Encounters of the Third Type
Research in typography and epigraphy


Bibliothèque nationale de France
Atelier national de recherche typographique


4 & 5 December 2015

Conferences Programme Registration Address Français


Western typography makes a distinction between “Latin” and “non-Latin” types: the first category involves a relatively small set of characters, and is covered by the vast majority of typefaces. The second category covers a much greater number of writing systems, which usually involve larger character sets and complex scripts. Beyond the (debatable) terminology used to differentiate these fields, each involving their own typographic challenges, there is a third category of typefaces: types designed to serve the needs of researchers. Peculiar writing systems, specific glyphs, transcription needs… In order to communicate and share their knowledge, researchers sometimes need their own typographic solutions.

Typographers and epigraphists have long had common interests and research topics. Beyond their semantic content, the graphic specificities of the signs (letters or symbols) that make up inscriptions more often than not carry information on the text’s geographical, chronological, technical and cultural context, and are especially important to studying language, literacy and the use of writing.

The new opportunities offered by computer sciences and the digital humanities (online catalogues and publications, digital repositories...) make it essential to researchers that epigraphist develop new tools to transcribe, publish and study inscriptions. The creation of specific fonts for digital humanities requires an analysis of the structure and specificities of the glyphs, as well as a discussion on the encoding strategies, which are themselves an opportunity for collaborative research between our two fields.



Friday 4 December 2015
Salle des commissions, Bibliothèque nationale de France


Welcome & introduction

Florence Codine, Thomas Huot-Marchand


Three types of knowing

John Hudson

What does a type designer need to know in order to make types for specialist scholarly publishing? In this paper, John Hudson uses projects for Dumbarton Oaks, Brill, and Harvard University Press to illustrate different kinds of knowledge about writing systems, aesthetic canons, and technical requirements, and discusses how these are integrated in the font making process. Specialist scholarship represents a particular challenge for type design, requiring the fullest level of engagement and exchange of knowledge between font makers and users.

Numismatic and the use of typefaces by researchers


The Typology of Inscribed Byzantine Letters: Athena Ruby and the Art of Interpretation

Joel Kalvesmaki

Fonts such as Dumbarton Oaks’ Athena Ruby unites two countervailing scholarly impulses: to depict a text-bearing object and to interpret it. Those cross-purposes make the font a vehicle for interpretations ineffable, ambiguous, and vague, both intentional and unintentional. To argue for this point, I outline the scholarly rationale behind Athena Ruby, starting with its context—the history of publishing at Dumbarton Oaks—and proceeding to the decisions that were made in its design. I focus on the unavoidable theoretical challenges that lie at the heart of diplomatic transcriptions, and the challenges that remain. The project shows not only that technology and scholarship have their limits, but that those limits are amorphous, even porous. Fonts such as Athena Ruby are, I argue, products and tools of interpretation, and when used the best, will spark insight, discovery, and even dispute.


Coffee break




Medieval Coin Fonts

Marcus Phillips

There are two sorts of computer fonts for the representation of letters and other devices on medieval coins. Those such as Inscription Numismatic (IN) aim at a simple stylised representation. The one at present being pioneered by the Royal Belgian Numismatic Society aims at a literal reproduction of the individual letters. Attempts at the latter in British numismatics long predate computers, for example the BMC of the coins of the Norman kings (1916).

Something similar was attempted in the creation of a font depicting the specific letter forms of the Gros Tournois (1997). This not only led to a far greater understanding of the series but also (its primary aim) to facilitate recording.

The chief objection to the exact reproduction of letters is that it is potentially misleading since the variation is such that the reader can be deceived into thinking he is seeing an exact representation when in reality he is not.

IN was originally a print font used by Oxford University Press that was developed primarily for use in English numismatics. It has limitations when used to represent non-English coinages. Thus various versions of it have been developed for specific series.

In preparing the Pimprez Hoard for publication (2011) we made use of three different fonts: two variation of IN and a specialty devised realistic font for one particular group of coins.

The elaborate letter forms used in Crusader coins have occasioned the creation of a specific font to facilitate the listing of Crusader coins.

The question now is whether Inscription Numismatic should be converted into a Unicode font and some work has been done using the Private Use Area (PUA) facility. From a purely personal point of view as co-editor of the Numismatic Chronicle I am not convinced this is necessary at present but circumstances may change. One problem is keeping control of the font since people have added their own specific characters with potentially chaotic results.

Examples of all the above will be presented.


Roundtable discussion with the speakers

Moderator: Florence Codine






Saturday 5 December 2015
Auditorium de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Galerie Colbert



Florence Codine, Thomas Huot-Marchand

Présentation du contexte de la journée et des présentations de la veille.

Type design, structural analysis of letterforms and encoding strategies


La typographie face aux écritures anciennes, entre reproduction et transcodage.

Marc Smith

more information coming soon


Coffee break




Historical characters in digital text editions – research, encoding and fontmaking

Andreas Stötzner

The editing of historical text sources poses a particular challenge in terms of how to deal with special historical characters and non-standard letterforms. Whereas on the basic or plain-text level many peculiar scriptive expressions, like abbreviations or individual letterforms, can be normalized to its modern representations, on the level of diplomatic editions we want to retain the graphic specialities of the original source in the text data. The problem is: neither our modern encoding standards nor standard font software are made to handle such requirements in an easy and obvious way. The Medieval Unicode Font Initiative is an successful example of a scholarly attempt to overcome those difficulties, in order to furnish printed or online text editions with the typographical apparatus needed. The talk will explain encoding strategies and font works which lead to a considerable improvement in the handling of historic characters. It will also showcase some other international projects like Dania, CYFI, the Kempe-online project or the Andron Monetary font.


Polices pour inscriptions monétaires (NumiPal, méthode, critères, alphabets)

Florence Codine, Morgane Uberti

more information coming soon


Polices pour inscriptions monétaires (ontologie, Meroweg)

Ludovic Trommenschlager, Elvire Volk Léonovitch

more information coming soon


Lunch break




Une famille de caractères à l’usage de la linguistique historique

Sarah Kremer

Le Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch (FEW) de Walther von Wartburg est considéré comme l’une des œuvres fondamentales de la lexicographie historique du français. L’informatisation actuelle de son contenu permet d’envisager une prochaine diffusion élargie et simplifiée.

L’élaboration du dictionnaire sous sa forme électronique nécessite une famille de caractères typographiques intégrant l’ensemble des glyphes employés pour la composition de ses articles et particulièrement les signes typographiques utilisés pour la notation de ses transcriptions phonétiques.

Fruit d’une collaboration entre l’Atelier national de recherche typographique et le Centre du FEW, la production de ces fontes est l’occasion d’envisager un encodage raisonné de caractères inédits mais également de concevoir de nouvelles formes typographiques, spécifiquement adaptées à un contenu textuel particulièrement dense.


Roundtable discussion with the speakers

Moderator: Alice Savoie




Conference summary




Refreshments & conclusion




Entrance is free but online registration is required:

The talks and round tables will be either in English or in French, without simultaneous translation.
A buffet will be offered to the participants on Saturday lunch.



Friday 4 December 2015
Bibliothèque nationale de France,
Salle des commissions
5, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris

Saturday 5 December 2015
Institut national d’histoire de l’art,
Galerie Colbert et salle Aby Warburg
2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris



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