[texhax] How can we best keep on using small caps and oldstyle figures?

Pierre MacKay pierre.mackay at comcast.net
Fri Apr 15 16:36:48 CEST 2011

Dear William,

I sense that you know and care about these aesthetic details better than 
anyone else on this list, so I respectfully begin my search with you.

Adobe continues to sell (or lease) reasonably well-designed fonts with 
encoding vectors such as /Eacutesmall and /twooldstyle, but ones hope of 
using them in a PDF environment is flakey at best, (you must remember 
the disaster that made all files distilled in Distiller 6 entirely 
unusuable in Reader 7), and I  have recently encountered a new problem 
even when using Adobe Professional 9 on Windows.  On Monday, Distiller 
was still able to use the weird little patch that makes up for the fact 
that Unicode simply does not recognize style variants.  Now it fails.  
The on-line distiller doesn't work at all today, and I am wary of that 
because online distiller likes to take gray-scale EPS and turn it into 
black blobs.

The simplest answer would be to take the Adobe fonts that happen to be 
encoded in Adobe's own abandoned Expert Character Encoding Standard (So 
that's what they mean by standard---something you can dump without a 
word of warning) and recode them as variant fonts to fit in to several 
Unicode pages here and there. But that requires uncompressing a PFA file 
to Ascii, and it appears that they now have the fonts so locked down 
that that can no longer be done. Linotype has never offered anything but 
crudely stripped down auxiliary fonts, and usually not small-caps at 
all. Many other foundries do not even bother with old-style figures, so 
that the numerous clones of Times New Roman (I am forced to use this 
font) are not usually a resource.  So far as I can make out, Linotype's 
answer to ff ligatures is to pair-kern the characters so that they look 
like a careless set crash.

Surely the industry can do better that force us to give up good 
ligatures, old-style figures and small-caps.  Or are we being slowly 
groomed to surrender to an unending diet of Courier.

I think this is a broader question than should be addressed only to TeX 
fonts.  It has to do with the entire quality of typesetting.  Was Don 
Knuth simply naive when he aimed to make it possible to set ``beautiful 

Pierre  MacKay

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