• Alexios
  • typesetting
  • fonts
  • tex
  • latex

This is a font and associated TeX package to typeset Menasat in the conventional, left-to-right, top-to-bottom orientation (there are others, but they make life very difficult). Making the font description itself was remarkably easy. METAFONT makes it very easy to draw letterforms, especially when emulating writing implements, which I was. The code to typeset latin transcriptions of Menasat wasn't so easy. I had to code a state machine for it, and that was the first time I ever used plain TeX for anything at all. The code can obviously be used inside LaTeX documents, of course. Not that anyone ever would!

The syllabary itself relatively simple and is made to be written with a calligraphy pen. METAFONT is brilliant at emulating pens. TeX was not exactly made for syllabic scripts though, but it's Turing Complete. Coding the state machine was feasible, but annoying. The lack of codepoints (plain TeX is uses 8-bits to represent characters) was a nuisance. The end result was very rewarding, however!

A demo of the font and state machine

A very old, badly pixellated demo of the font and TeX state machine. It's pixellated because METAFONT makes TeX fonts, and they were bitmapped, though usually rendered at 300 or 600dpi to match printer resolutions.

2018 Update: this page hails from 17 years. I've since managed to render a very high resolution bitmap of this font, trace it with FontForge and generate a precomposed OpenType font using some FontForge python scripts. If I knew my stuff, I could have used ligatures and kern pairs to avoid having precomposed syllables, but it really doesn't matter: there's no Unicode plane for these characters anyway, and the Private Use Area is big enough and free for all. The font is not available for download here because obviously no-one can ever possibly want it, because I still need to solve some geometry issues, and because you still need a state machine for composing latin syllables into glyphs.