Gaelic Fonts for MS-Windows — basic information and a summary of what's available

Gaelic fonts available on the internet range from new ones, through well-established ones, to a number of old ones which are obsolete but show no sign of fading away.  Some have a character-set adequate for representing text in the Gaelic language, some have not.  Some follow agreed encoding standards, some do not.  Some have a better appearance than others.

This page is intended to supply users of Gaelic fonts, beginning developers of Gaelic fonts, and maintainers of links to Gaelic fonts with the information required to compare the linguistic, aesthetic and ergonomic adequacy of Gaelic fonts.

  Comments will be mainly concerned with character repertoire and encoding; to a lesser extent with letter style and shape; and only rarely with the important matter of letter spacing.

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Background
Encoding of Gaelic fonts
Free Windows fonts
Inexpensive Windows fonts
Non-Windows fonts
Choosing your font

 

BACKGROUND

The Gaelic language is found in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In Ireland it is also known as "Irish". In Man it is also known as "Manx".  In Scotland it is also known as "Scottish Gaelic" and is not to be confused with Scots, a Germanic language related to English.  There is Gaelic dialect variation between and within the three countries, and each country has different centralised orthographic conventions.

Gaelic printing in Scotland and Man has always used the normal Latin letters, with the addition of some country-specific diacritics, and the same is nowadays true of Ireland.  All the required diacritic letters — acute-accented and grave-accented vowels (a,e,i,o,u) in both upper and lower case; and, for Manx Gaelic, c-cedilla in both upper and lower case — are present in the usual character-set of MS-Windows.  As a result, normal Latin fonts are almost always employed for Gaelic-language text  in Scotland and Man, and generally in Ireland too.

On the other hand, "Gaelic script" refers to a distinctive style of rendering the Latin alphabet, in which the letters have characteristic shapes, particularly d, g and t (and, in some substyles, so do ampersand, lowercase r and lowercase s).  Lowercase i is undotted, as should be lowercase j (though the latter is rare in the Gaelic language).  There are a number of substyles of Gaelic fonts: uncial or half-uncial or majuscule (rounded) and minuscule (angular) are the main ones.  (For a wider perspective on uncial fonts, see Gaelic and/or Uncial Fonts by Dan Reynolds.)

Gaelic styles were used throughout the Gaelic world for manuscript work, but only in Ireland were they used in printing text, a practice which continued until quite recently.  Gaelic-style metal fonts have included, of minuscule type: Queen Elizabeth, Louvain, Watts, Newman; and of uncial type: Petrie, Colmcille.  (See Four centuries of printing in the Irish character.)  Digital fonts may seek to reproduce manuscript hands, or metal fonts, or typewriter glyph-sets, or they may seek to be original.

Just as there is a choice of two spelling conventions for representing German umlaut — a digraphic representation, eg. oe, and a diacritic representation, eg. ö — there is an analogous choice for representing the consonant modification of Gaelic known as "lenition", which is applicable to the nine consonants b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, t.  One representation is digraphic, in which the letter "h" is written after the lenited letter (e.g. lenited b is written "bh"); and the other representation is diacritic, in which a dot-above accent is placed on the lenited letter.

In Gaelic-style fonts, representation of lenition is usually by diacritic, while in Latin-style fonts the digraphic representation is the norm.  But it is important to recognise that the questions of letter-style (Latin vs Gaelic) and of lenition representation (diacritic vs digraph) are independent, and that all four combinations are possible:

A font may be described as "Gaelic" if it employs Gaelic-style letter-shapes, or if it offers dotted consonants, or both.

ENCODING OF GAELIC FONTS

The encoding of a font is the assignment or mapping to codepoints of the repertoire of available characters.

  The advantages of a consistent encoding include the ability to switch font without having to edit the text, and to use uniform keyboarding methods.  The encoding also determines the versions of Windows under which a font is suitable for use.

Versions of Windows may be divided into two groups.  Windows 95/98/ME uses single-byte characters, and may be referred to as "single-byte Windows".  Windows 2000/XP uses double-byte characters, and may be referred to as "double-byte Windows".

Without loss of generality, all fonts are regarded as assigning glyphs to double-byte codepoints.  

Under double-byte Windows, the font's double-byte codepoints are used transparently, as the native character-set of double-byte Windows (Unicode) is the same as that normally used to encode fonts.

Under single-byte Windows, a subset of the font's double-byte codepoints is automatically mapped to the available single-byte characters.  The mapping is from Unicode to one of a selection of single-byte codepages defined in Windows, each supporting a different set of languages.  The default codepage in many countries is CP1252.  The remaining (unmapped) characters of the font are unavailable.

We get a particularly important single-byte encoding, known as Latin-1 (or ISO 8859-1) by taking the Basic Latin and Latin-1 Supplement blocks of Unicode and removing the leading zero byte throughout.  If we add a few other useful characters to the $80..$9F region (which is empty in Latin-1), we get the character-set mapped from Unicode by codepage CP1252, also known as the ANSI character-set.

Not all languages are supported by a Windows codepage, however — exceptions include Esperanto, Rumanian, Vietnamese and Tamil — and Gaelic, when dotted consonants are required.  To ensure that the special characters required for an unsupported language are mapped through from a font to the single-byte codetable, those characters must be deliberately placed in the font at the desired single-byte codepoints, rather than at their proper Unicode codepoints.  Such non-Unicode font encodings include Latin-8, which supports Gaelic with dotted consonants, and Latin-3, which supports Esperanto.  A Latin-8 or Latin-3 font may also retain the Unicode encodings of the special characters, in which case it will work in double-byte Windows also, though it will be slightly less flexible there than a purely Unicode font would be.

In single-byte Windows, some applications — notably, MS Word — allow working with double-byte text.  In these, a Unicode font may be used and text will be stored in Unicode encoding, but the difficulty will be in finding a convenient way of keying dotted consonants to generate their Unicode codepoints.  Where a Latin-8 font is used, things are as with other applications for single-byte Windows — Latin-8 keyboarding methods are used and the text is stored in Latin-8 encoding.

A number of encodings may be found in Gaelic fonts:

dual encoding (Unicode and Latin-8)   So, in single-byte Windows with CP1252 active, Unicode-encoded fonts will serve Gaelic, without any encoding modification, as long as dotted consonants are not required, but not when dotted consonants are required.  This holds true whether the letter style is Latin or Gaelic.

Single-byte encodings: Latin-8

When lenition is represented diacritically, single-byte Windows must use a codetable encoded differently from Latin-1, one which includes the dotted consonants. And, for languages not covered by Latin-1, ISO define other such single-byte encodings.  One of these is Latin-8, also known as ISO 8859-14, formally defined in 1998, and including, at the expense of some lesser-needed characters of Latin-1, dotted consonants (as well as some other characters required by Welsh, which will not be mentioned further on this page, but much that will be said about dotted consonants applies equally to them).

In all, there are about 31 codepoints at which Latin-8 places a character different from that placed there by Latin-1.  Latin-1 and Latin-8 are in agreement on the placement of those characters common to both.  By providing dotted consonants, Latin-8 serves the needs of Gaelic when lenition is represented diacritically.  This is true whether the letter style is Latin or Gaelic.

Unfortunately however Microsoft have not provided a codepage for Latin-8.

  This means that the dotted consonants of Unicode will be among the characters thrown away in mapping a font from Unicode to the active codepage (eg. CP1252).  Thus, Unicode fonts cannot support dotted consonants in single-byte Windows.  In fact, the way to get dotted consonants from a font to appear in their Latin-8 positions in the single-byte codetable is to put them already into those positions in the font itself.  Such a font will no longer be Unicode-encoded —  it is Unicode-encoded, except that those 31 or so characters which differ between Latin-1 and Latin-8 are located at their Latin-8 codepoints (which are in the Latin-1 Supplement block).  We may loosely call such a font a "Latin-8 font", though strictly speaking it is a font encoded so that CP1252 will map it to Latin-8 (which is a single-byte encoding).  Latin-8 fonts are needed to support dotted consonants in single-byte Windows, and many such fonts have been created for Gaelic.

When using such a font in single-byte Windows, with CP1252 active as will normally be the case, the mappings from Unicode fonts to the $80..$9F region of the codetable take place as previously.  This will not interfere with the dotted consonants and other characters of Latin-8 which are already in position in their Latin-8 codepoints in the font, as these points are mapped straight through to the codetable.

Latin-8 fonts can be used in double-byte Windows, but there are practical disadvantages to using them there.  Text prepared in double-byte Windows using Latin-8 fonts — just like Latin-8 text freshly imported from single-byte Windows — will have an internal representation for dotted consonants which is different from that of text in Unicode fonts.  But it is bad practice to prepare text in an obsolescent encoding like this, especially if it is done alongside the preparation of other text in Unicode encoding using Unicode fonts for display.  There is an additional practical difficulty, in that a keyboarding technique different from that used with Unicode fonts will be required to input the dotted consonants of Latin-8.

For integrity and compatibility, text prepared on single-byte Windows in Latin-8 encoding, and permanently moved to double-byte Windows, should be promptly converted to Unicode encoding, and fonts which are Latin-8-only should not subsequently be used on it.

An alternative to the Latin-8 font — where the characters which differ between Latin-1 and Latin-8 are encoded in the font at their Latin-8 codepoints — is to encode these characters at both their Unicode and their Latin-8 codepoints in the font.   In single-byte Windows, the resulting font will work exactly as the Latin-8 font did — text will be Latin-8-encoded and keyed using a Latin-8 keyboard layout, and only the Latin-8 subset of characters will be available.  But this font will also function in double-byte Windows — text will be Unicode-encoded and keyed using a Unicode keyboard layout; the whole Unicode character repertoire will be available, except for the 31 or so characters of the Latin-1 Supplement block whose codepoints have been allocated in the font on the basis of Latin-8.  This is not a serious problem, as these characters have been omitted from Latin-8 precisly because they are unimportant for Gaelic.

This dual Unicode/Latin-8 encoding produces a font which will work under all versions of Windows, single-byte and double-byte.  In double-byte Windows, the main disadvantage of using dual-encoded fonts is that they display the same glyph for differently-encoded characters, which  may encourage — though of course it does not require — the bad practice of continuing to work with Latin-8 encoded text, possibly text transferred from single-byte Windows, instead of converting it promptly to Unicode encoding.  While the ability to work with such imported text on double-byte Windows, without bothering to convert it to Unicode, could be seen as a short-term advantage, it could lead to problems eventually.  Few Gaelic font developers have gone down the road of dual-encoding, but most have preferred to produce separate Unicode and Latin-8 versions of their fonts.

Single-byte encodings: others

Latin-8 is not the only single-byte encoding which may be reflected in older Gaelic fonts.  An earlier standard for encoding dotted consonants was known as CER-GS (Celtic Extended Roman).

And some Gaelic fonts follow none of the above encoding standards, but use a proprietary encoding of their own for dotted consonants.  This may be because they pre-date the standards, or because their developers were unaware of standards and made up their own, or because encoding was constrained because it was misused to compensate for inadequate keyboarding technology.  

Standard keyboarding facilities will not work for any font which uses non-standard encoding, but usable alternatives are rarely provided.  Also a few Gaelic fonts choose to place their characters in the Unicode "Private Use" block, which may impair the ability to word-wrap text.

The encoding of any existing font can be improved and standardised, but with some Gaelic fonts which are no longer under development this is unlikely to happen.

Double-byte applications under single-byte Windows

In single-byte Windows, some applications — notably MS Word — allow working with double-byte text, and the possibility is renewed of using Unicode fonts in a single-byte system under such an application.

Unlike normal applications for single-byte Windows, it is possible to use Unicode fonts with these applications, and the result will be text in Unicode encoding.  The problem however will be finding a convenient keyboarding method for the dotted consonants to generate their Unicode values under single-byte Windows.

Where a Latin-8 font is used, these applications behave just like any other applications under single-byte Windows — the normal Latin-8 keyboard for single-byte Windows is used, and the result will be text in (double-byte) Latin-8 encoding. 

Variant glyphs in Gaelic fonts

Just as there is a choice of glyph for some characters in Latin styles

with each font having its own preference, so it is in Gaelic styles for ampersand and for lowercase r, s and s-dot – for each of these characters there is a choice of two glyphs

As in the Latin examples, this choice is not predictable from context or any other circumstance, but is made freely on stylistic preference, and insofar as a piece of text is stylistically-homogeneous, it will be consistent in its choices.

Thus, for r, s and s-dot characters, we may find either short glyphs — the first one of each pair shown above — or long glyphs.  And for the ampersand character, we find either an ampersand or et-ligature glyph, or a Tironian-et glyph, looking like a figure seven.

Historically, in manuscript Gaelic styles, the general position is that uncial styles preferred the short forms of r and s and s-dot, and the et-ligature; while minuscule styles preferred the long forms of r and s and s-dot, and the Tironian-et.

  In metal Gaelic fonts, the long forms of r and s and s-dot were almost universal until around 1913, at which time Monotype Series 24 (a Newman–Figgins style type) offered the short forms as an option; all metal fonts appear to have used Tironian-et, even styles with uncial features, like Petrie and Colmcille.

Apart, therefore, from Newman–Figgins styles, the style of a Gaelic font generally determines the appropriate choice of glyphs, or at least it determines which choices are historically authentic for the font.  This is exactly as in the case of the Latin glyph choices shown above, where a font (eg. Times Roman) makes its choices and rarely offer alternatives.  But Gaelic digital fonts often seek to provide both glyphs of a pair, and leave the choice — whether it is more of a benefit or a burden — to the user.

A choice of glyphs may be simply a harmless inconvenience to the user, or it may be harmful; it depends on how it is implemented.  It is harmful if the alternative glyphs are offered as separate characters.  This will result in the alternative glyphs for the character being processed as distinct, for example, in alphabetization.  Yet this has been allowed to happen with some Gaelic fonts, which have been designed without adequate consideration for the effects of text processing on encoded text.

The user should look for fonts in which only the standard character positions for lowercase r, lowercase s, lowercase s-dot, and ampersand are used for these characters.  In Unicode, these are positions $0072, $0073, $1E61 and $0026 respectively.  If a font uses other character positions for alternative glyphs of these characters, for example, $027C for (long) lowercase r, $017F for (long) lowercase s, $1E9B for (long) lowercase s-dot, or $204A for Tironian-et, the glyphs at these positions should not be used, thus limiting the font to one usable glyph of each character.  It is easy to avoid keying the deprecated positions, since their input will require different keystrokes from the standard positions.  If the font you wish to use locates the glyphs you want at these deprecated character positions, ask the font supplier to provide a version of the font in which your glyphs are found at the standard positions for the characters; if this is not forthcoming, you can easily make the necessary modification yourself.

It will be noted under each font how it displays these four characters, and whether alternative glyphs are provided elsewhere in the font.

The association of separate codepoints with alternative glyphs for these four characters is also sometimes found in Latin-8 encoding, in a modification called "extended" Latin-8 encoding, and the advice is to adhere to the standard positions, as defined in standard Latin-8, and avoid using the alternative positions.

For further discussion of alternate glyphs, including advice to font designers, and instructions for a user to modify the encodings of the variant glyphs, see here.

 

Font lists and samples now follow.

Where the font name is underlined below, clicking on it will show a font sample.  To facilitate comparison, font samples use a standard text and are made at 12 points, on a line length of 14.66 cm, with word-wrap. They appear magnified by a factor of about 1.6 when displayed on-screen at 72 dpi.

Please keep in mind the limited resolution of computer screens when viewing these samples.  The size of type used in the samples can only show on-screen the same degree of detail as would 4.56 pt type printed at 300 dpi, or 1.14 pt type printed at 1200 dpi! The size of type chosen here is an attempted compromise between showing the overall visual effect of setting a paragraph of body text, and showing the fine detail of letter shapes.

Clicking "charset" next to a font name, where present, will show a chart of the characters.  If the font is Unicode-encoded, you will see a selection of the font's characters, including most, but not necessarily all, of those which are useful in Gaelic text.  When such a font is used under single-byte Windows, the available characters will be those shown in the range $0000..$00FF, together with a few others mapped in by CP1252; but dotted consonants will not be available.  If the font follows a single-byte encoding, you will see the characters ($00..$FF) available under single-byte Windows, when codepage CP1252 is active.  When such a font is used under double-byte Windows, all the characters shown are available but some (such as dotted consonants) will be encoded in a non-Unicode manner and must be keyed accordingly.

I will add a font sample and/or charset for any listed font which lacks them, on receipt of the necessary information from the developer.

 

Regarding font file formats, note that TrueType fonts can be used directly with MS-Windows. PostScript Type 1 fonts can also be used directly with MS-Windows 2000 or XP; they can be used with earlier versions of MS-Windows through the free download of Adobe Type Manager Lite.

 

FREE WINDOWS FONTS

Gaelchló (Vincent Morley)

Vincent Morley has been providing free Gaelic fonts in a variety of styles since around 1994.  The latest versions of Gaelchló fonts, in TrueType format, are available HERE — be warned that other download locations may carry outdated versions.  Morley's advice (in Irish Gaelic) on the use of Gaelic fonts can be found at the Scríbhinn site, particularly the page Clóchur.

All the fonts have extensive kerning.

The following Gaelchló fonts are encoded in Unicode:

All the above fonts display r, s and s-dot as short forms, which is as normally expected in a modernized minuscule style or an uncial style.  They contain long forms in other positions, but if long forms are to be used, as historically they may be with the Newman style and should be with the Watts style, it is preferable to use fonts like the following which differ from Bunchló and Seanchló respectively only in displaying r, s and s-dot as long forms, which is as expected in a traditional minuscule style (they do not contain the short forms as alternates):

The following fonts have a different character-set, containing many manuscript abbreviations.  Their encoding is Unicode-compatible as far as possible:

All the above fonts display the ampersand character as an et-ligature, and provide Tironian-et in a different codepoint, so that users of these fonts who want to have their ampersands correctly processed are deprived of the use of the Tironian-et glyph.  This is unfortunate, as Tironian-et is the natural representation of the ampersand character in most of the styles featured, except for Mórchló GC and Úrchló Rómhánach GC and arguably for a few others.

Only a few fonts are now available from Gaelchló in Latin-8 encoding (they are named without the GC suffix): Bunchló [charset], Bunchló Trom, Bunchló Ársa [charset], and Bunchló Ársa Trom. The sample texts should be identical to the corresponding GC illustrations above.

The following were formerly available in Latin-8 encoding: Bunchló Dubh, Seanchló [charset], Seanchló Trom, Seanchló Dubh, Seanchló Ársa [charset], Seanchló Ársa Trom, Glanchló [charset], Glanchló Trom, Glanchló Dubh, Úrchló [charset], Úrchó Trom, Úrchló Rómhánach [charset], Úrchló Rómhánach Trom, Lánchló [charset], Lánchlo Trom, Aonchló [charset], Aonchló Trom, Mínchló [charset], Mínchló Trom, Fíorchló [charset], Órchló [charset], Saorchló [charset]; as well as Bunchló na Nod [charset] and Seanchló na Nod [charset].

All the above Latin-8 fonts display r, s and s-dot as short forms; except for the "Ársa" fonts which display them as long forms.  All display the ampersand character by the glyph most appropriate to their styles (Tironian-et for all except Úrchó Rómhánach) — in this, they behave better than their Unicode counterparts.  The alternate glyphs are available in non-standard positions, except for the "Ársa" fonts where there are no alternates.

Bunchló Ársa Dubh, Seanchló Ársa Dubh, Mórchló and all Gaelchló fonts introduced in 2005 or more recently have never been available in Latin-8 encoding.

Former Gaelchló fonts now discontinued include:

Gadelica (Séamas Ó Brógáin)

Gadelica [charset] (2007) is a free traditional minuscule font in TrueType format and in Unicode encoding; the appearance is based on 17th century models, and is somewhat rounder than Newman styles and plainer than Watts styles.  As befits the period, the long forms are displayed for r, s and s-dot (there are no short forms), and the ampersand character is displayed as Tironian-et (which is duplicated at an alternative codepoint).  Kerning is comprehensive.  There is no hinting other than by default. The euro sign is included.  The font is available here.

Gaelach and Tuamach (ColumTwomey)

This is a free Newman-style font in TrueType format, for which the typographical model was Dinneen's dictionary (1904 edition).

  There is no hinting, no kerning, and no euro sign in any version of this font, and it is open to the criticism that it has insufficient difference in size between upper and lower case letters.  Obsolete versions of this font, under either of its names, are particularly common as downloads on the internet.

Cló Gaelach (gaelach.ttf) is the original font, designed by Colum Twomey.  A preliminary version last modified on 1993/05/24 (which I have not found on the internet), adds almost nothing to ASCII beyond acute-accented vowels.  The usual version (v0.2) [charset] last modified on 1993/09/27 supports acute-accented vowels, and grave-accented vowels with the curious exception of small u-grave, but it still lacks dotted consonants entirely.  It is encoded according to ISO Latin-1, but omitting many non-essential ISO characters.  If using it with MS-Word, you will need to switch off MS-Word's "smart quotes" option; otherwise your quotes will disappear, as there are no left or right quotes in the font.  Gaelach displays r, s and s-dot as long forms, and ampersand as Tironian-et, so that it is of the traditional minuscule style; there are no alternate forms.  The font is widely available, including here.

Tuamach is a revision and extension of Gaelach by Michael Everson, who also renamed it Tuamach.  A version (tuamach0.ttf) internally dated 1993/10/08 (which I have not found on the internet) differs in repertoire from Gaelach by the addition of small u-grave, and by now displaying r, s and s-dot as short forms, with the long forms moved elsewhere, so that Tuamach is henceforth of the modernized minuscule style.  The usual version (tuamach_.ttf) [charset] internally dated 1994/03/29 further adds the dotted consonants, as well as many non-essential ISO characters which had been omitted from Gaelach.  As the ISO Latin-8 encoding standard did not then exist, the dotted consonants are encoded according to the earlier CER-GS encoding.  The font is widely available, including here.

Tuamach Unicode [charset] is a re-encoding in Unicode by KAD (Korvigelloù an Drouizig), dated 2003/04/01, and is available HERE.  The encoding is really a dual one, as alongside the Unicode are vestiges of the previous CER-GS encoding, though not enough for useful compatibility.  Compared with the earlier Tuamach, twelve letters with macrons are added to the character repertoire.  The TrueType 'hdmx' table is dropped.  This version shows tighter word-spacing than its predecessors.

Gaeilge 1, Gaeilge2, Gaeilge 2, Gaeilge Unicode (Padraig McCarthy)

This is a free font in TrueType format, in a style which derives from American Uncial but has adopted some minuscule features.  The character repertoire has from the beginning included separate upper and lower case, accented vowels, and dotted consonants.  Obsolete versions are extremely common as internet downloads.

Gaeilge 1 [charset] (gaeil1.ttf) is the original font created by Padraig McCarthy in 1993, and is widely available on the internet — for example, here or here.  The character repertoire includes a good selection of the MS extensions in 80–9F, but there is no euro sign, and the grave-accented vowels are un-Gaelicised.  The lowercase i is correctly undotted, but there is an elongated dot on lowercase j.  There is no kerning.  A proprietary encoding (of the MS Symbol variety) is used for the dotted consonants.  The font displays r, s and s-dot as short forms, and ampersand as an ampersand glyph, which is not an unreasonable choice for the style; there are long forms of r, s and s-dot elsewhere in the font.

Gaeilge2 [charset] (gaeilge2.ttf) — note the absence of a space in the font name — is a revision made with the cooperation of Nikita Vsesvetskii, internally dated 1996/07/25.  The letter-shapes have been given a thorough overhaul; some are noticeably changed, including the grave-accented vowels which are now fine.  Some kerning has been added.  The non-standard encoding of Gaeilge 1 remains, but internally all the characters (including "space") are moved to the "Private Use" block, which has the side-effect that word-wrap may not work.  Gaeilge2 is not widely available on the internet, but can be found here.

Gaeilge 2 [charset] (gaeilge.ttf) — note the space in the font name — is another revision of Gaeilge 1, produced by Fios Feasa and internally dated 1997/11/05.  The encoding type is changed from MS Symbol to MS Unicode, and the encoding itself is changed to conform with Latin-8 (though a few of the MS extension positions in 80–9F are commandeered for other purposes, and there is still no euro). There are no word-wrap problems.  In the character repertoire, the grave-accented vowels are made acceptable, the shape of the acute accent is improved, and the lowercase j has lost its spurious dot, but otherwise the original shapes of Gaeilge 1 are largely retained, but a number which are not part of Latin-8 have been dropped.  The ampersand character is now displayed as Tironian-et, which is still reasonable.  A good deal of kerning has been added, but might be considered a little overtight.  I have not found Gaeilge 2 on the internet, so I make it available here, by kind permission of Fios Feasa.

Gaeilge Unicode [charset] is a re-encoding of Gaeilge 2 in Unicode by KAD, dated 2003/04/01, and is available HERE.  Glyphs which were dropped in Gaeilge 2 are mostly reinstated, though some are not encoded to characters, and a considerable number of new composite glyphs are added.  The setting of Gaeilge 2 is retained, but no kernings are added for the new glyphs.  There is still no euro sign.

Gael AX and Gael BX (F M O'Carroll)

These are free fonts in two slightly-different minuscule styles, in TrueType format, in both normal and bold weights.  The Gael A and Gael A Bold style is more of a traditional minuscule, with r, s and s-dot displayed as long forms, and tails on m and n (both upper and lower case). The Gael B and Gael B Bold style is more of a modernized minuscule, with r, s and s-dot displayed as short forms, and no tails on m and n.  The ampersand is displayed as Tironian-et in both styles.  There is no euro sign.

The original version by F M O'Carroll (1997) consists of eight fonts, as each style and weight is offered in two encodings ("non-x" — gaela/gaelb [charset] and "x" — gaelax/gaelbx [charset]).  These encodings seem designed to facilitate (two different approaches to) inputting Gaelic text under default English-language keyboard drivers, but at the cost of difficulty in keying other ASCII characters (j,k, etc.; hash, backslash, etc.)  The "non-x"-encoded fonts are unkerned, while the "x"-encoded fonts incorporate kerning, slightly more extensive for the traditional-style than for the modernized-style font; the samples are made using the x-encoded fonts and hence are kerned.  From the practical viewpoint, both encodings are highly non-standard, and neither on its own offers a complete set of consonants.  The grave-accented vowels are rendered with acute accents.  Lowercase j has a dot.  There are embedded scaler bitmaps to improve screen display.  These original fonts, packaged with some TrueType font development tools, are downloadable here and some further background information is given here.

Gael AX Unicode [charset], Gael AX Unicode Bold, Gael BX Unicode [charset] and Gael BX Unicode Bold, available HERE, are re-encodings in Unicode by KAD (2003, updated December 2008).  Each pair of original encodings is combined into a single Unicode encoding, and the number of fonts is thereby halved to four.  AX Unicode and AX Unicode Bold appear to omit the small s-dot at $1E61.

Apart from the improved encoding, the newer versions have a number of added glyphs; the grave-accented vowels really have graves instead of acutes; the dot has been removed from lowercase j.  The embedded bitmaps, which would have required extension to include the new glyphs, have been dropped.  The kerning of the original "x" versions has not been extended to the new glyphs, but existing pairs have been retained in AX Unicode, AX Unicode Bold and BX Unicode Bold fonts, though a number have been dropped in BX Unicode.  A comparison of samples shows that of the four, only BX Unicode Bold sets like its non-Unicode predecessor; the metrics of the other three Unicode versions are all substantially altered from those of their predecessors.

Rudhraigheacht (Galt Barber)

This is a free Newman-style font in TrueType format.  There is no kerning.

Rudhraigheacht [charset] (Ru.ttf) by Galt Barber is available here (at end of page).  Version 1.02 is internally dated 2000/01/29.  There is some lack of crispness, and shapes like k,q,w,x,y,z are in need of refinement.  The characters include acute- and grave-accented vowels and dotted consonants, encoded in Latin-8, though many ISO characters not normally needed for Gaelic are omitted.  A few of the MS extensions in 80–9F are present, including the euro sign.  The font displays r, s and s-dot as short forms, and the ampersand character as an et-ligature; there are no alternate forms.

Rudhraigheacht Unicode [charset] [charset], is a version dated 2003/04/01, with extra characters and re-encoded in Unicode by KAD.  The setting of the original version is retained.  It is available HERE.

Free pseudo-Gaelic fonts

A number of free fonts exist which may be considered "Gaelic" in style, but which have not been designed with Gaelic-language text in mind.  Some indeed are — or long were — heavily deficient in the character-set required by Gaelic, and even when recently supplemented in this respect, they remain unsympathetic in concept.

Free general Unicode fonts

Comprehensive Unicode fonts are under intensive development, and these should provide the dotted consonants on Latin-style letters, but few yet provide all of them.  As supplied with Windows XP and MS Office 2002 at least, Times New Roman, Arial and Courier New contain dotted c and g only (Latin Extended Additional block not yet supported).  Of the fonts typically supplied with Windows,

now contain all the dotted consonants of Gaelic.  Some free Unicode fonts which also include the dotted consonants are See here for a fuller list of Unicode fonts.

 

INEXPENSIVE WINDOWS FONTS

The information in this section is not first-hand, as I have not purchased any of these fonts.  It is obtained from websites and other sources, and may well be out of date in some respects.  I will gladly correct any errors which are brought to my attention.

Evertype (Michael Everson)

Michael Everson was possibly the first to produce a serviceable digital Gaelic font, with his Newman-style Macintosh bitmap font, Gaillimh, in 1989.  He is also the developer of the ISO Latin-8 encoding standard, as he was of its predecessor for Windows, CER-GS (Celtic Extended Roman).

Evertype sells the CeltScript range of Gaelic fonts, in TrueType format — information is available from here and from here.  Everson's survey of Gaelic types, both metal and digital, can be found at Gaelic typefaces: history and classification.

The following CeltScript fonts are available in Everson's Extended Latin-8 v2.0 encoding (see about halfway down that page for the character-set table), which displays r, s and s-dot as short forms (including Watts and Newman styles), and the ampersand character as an ampersand gylph (including minuscule styles), while making the long forms and the Tironian-et available elsewhere in the font:

The following CeltScript font has a different character-set, containing many ligatures (manuscript abbreviations), but its encoding is compatible as far as possible:

LaserGaelic (Linguist's Software)

Linguist's Software sells two Gaelic fonts, in both TrueType and PostScript Type 1 formats:

Dotted consonants and accented vowels are included.  There are both long and short forms of r and s, and both et-ligature and Tironian-et are present, but I have no details of the encoding used. Information on LaserGaelic is available here.

Colmcille (Monotype)

Agfa Monotype sells the influential Colmcille font, designed by Colm Ó Lochlainn in the mid-1930s.  The digitised font, in PostScript Type 1 format, had a high-profile launch in Ireland at the end of 1993, and comes in regular, bold, italic and bold italic.

The font is available in OpenType format under the name Colmcille Std, see here and here. The glyphs in the Basic Latin block are too heavily Latinised to be used for text in Gaelic, what with ampersand, dotted lowercase i and j (there is a dotless i elsewhere), Latinised lowercase r and s, and many other strongly Latinised glyphs.

The glyphs which would be suitable for use with Gaelic — a purpose which the metal font served very well — are mostly found in the "private use" area: they include both required glyphs such as Gaelicised d,g,t; and style-dependent glyphs such as long r, long s, and Tironian-et. The private area is a good place for these, and some credit is due for not making the common mistake of assigning the long-r, long-s and Tironian-et glyphs to their own non-private Unicode codepoints. But all these variant glyphs should now be connected to the relevant Unicode codepoints by selectable OpenType features, and in the same way dotless i should be connected to lowercase i, not assigned to its own non-private Unicode codepoint.  Glyphs for Gaelicised short r and for dotless j appear to be absent.

In the opposite direction, the dotted consonants should be moved from the private use area to their own proper Unicode codepoints. The font seems to treat them as if they were variant glyphs of the undotted consonants, rather than the independent characters which they actually are.

The font is also sold as a pair of TrueType or PostScript fonts, a main font and an alternate font — see here or here or here. The Gaelicised glyphs are found in the alternate font, which is arranged in such a non-standard manner as to make use with Unicode-encoded Gaelic text prohibitively inconvenient.

Non-free pseudo-Gaelic fonts

The following Gaelic-style fonts lack dotted consonants, but support accented vowels.  Such fonts can be used for Gaelic text under the digraphic representation of lenition, though the combination of Gaelic style and digraphic representation is generally deprecated.

The above fonts are mentioned because of their Gaelic or pseudo-Gaelic style of lettering.  But their capacity to represent text in Gaelic is no better than that of the innumerable Latin-style fonts covering ISO Latin-1.

Some other Gaelic-style fonts do not support even acute or grave accents, and are unusable for text in Gaelic.  Like the previous group, their main use is for decorative representation of English text, e.g. on shop signboards or on web pages, to give the appearance of being Irish.  In this category, free digital fonts in TrueType format include versions of American Uncial, e.g. here or here (Gael Normal), and, of the Kelt style, Boyd Uncial, available here, while as representative of the innumerable commercial fonts in this category we could mention Durrow by David Nalle (see here). or Oireachtas by Con Kennedy (see here).

Non-free general Unicode fonts

One such font containing a full set of Latin-style dotted consonants is

 

NON-WINDOWS FONTS

This section is restricted to brief comments and links.

Macintosh fonts

The commercial suppliers of Windows fonts listed above generally have the same fonts for sale for Macintosh.  Information can be obtained through the same links as for the Windows fonts.

An early shareware Newman-style font for Macintosh, in PostScript Type 1 format, is Chris Young's Gaeilge (1991), still to be found here.  A low-quality TrueType conversion can be found here.

Metafont fonts

Free Newman-style fonts called eiad and eiad bold created by Ivan Derzhanski around 1993, modelled on Irish Texts Society "An Irish Corpus Astronomiae", see here for the source (revised 1998).  Parametrized (Sauter) source and 300dpi TeX bitmap fonts here (1994).  HP LaserJet .SFP conversions here (1993).  Perhaps someone would like to convert these fonts, which are of excellent design, to TrueType or PostScript format?

A free uncial-style font called uncial created by Jo Jaquinta (1991) can be found here in source form, or here including TeX bitmap fonts.  The font is monocase, there are no dotted consonants and no punctuation. The encoding is inconvenient.

MS-DOS fonts

Although some work has been done on EGA/VGA fonts in a Gaelic style or with dotted consonants, nothing satisfactory has emerged and further development on this platform is not expected.

Ogham fonts

For Ogham fonts, see this Evertype page for a comprehensive account. In addition, there is BallymoteLS, in the LaserGaelic package from Linguist's Software, see here.

 

CHOOSING YOUR FONT

How to make sense of this variety of fonts?  Well, if your purpose is purely decorative and if the text is short, you can use any font that you like the look of — especially if the text is in English, though it may be asked why text in English would be presented in a Gaelic font.

If the text is in Gaelic, you need a font with the necessary vowel accents. There is no need to use a Gaelic-style font for text in Gaelic; a Latin-style font will be fine, provided it has the vowel accents, and most do.  A Latin-style font may not offer the option of using dot-above accents for lenition; if it does offer, feel free to use it or not.

If you want to use a Gaelic-style font, choose one that has undotted lowercase i, and above all choose one that has dot-above accents for lenited consonants, and use them!  If you don't know how to key the dotted consonants, you can find out here.

To make things easier for yourself, choose a font with standard encoding, which means Unicode in double-byte Windows and Latin-8 in single-byte Windows.  Avoid using glyphs of ampersand, r, s and s-with-dot-above which some fonts may offer from positions which are not the standard positions for those characters.  If the glyphs you want for these characters are not at the standard positions in your font, ask your font supplier to modify the font, or if that fails it can easily be done by anyone as described here.

Special importance attaches to digital fonts closely resembling the metal fonts historically used for running text in Gaelic.  In my view, the basic set of Gaelic font types required for text work is:

To say that these are basic is not to deny a place to many other faces, whether historical (e.g. Watts, Petrie or Colmcille); or innovative (e.g. Watts with short r and s; uncial faces with Tironian-et; completely new faces). Let us however examine what is available in the basic categories.

Gaelic modern minuscule

The Newman–Figgins style with short r and s has been the most-used style in Gaelic publishing in Ireland for much of the twentieth century, and would be expected to be the workhorse of Gaelic body text fonts.  Fonts in this category are led by Duibhlinn and BunchlóRudhraigheacht is a recent arrival in the field.  Tuamach also deserves mention, though its letter-spacing needs improvement (it lacks kerning) and there is not enough difference in size between upper and lower case.  GaillimhLS may also be considered.  These fonts use widely differing amounts of leading (interline spacing) — from least to greatest, they are Tuamach, Bunchló, GaillimhLS, Duibhlinn and Rudhraigheacht.

Duibhlinn and Bunchló lead the way in terms of quality, use standard encoding (apart from their failure to display the ampersand character as a Tironian-et), and are the most versatile: Duibhlinn has bold, oblique and bold oblique variants, while Bunchló has italic, bold and extra bold. Of the two, Duibhlinn makes the greater effort at faithfulness to the letter-shape of metal fonts.

Metal fonts of this type displayed some variability of letter-shape, and I personally prefer some aspects of the letter-shape of both Rudhraigheacht and Tuamach (for example, lowercase f, regarding the height of the crossbar, and the distance between it and the top of the letter). For me, the perfect digital font of this type has still to be created.

Gaelic traditional minuscule

There is also a need for minuscule fonts which display lowercase r and s as the long forms by default.

There are a number of fonts of this type in the Newman–Figgins style, but each has some drawback for the present purpose.  Bunchló Ársa, at least in its Unicode version, does not display the ampersand character as a Tironian-et.  Gaelach is deficient in its character repertoire.  EIAD is a quality font, but cannot be used where TrueType or PostScript font technology is expected.  Gaeilge (Chris Young) exists only as a PostScript font for Macintosh.

There are some issues of letter-shape here too, particularly regarding the rightmost curve of long r. In a Newman–Figgins font, I personally prefer the near-verticality and concavity of EIAD and Gaelach/Tuamach, as opposed to the slant of Bunchló and Gael AX, and the convexity of Duibhlinn and GaillimhLS.

If you do not insist on a Newman–Figgins style, some other traditional minuscule fonts enter the picture.  Possibly the most interesting of these is Gadelica.  There is also Gael AX, which is in an original style; and Eirinn Gaelic, which is in the Petrie style and not really minuscule at all.

Gaelic minuscule (monospaced)

Monospaced Gaelic fonts — the counterpart of Courier — have existed in both the metal and digital eras. Evertype has made a speciality of digitised monospaced fonts, with three historically-based varieties: Doire, Teamhair and Darmhagh, the first two in rectified form, and all three in rough form.  There is also Aonchló, a rectified new design from Gaelchló, with regular and bold weights.  All give priority to short r and s, as did the historical typewriter fonts.  Doire is more than adequate for reproducing my memories of this genre (school examination papers).

Gaelic uncial

I find it useful to classify uncial fonts on a three-point scale of ornateness.  The fonts at each point may then be compared on the extent to which their unciality is affected by minuscule or by Latin influences.

The most ornate ("Hammer") style is best represented by Loch Garman and by Mórchló GC, either of which is infinitely preferable to American Uncial.  The Gaeilge 1/Gaeilge2/Gaeilge 2 family are also of this type, but have come under some minuscule influence.

At the intermediate degree of ornateness, the purest is Ceanannas, while Léarchló and Órchló show minuscule tendencies in uppercase, Fíorchló shows Latinising tendencies in uppercase, and the Petrie metal types are digitally represented by Eirinn Gaelic showing minuscule influence in long r and s, and by GaelicLS showing Latin influence in letters like d and g.

The least ornate or most "modern" uncials are Úrchló (pure) and Glanchló and Lánchló (both with minuscule-influenced uppercase), and Colmcille (with both minuscule and Latin influence in uppercase, and minuscule influence in long r and s).

A preference for uncial purity would select Loch Garman, Mórchló GC, Ceanannas and Úrchló.  The suitability of any one of these depends on the purpose, but plainness is a virtue for body text, and Úrchló is the uncial font with the most realistic prospects for body text use.  It may be noted that Loch Garman and Ceanannas both have bold, oblique and bold oblique variants, and Úrchló has a bold variant.

Latin styles

We would wish to see the full character-set required for Gaelic, including dotted consonants, in the three major Latin styles of serif (Times), sans (Helvetica) and monospaced (Courier), in regular, bold, italic and bold italic variants.  Developers have not been sufficiently adventurous or radical in attacking the problem of the dot-above accent in Latin fonts, particularly on lowercase letters with ascenders, but also in general — the only natively-produced fonts of this type currently available are the serif Nuachló Rómhánach (now withdrawn) and the sans Úrchló Rómhánach.  Some thoughts can be found here.  The matter is likely to be taken out of our hands as fonts in Unicode encoding are developed by designers not conversant with Gaelic typography.


Ciarán Ó Duibhín
2008/12/21
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