Enabling Modernity: Innovation in Original Modulated Greek Typefaces, 1998–2007

in Philological Encounters
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This article discusses the associations with tradition, modernity, innovation, and revivalism contained within, and enabled by, three seminal Greek typefaces for continuous reading in a modulated style, developed from 1998 onwards outside Greece. It starts with an analysis of the historical model of types cut by Firmin Didot; this style was later adopted by the Monotype Corporation for hot-metal composition, and survived across technologies well into the digital era. It provides a reference point for subsequent work, and informed new digital typefaces, starting with Adobe Systems’ Minion Pro (1998). The article discusses Adobe’s programme of developing large typographic families with Greek complements, which explicitly pushed the design envelope with each iteration. It examines the approaches taken for features such as the first pairing of monotonic and polytonic diacritics, the pioneering of functionally correct diacritics over small capitals, and their impact on wider practice. Parallel efforts that reinforced this trend by Microsoft, as well as notable independent work, are referenced in the context of active explorations of the relationship between Latin and Greek styles by non-Greek designers. The article concludes that the period between 1998–2007 has been revolutionary for Greek typefaces for continuous text.

Enabling Modernity: Innovation in Original Modulated Greek Typefaces, 1998–2007

in Philological Encounters



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  • View in gallery
    The three Adobe typefaces discussed in this paper: Minion Pro (2000), Garamond Prremier Pro (2005) and Arno Pro (2007).
  • View in gallery
    A detail from Henri Estienne’s Oratorvm Vetervm Orationes, 1575, which demonstrates the formal complexity of Greek when typeset for a scholarly text.
  • View in gallery
    A plate from the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des metiers, ed. by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert (1751 onwards) showing three of the six cases required to typeset Greek with the full range of ligatures and abbreviations of the formal style represented in fig. 2. Author’s collection.
  • View in gallery
    Γεώργιος Κουτούφας Αθηναίος, Ιστορία Κωνσταντίνου Κανάριου Ψαριανού: πυρπολιστού. Livorno, 1840. An edition of a historical topic printed outside Greece for importation, in a typically simple typographic structure. Author’s collection.
  • View in gallery
    Detail from LinoType Collection, 1988, showing one of the key Greek typefaces for proprietary typesetting systems. Of note is the inclusion of some alternate letters, which were dropped in PostScript Type 1 versions. Author’s collection.
  • View in gallery
    A page from a Greek digital foundry aimed at the local market (Kosmopolis, 1999) showing typefaces developed with significant loan elements from original Latin typefaces. Author’s collection.
  • View in gallery
    Details from studies on the written form of the Greek script; top: from Hodgkin’s Specimens of Greek penmanship, based on the work of Porson and Young; below: a table from Amariotou’s Writing and education, comparing formal features of the Greek, Latin, and “German” lowercase characters (the German includes ß and alternate forms of writing). Both author’s collection.
  • View in gallery
    Detail from proofs during the design process of Minion Pro, 1998, which show the substitution of serif-like elements with integrated instrokes. Author’s collection.
  • View in gallery
    Detail from Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, 1845, which exemplifies complex typographic settings with uncoordinated typefaces. Author’s collection. Below, detail from a sample page of the Ancient Greek-English Lexicon, Forthcoming 2019, which uses several styles of Arno Pro with modified diacritics to ensure clarity at small text sizes. Available at: https://www.classics.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/glp/lambda30.
  • View in gallery
    Demonstrating modulation across the Greek omicron, in Minion Pro, Garamond Premier Pro, and Arno Pro respectively. The Latin counterparts are in outline. Whereas Minion Pro remains close to the Latin ductus, GPP follows a traditional angle, and Arno Pro follows a hybrid construction, with softer modulation but heavily modified proportions. The text examples demonstrate the impact of the change in Minion Pro, GPP, And Arno Pro: the top line contains the Greek omicron, while the bottom line substitutes it with the Latin o.
  • View in gallery
    A marked up photocopy of a page of early printing by Lorenzo de Alopa with Greek diacritics over small capital letters that served as a reference for Arno Pro’s expanded Greek character set and case conversion features. Author’s collection. Below, a passage in polytonic in lower-case and accented small caps, in imitation of de Alopa’s setting.
  • View in gallery
    Recent typefaces that explore modulation and stroke terminations: Garamond Premier Pro, Brill, and Arno Pro in the top three rows demonstrate a closer connection to written forms; Literata (Type-Together, 2015), Skolar PE (Rosetta Type, 2011) and Colvert (Typographies, 2012) introduce a more constructed texture, while maintaining a variation in the counter shapes and richness of entry- and exit strokes. Below, an example of GPP in use in an edition of the Iliad by Carocci Editore, Italy.


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