Elstob a variable font for medievalists

The Elstob font aims to include all Unicode characters commonly used by medievalists. It is a variable font—that is, one that can do the work of a number of conventional fonts by varying different aspects of the characters’ shapes. Variable fonts are especially appropriate for use on the web, since a single file can do the work of multiple conventional fonts, with significant speed gains. All the major browsers now support variable fonts: if this page doesn’t work for you, consider updating your browser.

To get a sense of what Elstob can do, play with the sliders and checkboxes below, and (if you don’t know much about variable fonts) check out the notes on the font’s axes at the bottom of this page. The sample paragraph to the right of the control panel is editable: type or paste in a bit of your favorite text to see what it looks like in Elstob.

For a list of all characters and all features, see the document “Features and Charset.pdf” in the repository.

Size: 1.5em
Weight: 400
Optical Size: 10
Grade: 0
Spacing: 0
Slant: 8

Notes on the Variable Axes

An axis is an aspect of a font that can be varied along a numerical range. A web designer can either choose some combination of axes for static text or vary the axes dynamically (for example, changing the weight of a stretch of type in response to some kind of user action). Each of Elstob’s two faces has three axes:Weight, Optical Size, and Grade. The italic face has a fourth axis: Slant.

Weight varies the heaviness of the font along a numerical axis from 200 to 800, where 200 is “Extra Light” and 800 is “Extra Bold.” There are several standard weights between these extremes: “Light” 300, “Regular” 400, “Medium” 500, “Semibold” 600, “Bold” 700. However, there are 601 possible values for Weight (not counting fractional values, which are allowed but not useful for this axis).

Optical Size optimizes the type for display at different sizes by varying the x-height, the contrast, and the width of thin strokes. The numbers on the Optical Size axis (6–18) correspond roughly to recommended point sizes: “6pt” (for fine print); “8pt” (footnotes and indexes), “10pt” (block quotes and appendices), “Regular” (main text), “14pt” (subheads), “18pt” (display text, 18 points or larger). However, there’s nothing to prevent your using any Optical Size you like at any actual point size, if you like the look of it.

Grade is like Weight in that it varies the heaviness of the letters; but it does so without changing their width. Use Grade when you want to change the weight of a stretch of text dynamically (for example, on mouseover) without annoying your readers by forcing the text to reflow. You can also combine Grade with Weight to make weights beyond Extra Bold, but if you take it to extremes, you may lose the counters in some letters and the space between. It is suggested that you set Grade to no more than 0.4 when Weight is 800. The range of allowable numbers on this axis is 0-1.

Spacing is for adjusting the space between words, and before and after marks of punctuation. It runs 0–1, where 0 produces spacing like that of other modern fonts, and 1 produces spacing typical of the era of metal type, especially the nineteenth century and earlier. Turn on the OpenType feature ss18 “Old-style punctuation spacing” when you set this axis to a value greater than 0: this applies the logic that governs spacing between sentences and around punctuation, which is different from spacing between words.

Slant changes the angle of the italic face along a range that runs 0–15, where 0 produces an old-style angle of about nineteen degrees (matching the model for this font), and 15 produces a nearly upright angle of about two degrees. The default value for the italics on this page is 8.