superior numerals

Melissa O'Neill
Tue, 7 Jul 1998 13:03:08 -0700 (PDT)

[Thierry Bouche and Allin Cottrell vigourously discuss titling numerals
vs. text numerals, and lining numerals for superscripts vs. hanging
numerals for superscripts.]

I don't see any great crime in using the lining numerals or hanging numerals
for superscripts -- properly set, each can look elegant.  Each choice
can be justified. However, it's important to realize that not all lining
numerals are titling numerals. The numeric glyphs in the superior set for
Adobe Kepler, for example, are three-quarter-height lining numerals. 

I use the font designer's `onesuperior' etc. glyphs for several reasons
(in no particular order):

   - I use titling numerals in numbered lists, including section headings,
     and footnote lists (*), thus lining numerals in footnote superscripts
     are consistent with the way those numbers appear in the footnote
     list. (BTW, I consider it wrong to set the footnote numbers
     superscripted in the footnote list itself, since they should be
     *easy to read* there, rather than unobtrusive.)
	  * It may in fact be typographically wrong to mix titling
	    numerals and text numerals as I do, I'm not sure. My idea
	    is that if I were using roman numerals, sometimes I'd use
	    uppercase roman numerals and sometimes I'd use lowercase
	    (or small-caps) ones. Titling numerals correspond to uppercase
	    roman numerals, text numerals correspond to lowercase roman
	    numerals, and the rarely seen three-quarter-height lining
	    numerals (such as those found in Bell and Trajanus) are
	    probably the ideological equivalent of small-caps roman numerals

   - The numerals are optically scaled correctly, eliminating the need
     to do such scaling myself. I can rely on the careful judgements of
     the font designer.

   - I `get my money's worth' by using more of those expert set
     characters I paid for. ;o)

Since I use a multiple master font (with weight, width, and optical size
axes), I could in fact generate a correctly optically scaled set of
superior numerals that are text numerals. So, I'm not saying that
superscripted hanging numerals can't be done nicely, just that I'm happy
with superscripted lining numerals.

As someone else pointed out, Karl Berry (at my request) has now extended
his fontname scheme with the codes `0' and `1' for inferior and superior
character sets respectively.

One of these days, I'd like to make some three-quarter-height lining
numerals (that aren't superscripted), just to see how they compare to
(hanging) text numerals. With a multiple master font, it should be quite
possible to produce an optically correct set. Of course, then we'd need
a Karl Berry code for them too.


P.S. This talk really belongs on the tex-fonts mailing list since it is
not fontinst specific.