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Re: medieval font design

From: Juergen Reuter
Subject: Re: medieval font design
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2007 22:17:49 +0100 (CET)

On Thu, 1 Feb 2007, Till Rettig wrote:


I am slowly evolving in my ideas and trials on the "ancient" fonts for lilypond. So far I have a couple of good scans from which I would like to take the shapes. But how is the best to get them into metafont? I found something about mfpic (probably not good in this case), fig2mf (sounds already better) and ps2mf (this might be the best?). But are they good, can they do the job? I am so far imaginating that I would take the scans as a picture and then kind of draw around them inside of a vector programm. This would give them at least a really "handwritten" lining. The other idea that somehow sounded logical to me was the way suggested in the fontforge tutorial: designing a glyph by setting points at the outline of the glyph until there are enough points to describe the form. But how is this done for instance in xfig? (As far as I understand fontforge doesn't export to fm). I acknowleged the fact that I will have to learn something about metafont anyways, I thought I would go through the metafont tutorial by Christophe Grandsire, this is old but since the program seems to be the same... At the moment it just seems that I won't be able to draw the wanted forms nonvisually, that is in the way that I would just write a mf file.

Hi, Till!

My personal experience is that you have to fine tune the glyphs anyway; hence, determining just a few coordinates should suffice (this can be easily done manually if you have a really big printout of the scan).

Then about the single parts of the font (now for some white and black mensural notation): I will create noteheads and stems extra, but since the stems in some cases will have a form like the stem from the ! sign (bigger at top), they won't fit together with the flags. So should there be a separate flag + stem or rather a stem-flag combination?

For each glyph, a charbox must be specified, such that lily knows how wide/high the glyph is. In practice, a glyph may stick out of the charbox (even though you probably should have a good reason to do so). In this case, I think sticking out glyphs could be useful; see attached drawing (suppose that the blue curve represents the stem, the red curve the flag, and the dotted lines the corresponding (simplified) charboxes).

However, as far as I know, stems are currently drawn dynamically by just creating rectangles on the fly, rather than outputting a fixed glyph. The reason for doing so is that the actual stem length in general depends on a lot of other things, and therefore there is no fixed stem glyph. I guess the stem printing code in lily/ would need to be slightly revised to enable printing of stem glyphs. Or, even better, if you could express the stem by a polygonal shape and, given a stem length, devise a method for determining this polygonal shape's coordinates, then polygonal stems could be drawn on the fly in lily/, analogous to the rectangular stems that we currently have.

And still the idea about introducing some variability to mimick the handscribe, that is to have about four or five slightly different glyphs that would be used in arbitrary order. Is something like this possible in lilypond?

Should be basically possible, if you modify lily/ accordingly. However, I guess the result would not look beautiful, since the "arbitrariness" of hand-writings actually comprehends a very complex process of balancing unevenness; I fear that simulating this process based on just some random numbers will not work well.


Ok, so far

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