Latin Modern fonts: how less means more
Bogusław Jackowski and Janusz M. Nowacki
Well, less is more ...
Robert Browning, “Andrea del Sarto,” 1855.
The Latin Modern project was launched during the13
European and 10
Polish TEX Conference,May 2002, Bachotek, Poland. The aim was to pre-pare a family of outline fonts, compatible with Com-puter Modern fonts (), but, unlike
s, equippedwith a rich collection of diacritical characters.At that time, two solutions to the problem ex-isted: (1) Lars Engebretsen’s
, )family of virtual fonts, based on Computer Mod-ern fonts in PostScript Type 1 format releasedby
; (2) Vladimir Volovich’s collection of Post-Script Type 1 fonts,
uper (). Engebretsen’sapproach has an important drawback—virtual fontscan be used only with TEX. From this point of view, Volovich’s
uper fonts would be a betterchoice. The fonts were produced by P´eter Szabó’sTEXtrace () which, in turn, is based on MartinWeber’s Autotrace (). Volovich’s achievement isreally impressive, nevertheless we would cast doubtupon the quality of the outlines of glyphs. This isperhaps the intrinsic drawback of the autotracingapproach. Moreover, there is a problem with thesize of the
uper package. It contains more thanfour hundred fonts; the size of the
ﬁles is almost60 MB. Finally, it is not easy to to repeat the pro-cess of the font generation if changes are needed,as manual tuning was involved. (A comprehensivediscussion of alternative approaches can be found in, , and particularly .)Finding the situation unsatisfactory, some rep-resentatives of European TEX Users groups decidedto prepare yet another family of fonts, Latin Mod-ern, being in a way a continuation of Engebretsen’sapproach, but going further: the aim was to com-prise all existing Latin-based alphabets, not nec-essarily European. We were invited to lead theproject, which we gladly accepted.
2 The initial stage of the
Like Engebretsen, we decided to make use of theComputer Modern fonts in the PostScript Type 1format, released by
. But being bent on workingwith human readable sources, we decided to employour (anyway favourite)
(, ). One of the modules of the
package is a converter from PostScriptfonts to
sources. So, the ﬁrst step wasthe conversion of PostScript Type 1 fonts to
sources that were to be manually adjusted.The decision was not obvious at all. The maindisadvantage of such an approach is the “freezing” of parameterization. As an alternative, we considereda conversion of
-conforming ones. It turned out, however,that this method, although practicable, would betime-consuming. Taking into account that our maingoal was the extension of the
standard T E X fonts
with diacritical characters, we abandoned eventu-ally the idea of working with
sources,although access to the
parameterization is pro-vided (see section 4.1).
3 Interim stages of the
family of fonts has been developing evolu-tionary. Our main concern, as already mentioned,was the enhancement of the character set, but, asa result of pressure from users, the number of fontsalso increased.
3.1 Serious matters and triﬂes
The number of glyphs per font grew from less thantwo hundred to more than six hundred. Also, thenumber of fonts grew. We started with 50 fonts(following Engebretsen); currently, the
familycontains 57 fonts. Among them are fonts that donot belong to the “Knuthian canon,” for example,the bold companion for
(pre-pared by Pierre A. MacKay)—see , p. 67, for thecomplete list of
fonts. The increase of the num-ber of glyphs resulted of course in the rapid growthof the number of kern pairs.The augmentation of the
family of fonts wascertainly the most important part of the whole en-terprise. We wrote several tools (mostly
scripts)that helped to control the herd of glyphs and in-terdependences between them—it is unimaginablydiﬃcult to ﬁddle with dozens of thousands of glyphsand hundreds of thousands of kern pairs by hand.As we pointed out in , the lion share of ourtime was spent on the struggle against tiny detailsand exceptions. We were not expected to come upwith brand-new concepts. On the contrary, we hadto comply with the established practice. This, as itturned out, necessitated looking closely into lots of various aspects.One can call most of these problems triﬂes, buttheir amount, relating of course to the size of theproject, created a real problem. Such “triﬂes” hadto be carefully analysed and even if the result of the analysis was simply “let’s do nothing,” it took
Preprints EuroTEX2005 – Pont-à-Mousson, France TUT09
Latin Modern fonts: how less means moreBogusław Jackowski, Janusz M. Nowacki