Chinese fonts, and METAFONT

A couple of really interesting and well-written articles on Quartz, coincidentally by the same author:

I’m a big fan of Donald Knuth’s book Computer Modern Typefaces, Volume E of the “Computers and Typesetting” series. (For those keeping track, the first four volumes are the TeXbook, TeX itself, the METAFONTbook, and METAFONT itself — and Knuth has actually finished this book series!) It really shows what goes into crafting a font for Latin typography, and also for mathematical typography; but Chinese typography is something else again. Sonnad’s excellent article above doesn’t really get into what kind of software the Chinese font designers are using for their work.

I was a big fan of METAFONT back in the day — I mean I guess I still am; I just haven’t had much cause to use it lately. METAFONT is essentially a compiler that accepts “programs” for drawing shapes and compiles them into fonts usable by TeX. These “programs” look something like this:

beginchar("w",9.5u#,asc_height#,0); "Welsh w";
 pickup oval.nib;
 rt x1=w-u; top y1=x_height;
 lft x3=u; y3=.5x_height;
 x2=.5[x1,x3]; bot y2=-o;
 pickup rect.nib; top y4=h;
 z4=z1+whatever * dir (90+pentilt);
 path ovpath;
 ovpath = z1..{-dir pentilt}z2..tension 2.0..{dir (90+pentilt)}z3
          ..{dir pentilt}z4;
 pickup oval.nib; draw ovpath;
 pickup rect.nib; draw point 3 of ovpath;

This is a piece of a program I wrote back in March 2007 to draw the character better known as U+1EFD LATIN SMALL LETTER MIDDLE-WELSH V. I forget why I wanted to do that. Maybe just to noodle around with METAFONT. Anyway, here’s the whole program with enough context to render a PDF that looks like this, where the non-Latin character is the one produced by the above snippet:

I have no idea what this says, if anything

By the way, METAFONT is the only programming language I know in which whatever is a keyword. See also: VALGOL.

Posted 2018-04-15