01 March 2012


It probably won't surprise you to learn that because I spend hours every day dealing with words on a computer screen I am mildly obsessed with typography. As a result, I am always on the lookout for the ideal font. That search has just led me to download a new font from the publishers Brill, which is called imaginatively 'Brill'.

'Brill' is a serif font in the Baskerville tradition. My first impression is that its Latin and Greek characters look quite elegant (actually it looks quite like Gentium, which is the font Brill has previously recommended to authors). More importantly, it is a Unicode font with no fewer than 5,100 characters including a complete set of combining diacritics. So it should be possible to write just about anything with any accent in most major languages (though I do have certain reservations about the appearance of its Hebrew characters).

Only time will tell whether it will become a regular part of my editorial armoury, but it certainly looks like a useful addition to my list of fonts.


David Reimer said...

Thanks for this, Lawrence. I've seen pages set in this font, but didn't realize they had made it available for download.

The Greek is much closer to SBL Greek which is no surprise since John Hudson is responsible for them both. Gentium was for a long time my favourite here, but lately the "SBL Greek" style has discplaced it in my affections, and the Brill version will do very nicely, thank you. :)

It would be an interesting exercise to compare the Latin characters to Sylfaen (see the account of it on the Tiro website -- makes interesting reading).

As for the Hebrew ... well, there isn't any! (Or were you just being ironic?)

Thanks for the pointer!

David Reimer said...

P.s. But if you did want a nice matching Hebrew, I think the Culmus Project's Taamey Frank CLM would make the best match of the Unicode Hebrew fonts I know.


Lawrence said...

David, when I look at Brill in Character Map, it appears to have a limited set of Hebrew characters. Thanks for the links (more fonts for me to play with).

David Reimer said...

Hi Lawrence - just alef and bet, I think. (I've been through the whole thing now!) They're needed as sigla for some text-critical work, I believe.

Do you use BabelMap? Or maybe you're not on Windows -- I can't recall.

Oh, and I checked out my Sylfaen thought, and they're very different.

It will be great when the Brill Bold and Bold Italic get released as well. Thanks again for flagging this up!

Lawrence said...

David. This is very strange! Looking at Brill in Windows Character Map, I definitely see a set of Hebrew characters. But BabelMap does not display them.

Lawrence said...

An update on the Brill Hebrew question: I finally did the obvious thing and tried writing some Hebrew in Word using Brill. It definitely does have a Hebrew character set. And it looks better in Word than it did in the display in Character Map.

So why does it not display in BabelMap? Is it because BabelMap does not yet fully support Unicode 6.1?

On the matter of bold and bold italic, the supporting literature claims that these are available. And Word has no difficulty displaying Brill in bold. So I can only assume that these have been bundled into the Brill and Brill italic font packages.

David Reimer said...

Odd, but really - there is no Hebrew glyph set in Brill! Check the PDF User Guide that comes bundled in the zip. It gives the full character set, and glyph ranges. No Hebrew!

Or -- open up Word again. Set "Brill" to be the active font, and then do Insert > Symbol, and ensure that "Brill" is again the active font. Now click the "Subset" drop-down: no Hebrew!

Word will always "find" a glyph for you if it's not available in the current font, and that must be what has happened in your tests. (Well, pretty sure!)

Lawrence said...

I really shouldn’t try to do things late at night or early in the morning! Yes, David, you’re absolutely right: Brill does not have a Hebrew character set.

Clearly something odd is happening in Character Map. When I look at other fonts which I know do not have Hebrew characters, the relevant Unicode subrange is blank. Turn to Brill, and there it displays a set of Hebrew characters.