Numismatica Font Project
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Numismatica Old Greek

A Numismatic Font with
Archaic and Classical Greek Characters

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Numismatic Letterforms
Characters Proposed for Unicode
An Interim 8-bit Numismatic Font


Greek Glyph Chart
Greek Letterform Names
Numismatica 8-bit Font
Download and Test the 8-bit Font
Font Test Webpage



In Spring 2000, I unsuccessfully attempted to locate a font containing the archaic, classical and Hellenistic Greek letterforms necessary to electronically describe legends on ancient coins. In the absence of a readily available font for Greek legends on ancient coins, I proposed a collaborative effort to create such a font for unrestricted free distribution over the Internet.

Many factors were considered in addition to the letterforms. The type of font (Truetype, Type 1, bitmapped?), the supported platforms (Windows, Mac, Unix, others?), keyboard mapping and utilities, Unicode mapping, Internet browser usage, fonts for professional print setters, internationalization, and many other questions which needed study.

I proposed a table of glyphs after concluding my preliminary investigations of the problems and scope in July.  These were presented to my numismatic colleagues for consideration, and were submitted to the IT sub-committee members of the Association internationale d'√©pgraphie grecque et latine and the Association internationale de papyrologues which met jointly in Oxford, 3-5 August 2000. Their charter is to formulate a joint recommendation for submission to the Unicode Technical Committee (which, as of April 2003, has not yet occurred).

Valuable contributions were received, incorporated and a pre-release version of the font was completed and tested for sufficiency and technical suitability. Following the preliminary review, the font was distributed to beta testers for general review.

The beta test extended for almost two years during which additional characters were identified and incorporated into the font. The beta test also identified the need for a companion font containing retrogrades of many characters. The final versions of the 8-bit font are now available for download.

Concurrent with development of Numismatica, the Unicode project continued its work and released version 3.2 and then 4.0 of the Unicode specification, which changed and added some codepoints relative to Numismatica. The need for a Numismatica Unicode version is clear as more and more computer applications become Unicode-compliant, and this is in work.

Numismatic Letterforms

The literature includes documentation of many numismatic letterforms. B.V. Head, Historia Numorum (1911), summarized the Greek and Latin characters used on coins and provided the baseline for most following scholars. A study of Sayle's alphabet chart, a synthesis of Head, shows approximately 173 characters are needed to represent this chart if they are considered in alpha-sort groups. Less characters would be required if duplications of glyphs are eliminated, which I do not recommend. Icard has few variances with Head. Olson and Mitchiner add eastern forms. Many of the characters required for numismatic description of ancient coins are not found in the Unicode 4.0 specification.

Click on the charts to enlarge

Ancient Alphabets Alphabet Grec Drachm Letterforms Greek & Derivatives
W. Sayles, Ancient Coin Collecting (1996), p. 97 S. Icard, Dictionary of Greek Coin Inscriptions (1968), p. 567 R. Olson, Visible Language, 1973, vol. VII, no. 1, p. 29 M. Mitchiner, Ancient & Classical World (1978), p. 20
Click to view enlarged chart Click to view enlarged chart Click to view enlarged chart Click to view enlarged chart

Characters Proposed for Unicode

Unicode is a character set designed to cover all the world's major living languages, in addition to scientific symbols and dead languages that are the subject of scholarly interest. Unicode 4.0 defines 96,248 characters from the world's alphabets, ideograph sets, and symbol collections, and more than a million are technically possible. In most character sets, a single value is often assigned to several characters. For example, in ASCII a "-" is used to represent a hyphen, a minus sign, a dash, and a non-breaking hyphen. In Unicode, each meaning is given its own code; that is, a hyphen is represented by a character different from a minus sign, and so forth. The Unicode standard contains only one instance of each character and assigns it a unique name and code value. Special codes are provided for each multiple variants of a character, and a "Private Use Area" is set aside for proprietary use.

Drawing on the above documents and expert advice, I created a glyph chart for a Greek numismatic font. A large percentage of these are not in Unicode. I propose these characters, not already present, be submitted for inclusion in the Unicode.

For Unicode and some computer programs and operating systems, distinctive names are required for the letterforms.

In addition to the text characters found on ancient coins, special punctuation and symbols are necessary to describe coins, most of which are not in Unicode. I propose these characters, not already  present, be submitted for inclusion in the Unicode.

Click on the charts to enlarge

Glyph Chart Greek Letterform Names An Interim 8-bit Font
glyphchart115_small.jpg (200x331 -- 29383 bytes) Click to view enlarged chart charmap_115_small.jpg (200x184 -- 14626 bytes)


An Interim 8-bit Numismatic Font

CautionThis is an outdated 8-bit font. It is not a Unicode font and is unsuitable for use on Internet web pages. It may be useful for internal documents or those to be exchanged with others who own the same font.

Despite the attractive potential of Unicode, the addition of characters to Unicode is a lengthy process, and final approval of the epigraphy associations' recommendations is perhaps several years in the future. When and if approved, I intend to incorporate these characters into a Unicode-compliant font.

In the meantime, given the number of characters represented in the literature, it is possible to create a font within the approximately 220 characters available for glyphs in an 8-bit font. For practical and immediate availability on Macintosh and Windows computers, an interim 8-bit font has been prepared in the below format. In this font, a glyph  appears only once, regardless of its intended literary value. For example, a Greek capital Lambda appears only once in the font, but the lambda letterform has been used on ancient coins to represent Alpha, Delta and Omega.

Click here to learn more about the 8-bit font.

This page last updated 26 Jan 2011

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Online since 28 March 1998
Copyright ©1998-2011 Edward C. D. Hopkins, all rights reserved

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