Some Char. to Glyph Statistics, Pan/Single Font

From: Mike Meir (
Date: Thu May 31 2001 - 07:59:58 EDT

The problem with your glyph statistics is that they are based on mould counts employed by the Monotype hot metal typesetters.
The Monotype system was capable of extensive kerning, and therefore many glyphs were constructed from the elements provided by the moulds at the time of composition. The Monotype list of elements therefore comprises:
  1.. Full characters which are either basic or could not be composed satisfactorily by the system for whatever reason. These might properly be described as glyphs
  2.. Elements which were combined either with the first set, or with one another, to create glyphs, or approximations to glyphs at the time of casting. These cannot really be considered to be glyphs, as such.
However, if one allows that these elements are glyphs, the real number of glyphs employed by Monotype was limited by the matrix case: before 1962 to 225 sorts, and subsequently to 272 sorts. Although additional sorts might be available, they could only be used by substitution with another sort prior to any actual typesetting.

More recent Monotype code pages for Bengali seem to be around 450 elements, which are combined with floating elements to create text.

To date all Indic script composition has been pretty much limited by technology. Taking Bengali as an example, Figgins, around 1826, employed 370 sorts, many of which are kerning versions of other sorts, allowing the composition either of consonant-vowel combinations or approximations to complex conjuncts which were insufficiently common to warrant the creation of separate punches. But again, a number of his sorts exist only to allow the incorporation of combinations which could not be produced by the technology of the time.

Our recent revision of the Linotype Bengali code page extends to a font of some 980 elements. 136 of these are differently spaced floating elements, such vowel signs and chandrabindus, which have no meaning separate from the main characters to which they may be attached, and which would be omitted from an opentype version. It also includes 146 characters which duplicate the Unicode encoded Bengali characters, which is required for current technological reasons - Microsoft's Office XP does not allow the display of Unicode encode Bengali characters in the font, or at the size which is expected. So the "real" number of elements is 698. (I may also add that we have had to produce alternative versions of the same fonts in which non-spacing elements actually space quite considerably, because of the very strange behaviour of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.5, so the glyph count is larger than the 980 - another case of technology determining counts).

Turning to Devanagari, our researches indicate that the total number of script units (In Unicode terms, combinations of consonants, halants, vowel signs and other signs), excluding the Unicode characters in the range 0951 to 0954, in use is around the 5550 mark. It is actually greater than this, since there are a number of characters relating to Sanskrit sandhi for which we do not have any conjunct-vowel statistics.

In principle, all these should be regarded as glyphs, though few fonts are likely to implement them all (the slaves in this context needing to be human beings, since the issue of the spacing and modification of a smaller number of base elements to produce all these glyphs is an aesthetic rather than a mechanical problem)

I have also not included in the count the many variant forms of glyphs which occur as result of differences in formulation for particular combinations.

(I have also excluded the rather large number of glyphs which are to be found in the Mangal font supplied by Microsoft, but which seem to be there purely because of a rather strange and literal interpretation of the Unicode Devanagari shaping rules, on the grounds that these glyphs exist only in the font, and would never be used in text.)


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