bugFree UCS Outline Fonts - Bugs: bug #25289, Coptic glyphs: Some ugly, some...


bug #25289: Coptic glyphs: Some ugly, some wrong

Submitted by:  None
Submitted on:  Fri 09 Jan 2009 08:35:20 PM UTC  
Category:  character range Severity:  3 - Normal
Item Group:  glyph(s) incorrect Status:  Fix posted
Privacy:  Public Assigned to:  Steve White <Stevan_White>
Originator Email:  -email is unavailable- Open/Closed:  Closed
Release:  2009-01-04

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Sun 27 Dec 2009 01:07:42 PM UTC, comment #25:


Sorry for the late reply. I have simply been overwhelmed with other things.

  • Wed 16 Sep 2009

I didn't write down where I got the text, but maybe here:

I'm happy to capitalize the sentence, but regarding the rest, I'm not sure quite how you would have it.

This seems to be like your second proposal:
but this is like the one I had been using

Could we be talking about two different traditions here?

  • Sun 07 Jun 2009

You have a good eye, Mina. You are right, it is a weakness in my
design, and I am thinking about it. I'm not sure how I want to solve it.

  • Thu 04 Jun 2009

Thanks for all the examples!

> http://www.flickr.com/photos/neunzehn/2517787510/
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/neunzehn/2479789406/

Note that in these images, the tails on all the letters are very long, and simply cross one another in a very exciting way. Not appropriate for my purposes, but nice.

> http://www.archive.org/details/speciminacodicum00tissuoft

This is an amazing thing. I could use it for several scripts. Thanks!

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Wed 16 Sep 2009 12:27:03 PM UTC, comment #24:

Regading the lord's prayer
you can start it with ϫⲉ ⲡⲉⲛⲓⲱⲧ
you should either say
ⲁⲣⲓⲧⲉⲛ ˋⲛⲉⲙⲉⲡϣⲁ ˋⲛϫⲟⲥ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩϣⲉⲡϩⲙⲟⲧ ϫⲉ (make us deserve to say that:)
ⲡⲉⲛⲓⲱⲧ ⲉⲧϧⲉⲛ ⲛⲓⲫⲏⲟⲩⲓ (our father who is in the heaven ..)
or you simply drop the ϫⲉ and say ⲡⲉⲛⲓⲱⲧ ⲉⲧϧⲉⲛ ⲛⲓⲫⲏⲟⲩⲓ directly

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Sun 07 Jun 2009 08:02:49 AM UTC, comment #23:

also in the word ⲁⲣⲓ, I noticed that the alpha and the row (first two letters) are touching each others
if possible, can you make alpha's tail a little bit shorter?

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Thu 04 Jun 2009 09:16:46 AM UTC, comment #22:

I am sorry for the very late reply
I didn't receive any notification, and I have just saw your post while I was checking the progress
i think that file http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/papyrus/texts/coptic/introduction.html has many manuscripts from different centuries
check this also
and this
also this book
contains many many manuscripts from different languages, Coptic is one of them but you will need to do a little search in the book to find it

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Sun 15 Feb 2009 10:04:01 AM UTC, comment #21:


The problem with my understanding stemmed from the dates I had read concerning when Coptic "died out". Mr. Roper cites a much earlier date than I had read before.

I would really like to see whatever other manuscripts you have!
(Maybe you could make a web page, with links to all these things. That might be of interest to many people.)

As to what to do next: since (as it appears) there is no public typesetting tradition in Coptic, we are freed from such conventions. I therefore feel justified in picking a manuscript style that fit stylistically with the rest of FreeFont.

What remains is to make sure the letters are correct and that bulk text looks good. Toward this end I kerned the letters, so they fit together better according to their shapes.

At this time, I still haven't worked on the Alfa. I have an idea, and I guess that's next.

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Sat 14 Feb 2009 09:01:24 PM UTC, comment #20:

I am glad that u are finally convinced that there is no such thing like Coptic News papers
As I was saying only religious (or Magic) texts are available :(
so what is the next step?
would u like me to provide u with more manuscripts?

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Sat 14 Feb 2009 10:47:58 AM UTC, comment #19:

I heard back from G. J. Roper, whom I had written asking for adviced on Coptic fonts. He said that he was not himself an expert on Coptic typography, and gave me a better reference, which I will follow up on. He also said:

'I think you are mistaken in assuming that there was "a period after the advent of printing and before Coptic ceased to be used publicly, when newspapers, posters, secular books, etc were printed in Coptic". Coptic was a dead language, used only for liturgical and biblical purposes, after about the 11th century AD. At the end of the 19C there was an abortive and unsuccessful attempt to revive it, as I mention in my article, and a few bilingual (Arabic/Coptic) linguistic and reference works were printed then.'

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Sat 31 Jan 2009 11:29:23 AM UTC, comment #18:

Hi Mina,

Thanks for the links!

In search of examples of Coptic typography, I have written to
the Coptic Museum in Cairo, as well as a professor who has written at least one article on the subject. Let's see if something comes of it.

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Thu 29 Jan 2009 04:01:25 PM UTC, comment #17:

the following link contains many Coptic manuscripts, including contracts and letters and stuff
hope this will help

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Tue 27 Jan 2009 08:00:15 PM UTC, comment #16:


You wrote

> o Again, we are missing samples of relatively recent daily typography, such
> as newsprint, novels, legal documents, etc.
> did i forget to mention that Coptic a dead language, currently there is only
> a few who can read coptic text and understand it

As I wrote on your blog,
There must have been a brief period between the advent of printing and the point when Coptic fell out of popular use, when many daily things were printed in Coptic.

The nearest thing I have are those Western academic books I pointed you to,
But I'm afraid their type may have been invented by Westerners who were unaware of Coptic typographic traditions.

> even when Coptic was live language legal documents were written in Greek not Coptic

OK. But surely newspapers and such...

> maybe i can find you something, but don't put much hope on that

If you could, it would be much appreciated.


Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Tue 27 Jan 2009 06:07:26 PM UTC, comment #15:

o Again, we are missing samples of relatively recent daily typography, such as newsprint, novels, legal documents, etc.

did i forget to mention that Coptic a dead language, currently there is only a few who can read coptic text and understand it

although my forum contains a lot of people but i have seen only 3 or 4 who can actually types something in Coptic
among those guys only 1 or 2 who write Coptic statements with few grammatical/spelling mistakes

even when Coptic was live language legal documents were written in Greek not Coptic

maybe i can find you something, but don't put much hope on that

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Sun 25 Jan 2009 10:34:56 PM UTC, comment #14:


-- "shai"'s head has the same height as the "o"

I mean the characters U+30E3 and U+2CB1.
In every manuscript I have seen, and every font, including
the ones you have provided, the shai is based on the "o".
Its head is not only the same size as the "o", it is identical
to the "o".

I know the two letters have very different origins, but there
can't be any doubt they are always written similarly.

-- which style are you trying to adopt?

I started out trying for the feel of the manuscript of the Gospel of St. Thomas, because I thought the simplicity and level of decoration fit the rest of FreeSerif well. (A degree of stylistic harmony is an overall goal of this project.)

I also used the Unicode samples as a reference (for better or worse).

Since then, you have pointed out that the short tail on the
shai is really uncommon, and after looking at a bunch of other fonts and manuscripts, I agreed, and lengthened it.

Also, the scribe of that manuscript did not distinguish capital letters. Again at your behest, I have provided distinct capitals in a couple of important cases.

Note that I am not personally fixated on this approach.
Given much better samples, I would consider a complete re-design. (But note, the samples on the Wikipedia page on the Coptic Alphabet I find much too decorative for FreeFont, and moreover, not really very representative of faces I have seen in other documents.)

    • Again, we are missing samples of relatively recent daily typography, such as newsprint, novels, legal documents, etc.

There must have been a brief period when such things were
printed. It would be very helpful to see that.

I haven't been able to do much with the font this week.
I am still working on it however, and mean to do something to strengthen the Alfa.

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Sat 24 Jan 2009 09:17:23 AM UTC, comment #13:

sorry for my late response, I didn't receive any notification of your post
the shai in the screen shot you provided is not bad, but I don't understand why should the "shai"'s head has the same height as the "o"

also please note that the manuscripts you use are very old (2-4 AD)
in Sahidic Dialect
while the manuscripts i attach are pretty new (14-18 AD) in Bohairic Dialect
and as you can see the style of some letters is pretty different, so which style are you trying to adopt ?

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Tue 20 Jan 2009 08:31:28 AM UTC, comment #12:


That's a beautiful manuscript, again! And thanks for the drwaing!

However, we aren't understanding one another, somehow. At least there are several issues that have to be balanced, and maybe you're focusing on one, and I'm looking at others.

Regarding shai:
In this manuscripts, and in almost every other one I have looked at, the "head" of shai is identical to "o". So I presume you mean that I should change the "o" as well.

You said the head of the shai should be smaller. This would mean that you want the "o" to be somehow smaller. However, both o and shai are already the same height as the other letters, as it is in most fonts and manuscripts.

In the manuscript image you attached, the head of shai is indeed smaller than the other letters (and I think the scribe also makes o correxpondingly short, but there are only a couple of examples). So I looked at the other examples of type and manuscrips I have, and I don't see this. I think this particular manuscript is an (unusual) stylistic variant.

oh: and the image of the alphabet you first sent me:

Your drawing is fine, but what it is missing is the relation of the size of shai (and its head) to other letters in the alphabet.

We have a technical constraint of how deep a descender can go. The tail of Capital Shai is already to the bottom of that. So unless the "head" of the Shai is shortened, it looks a little cramped.
(It occurs to me now, this may be the reason that in many modern Coptic fonts, a short tail appears on Shai.)

I am very reluctant to make the height of the o different from the other letters, or to make shai's head different from o.

What do you think? Have I misunderstood your suggestion?

The only thing I can do, is lower the tail of small shai a bit.
Attached find an image text in the latest version. I also worked on several other letters.

I hope this is enough!

(file #17296)

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Sun 18 Jan 2009 12:30:42 PM UTC, comment #11:

the tail is fine, but you didn't change the head
I mean with "head" the upper part of the letter

please look at this one
the shai's tail is still long (skip the tail issue, yours is long enough) look at the the upper part of the letter shai
it is different than yours
if you could make your shai looks like the one in the above manuscript that would be great

also attached a drawing of mine, showing how do we write the letter shai (its a bit ugly because i drew it with the mouse, but I hope it can clarify more how the head normally looks like)

(file #17284)

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Sun 18 Jan 2009 11:57:03 AM UTC, comment #10:


I have attached a picture of the alphabet in the latest version,
which features a shai with a much longer tail. I also worked on Alfa and Veta a little.

Let me explain my thinking on the tail of shai.

As you have observed, the previous version of the shai was based on the manuscript of the Gospel of St. Thomas, in which shai has a relatively short tail.

While I like the style of that manuscript, I also respect your reaction as a native reader.

In the manuscript, the scribe was at liberty to use much deeper descenders than are we in this font (this is a technical requirement of the type face: the descenders could be made longer, but bad things happen). So...since I can't make the tail descend as far as the scribe does, and since there is tradition of shai with longer tails, it makes sense to extend the tail horizontally.

Another goal is stylistic unity among the letters. While no other letter sports such a long tail, the small khai has something like it. I have tried to make these similar in shape.

My only complaint about the Shai-tail as I've drawn it is, it reminds me of a cat's tail. Now, I like cats, but I don't know if their parts should be in an alphabet.

(file #17283)

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Sat 17 Jan 2009 08:11:02 AM UTC, comment #9:

the letter shai you have made have a very big head and very a tiny tail
I checked the pdf file and it has the letter shai like the one you made

shai doesn't have this very big head, and although its tail's length varies (depending on the manuscript) but we are more used to see it a bit longer
the previous manuscript gave the letter shai very long tail for decoration
on the other hand gospel of Thomas gave it short tail http://www.geocities.com/Athens/9068/pictures/cross.jpg

I am not sure what is the "correct" about the tail's length
but as for the head, i am petty sure that it needs to be a bit smaller

When we are done with Shai, we can talk about alpha
You have made a very good work
Thanks alot

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Thu 15 Jan 2009 10:26:12 PM UTC, comment #8:


Thanks for your remarks!

Regarding Shai: in the manuscript you provided, what strikes me about shai is that it has a very long tail, which extends fully to the other side of a character to its left. Is the tail the problematic aspect, or something else?

Note that the one in FreeSerif is based on the Unicode sample at
I have noticed that this letter varies widely.

Please send me a screen-shot image, showing the FreeSerif letter Shai as you see it. (I'm still not convinced we're talking about the same thing.)

Regarding Alef: Undernourished, maybe. I thought, maybe a little forlorn. I don't regard myself as an artist, and though I see these effects, I don't immediately know what to do about them. I'll try beefing it up, and if that doesn't work, I'll give it a hobby.

Nice manuscript!

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Wed 14 Jan 2009 01:21:37 PM UTC, comment #7:

the letter Shai(ϣ) looks pretty wired to me
Here is a link to a manuscript that contains the familiar Shai

Capital alpha still needs some nourishment (if possible)
other than that the font is great and your changes were excellent

Thank you

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Mon 12 Jan 2009 09:06:55 AM UTC, comment #6:

More changes in CVS: raised top of laula above common top, as it appears in most other fonts. Makes it easier to distinguish from alfa.
A little more space around Iauda and iauda.
Kerned Dei.

See attached image.

(file #17251)

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Mon 12 Jan 2009 08:12:46 AM UTC, comment #5:


One of the hardest things is to find a suitable direction to go.

In the FreeFont project, we have emphasized "usefulness" (with the understanding that a font is an aesthetic tool, whose usefulness isn't independent of its beauty).

Judging what I have seen of printed Coptic, and from what I know of Latin type, there is a huge variety of styles of Coptic type, probably specifically designed for different purposes.
(Have a look, for example, at these old Western academic documents:

The purpose of the Coptic range is not to print bibles. Not to say, one cannot print a bible with it, but a bible printer would surely choose a font specially designed for that purpose.

On the other hand, I have been guided partly by the Unicode standard samples (which I now recognize as being poor), and images of the Gosepel of Thomas manuscript (because I thought it was elegant and easy to read). But my product might look strange to a native reader.

FreeFont is meant to be a general-purpose font, suitable for display and printing of everyday text. Readability is a primary virtue. That also means it shouldn't look too strange to a native reader.

What we need for this is: images of printed type from: newspapers, novels or reference books, schoolbooks, business letters, etc. These things should contain type designed to be easy to read.

Thank you for participating!

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Mon 12 Jan 2009 07:17:27 AM UTC, comment #4:

Your question about what is the standard look for the letter makes sense.
You use very old Manuscripts as a reference, while I (as Coptic) used the printed coptic text that is between my hands (in different prayer books) as a reference

I will search for a (recent) manuscripts that has letter shapes similar to the one I used to see everywhere
If I couldn't Then probably we will use the shape u suggested

hopefully I will post again today
and regarding to the changes u have made, I'll check it and give my feed back too

Thank you very much
Best Regards

Mina Magdy <dabacbe>
Sun 11 Jan 2009 10:30:34 PM UTC, comment #3:

Reviewed a bunch of printed documents, mostly saw a very wide variety of styles. Even the round small kei isn't 100%.

All are stylizations on manuscripts that are themselves stylized.

However, usually the capital Alpha is distinct in printed form.
Also, mostly the Vida has a flat bottom, sometimes with a line drawn under it. The Gospel of Thomas manuscript, which has been my guide (for personal aesthetic resons only), also has a rather
angular vida with flattened top and bottom.

Which letters go above the common top line, and which have descenders? The laula is a tall letter in most faces. But the scribe of the Thomas gospel doesn't write it so.
Since a high laula would cause other typographic problems, I have followed the scribe.

The bowl of the letter fei usually reaches the baseline. But once again, I followed the scribe, who has it the size of the bowl on the rho.

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Sun 11 Jan 2009 12:41:52 AM UTC, comment #2:

Just committed changes to CVS that touch on some of these issues:

Made Psi a little broader
Made small khei distinct from cap, (Looked at a bunch of sources: seems that everybody agrees about this.)
Revised Hori and hori.

I haven't done anything about the capital letters.
To do so will required at least a complete re-design.
First will need to look at more examples of (printed) capital letters.

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Sat 10 Jan 2009 12:47:23 PM UTC, comment #1:

Thanks for your input! Let's discuss a few things!

1) How are you are viewing the font?

I ask this because these days, software will get letters from other fonts on your system if it can't find a letter in the current font, or is otherwise confused.

It may be best to provide a screen shot, so we know for sure what you are seeing.

2) Standard and goal

The image you provided, you called the "standard" for the letters. I have seen these letter forms before on Wikipedia. This is a particular typeface. The letters are quite different from other sources I have seen, including other fonts, and manuscripts. What standard is this?

If the letter forms in FreeFont are wrong, I am happy to change them. But the plan here is not to copy another font. It is to make a somehow "good" font, particularly, which looks good with the existing letters in the font.

For myself, I was going first from samples at the Unicode standard page:

and http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0370.pdf

Then from manuscripts found on the Web:

Gospel of Thomas http://www.geocities.com/Athens/9068/

Gospel of Luke (poor quality) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/Coptic_luke.jpg

Gospel of Judas PDF http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/about_coptic_text.html
Unicode http://homepage.mac.com/thgewecke/ujudas2.html

This ornate inscription http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Coptic%26Arabic.jpg

The idea was to retain somehow the spirit of carefully written letters, while matching the weight and level of decoration with that of the Latin letters.

3) Specific problems

Regarding the letter Ⲁ (Alfa), and ϧ (khei). The Unicode standard samples do not make much distinction betwen capital and small letters. I do not have a feeling about this.
Is the Unicode standard wrong? (If so, please write to them and explain your viewpoint!)

The manuscripts I have seen use mostly just small letters.

    • Please refer me to second source to draw from, besides the image you sent.

Regarding the letter ϩ (hori), it was indeed placed rather high. I have now made it to dip below the baseline. Is this what you meant?

Regarding the letter ⲯ (psi), I agree it is rather ugly. I made it too narrow, at least. I'll spread it out a bit.

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Fri 09 Jan 2009 08:35:20 PM UTC, original submission:

Dear Developers,
the letters ⲯ ϧ ϩ are pretty ugly
the letter Ⲁ has wrong capital form and the letter ϧ has wrong small form
Basically many characters has different Capital/Small Form but those are the most important ones

here is the standard look of the Coptic letters

Thank you very much for your effort
Best Regards



(Note: upload size limit is set to 16384 kB, after insertion of the required escape characters.)

Attach Files:

Attached Files
file #17284:  shai.png added by dabacbe (3KiB - image/png)
file #17251:  Lords_prayer2.png added by Stevan_White (74KiB - image/png)


Depends on the following items: None found

Items that depend on this one: None found


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    Follow 11 latest changes.

    Date Changed by Updated Field Previous Value => Replaced by
    2010-09-19 Stevan_White Open/ClosedOpen => Closed
    2009-01-20 Stevan_White Attached File- => Added Lords_Prayer_20.01.09.png, #17296
    2009-01-18 dabacbe Attached File- => Added shai.png, #17284
    2009-01-18 Stevan_White Attached File- => Added Coptic_18.01.08.png, #17283
    2009-01-12 Stevan_White Attached File- => Added Lords_prayer2.png, #17251
    2009-01-11 Stevan_White StatusNeed info => Fix posted
    2009-01-10 Stevan_White Categoryindividual character(s) => character range
        Item GroupNone => glyph(s) incorrect
        StatusNone => Need info
        Assigned toNone => Stevan_White
        SummaryCoptic glyphs: The following letters ⲯ ϧ ϩ looks ugly, wrong captial for Ⲁ => Coptic glyphs: Some ugly, some wrong

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