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

Paul Isambert zappathustra at free.fr
Sat Apr 16 13:09:32 CEST 2011

Hello Pierre,

I'm not sure I understand fully all of what you've said; but I'd hate to 
see your intervention unanswered, so I try to elaborate, however clumsily.

Le 15/04/2011 16:36, Pierre MacKay a écrit :
> 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.

Why are you using Distiller at all? Why not producing PDF at once?

> 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.

I think you're ripe for LuaTeX. It can dissect a font and let you 
reassemble it at will, and even turn it into a virtual font if 
necessary. The character-glyph mapping is whatever you wish.
(I swear I'm not paid by the LuaTeX team to mention the engine as often 
as possible in my messages.)

> 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.

Why would the industry bother to refine their products when most people 
using them don't give a damn about those refinements? Fashion is more 
important: every luxury shop in Zapfino (at least in France), industrial 
products in Rotis Semi (idem), novels in Sabon, and Minion threatening 
to become the new multipurpose font after Times New. Not to mention font 
mismatches: I thought I'd seen the worst of it with Atlantic Books' 
edition of William Gaddis' /Agape- Agape/, with the editor's notes in 
Univers and the main text in Aldus; but David Foster Wallace's 
posthumous (and unfinished) novel /The Pale King/ has the first words of 
each chapter typeset in oversized Gotham, with the text otherwise in 
Baskerville -- as if to punish the reader (rush to it nonetheless, 
folks, it was released yesterday!).

I don't think one should expect anything from the industry if typography 
itself is dying (there are also some successes, of course, but I won't 
mention it; this is a rant, after all). What I would like to know is how 
to make good typography, from font to binding, more widespread.

Also, I wonder what is to be expected from free fonts. Although for the 
moment most of them are nothing but visual noise, resting on industrial 
foundries alone is perhaps no good solution.

> 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 books.''

Ah, but Don Knuth didn't give CM oldstyle figures.
And yes, for what it's worth, I think he was naive. Most of what is done 
with TeX isn't beautiful, unfortunately, because it is mostly done by 
people uninterested in typography. Not that I'm very happy with that, 
mind you.

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