RE: Some Char. to Glyph Statistics, Pan/Single Font

From: Marco Cimarosti (
Date: Thu May 31 2001 - 11:17:31 EDT

Mike Meir wrote:
> The problem with your glyph statistics is that they are based
> on mould counts employed by the Monotype hot metal typesetters.

I agree: no one will ever come up with *the* correct count.

Such general evaluations simply depend on too many things to be useful.
E.g.: which language(s) are targeted, what degree of typographic excellence
is required, and (as Mike explained very well) the kind of technology
involved and its limitations.

The simple fact that software fonts can overlay glyphs can cause a great
factor of reduction, compared to lead type. Similarly, the fact that a
software font technology has the capability of kerning glyphs vertically can
reduce dramatically the inventory of glyphs needed for certain scripts.

Moreover, different technologies may have totally different meanings for the
word "glyph". E.g., I have heard of Arabic fonts that analyze the Arabic
script well under the level of a "grapheme": segments of lines and
individual dots were stored separately and assembled at display time.
Comparing the number of glyphs in such an a font with the inventory of a
more traditional font is what we call "sum up apples and pears".

> 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.

As an opposite example for Devanagari, I did a little research on my own on
a "minimal rendering scheme" for Unicode Indic scripts. The scenario behind
this evaluation was low-resolution displays or printers and simple bitmapped

For Devanagari's 77 characters (non-decomposable L& and M& characters) my
set of glyphs was just 82 pieces. Of course, such a ratio (about 1:1.06)
requires dropping any typographical gracefulness: of all the complexity of
Devanagari, just a handful of half-consonants and ligatures was preserved.

Neither your "5550" nor my "82" are of much use to anyone who has even
slightly different requirements. However, the contrast between these two
figures perhaps says something about the difficulty of such a count.

_ Marco

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