuned eyes for letterforms (or want to play at developing fine-tuned eyes, as I do), you might look at two versions of one typeface, as released by different foundries. Here’s the ITC version of Goudy Sans, and here’s the Lanston Type Company (LTC) version of the same typeface, which I used for the text in Ethnic Knitting Discovery [modifying phrase moved 9/14 to clarify which version of Goudy Sans I actually used: LTC]. Just compare the capital Ks to each other—K being a critical letter for a knitting book. I went with the LTC version, not just because of the K but because it seemed generally more fluid, like knitted fabric. Both versions are Goudy Sans, though. On the surface, they’re the same typeface.


Yesterday I prepared five charts for Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ book on Cowichan sweaters, a (future) revised and expanded edition of her Salish Indian Sweaters, published in 1989. Here’s one of the images from yesterday’s five, which brings the completed total so far to 155:



It’s clearer in the print-publication version, of course. That file is 4 MB and this one is 90 KB.




2 Responses

  1. OMG, you NEED Douglas Hofstadter’s book, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies. I’m buying it for you for Christmas.

    Do check it out on Google books for a preview, though. The link’s too long, but I’m sure you’re savvy enough to find it.

  2. Did you get to pick it up yet? Not light reading.

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