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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'épgraphie 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.
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.
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|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|
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
This 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