Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Create Your Own aNE Fonts

Posted by NT Wrong on June 13, 2008

Do you get annoyed when your ancient Near Eastern font set doesn’t look much like the ancient Near Eastern script that it should emulate? Here’s the solution: make your own! And here’s a quick-and-easy free online tool with which to do so: Fontstruct.

In April, an online font clearinghouse called FontShop quietly uploaded a program that, the company wrote, was meant to be “purely entertaining—something to kickstart creativity.” FontStruct, a browser tool that lets anyone create an original font, was so popular that the site’s servers crashed within days of the official launch.
– Jason Fagone – ‘YouType: The strange allure of making your own fonts’

I’ve registered with Fontstruct, and began to construct (or ‘fontstruct’ …) a font I call ‘Ilimilku’. I’m just playing at the moment, but I may get more scientific later. The software is all quite intuitive and straightforward. You can either click and drag to draw lines for the characters within a grid, or select pre-designed boxes to include the shapes within your font design. You associate each character you create with characters in the standard English keyboard character-set. At any stage, you can download your work as a TrueType font. If you wish, you can also make your font publicly available to other users under a Creative Commons license.

Now, here’s an example of the type of advantage I mentioned above. If you try to explain that an Ain in a certain Ugaritic text couldn’t possibly be a thanna or a qopa, the best way to do this would be to use realistic Ugaritic fonts for the three characters in your sentence. But, with the Logos Ugaritic font set, thanna and qopa actually do look the same in respect of one of the cuneiform wedges. Annoying, huh? But, with my Ilimilku Font (Beta version 1.0), which is based on KTU 1.21-22, I can make the distinction quite clear:

Of course, I also get full rights to use my own font in my work. Splendid! Yet, to do it well, you have to take some time. But if you were going to make a close study of the epigraphy and palaeography, then why not make a font-set of the representative average characters at the same time?


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