Italic Small Caps

M.E. O'Neill
Mon, 1 May 2000 08:57:53 -0400

I was recently looking at some old metrics and FD files made by an
ancient version of fontinst (1.335), and saw that they included italic
small-caps (which were actually faked).

This intrigued me for two reasons: (1) the name used for the italic
small-caps shape; and (2) the fact that it included italic small caps
at all, given that (lately at least) fontinst's \latinfamily does not
seem to grok the concept of italic small caps.

The FD file called the italic small-caps NFSS font shape `scit', which
seemed curious to me, since fonts themselves seem to call themselves by
names such as ``Minion Italic Small Caps'', and alphabetical ordering
would also put `it' before `sc'.  _The LaTeX Companion_, has little to
say about how shape qualifiers should be ordered when combined.

I also couldn't seem to find any guidance on the proper name from
fontinst, because even when you have a font such as pmmrci8a.afm, it
won't create italic small-caps font metrics for you.

Thus, I have two questions:

   - Which should it be, `itsc' or `scit'?

   - Why doesn't \latinfamily make italic small-caps metrics?

Some readers may feel that because real italic small-caps fonts are
somewhat rare, \latinfamily doesn't need to support them, but I would
disagree.  Good typography demands italic small-caps (see Robert
Bringhurst's _Elements of Typographic Style_).  Not having a real italic
small caps font isn't necessarily a problem, because an oblique version
of a real roman small caps font could be an acceptable substitute.  Even
if a user doesn't have a real small caps font, faked italic small caps
are no uglier than faked roman small caps.

I realize that it's not all that hard for experts to use \installfont
to make any fonts they want, including italic small-caps, but I was
disturbed to discover that \latinfamily doesn't even try to make italic
small caps metrics when the proper font exists!

Comments welcome,


P.S.  We also might want to look at the long-standing problem where
\textsc{Foo \emph{bar}} (and vice versa) doesn't do what it should.  I
don't think this one would be very difficult to fix (just test \f@shape
in the code for \em and Do The Right Thing(tm)).