Archive for January, 2010


I have decided to write a series of posts explaining how Tengwar Annatar and Tengwar Telcontar were made, since I have received some questions about it over the years. To begin with, the most common method used when digitizing a typeface is to draw the outlines of the glyphs using Bézier curves:

Contour of tinco made up of Bézier curves

These Bézier curves are convenient to work with, and you can easily form virtually any shape with them. In fact, I found out when I started working on my first font that they were too versatile for my needs. So far, my fonts have been essentially calligraphic; that is to say, the glyphs are designed to look as if written with a pen. And when I attempted to achieve this by drawing the contours, I found that far too much time went into such things as ensuring consistent weight, forming nicely rounded line endings, etc. But if I were to write the letters using the method I wanted to imitate, i.e. with a pen on paper, I would not have to worry about things like that. All those features would come automatically, since they are defined primarily by the pen itself, independently from how I move it. (Obviously I’m talking about an “ideal” pen here.) What I wanted to spend my time on was to define the motion of the pen.

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Annatar sketches

I found some old pencil sketches from when I started working on Tengwar Annatar Italic (about 2003):

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The history of Tengwar-Gandalf

The classic font Tengwar-Gandalf by Michael S. Elliott has no official web site – being originally released through BBS! It is however available all over the web, on various Tolkien fan sites (here, here, and here, to name just a few), as well as on most generic font sites. At all of these places, the font has been repacked: sometimes the archive contains only the TrueType font file, sometimes the original plain text documentation is included but not the illustrated one, and sometimes other files are added as well: for example, this archive contains converted font files in Type1 format. Thankfully, the original TTF file seems to be byte for byte identical in all distributions.

Example of Tengwar-Gandalf v. 1In my quest for a more original release, the closest I have come is this SIT-archive, which in addition to the same old TrueType font file also contains the illustrated documentation file and a Type1 version of the font, containing an extra glyph (the s-hook) – in other words, it is not a mere conversion of the TrueType file. The files in this archive are dated May 1993. Now, because SIT-archives are cumbersome to open, and because old Mac fonts need to be extracted to be usable on other operating systems, I have prepared an updated package of the font:

This version of the font is well known for its reversed lambe. The simple explanation for this somewhat curious shape is that it is a copy of the “T” in the public domain font Black Chancery. (In the same way, the rómen is a slightly modified “y”.) What is less known is that Mr. Elliott shortly after the original publication released an updated second version which features many improvements, such as refined u and o-curls, an extended character set including all the tengwar in the Appendix table, and a corrected lambe. This updated version can still be found to this date on various obscure sites and archives, but unfortunately it seems like it has never managed to reach a larger audience. (I for one had never heard about it.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Annatar rants

In general, people seem to like my Tengwar Annatar font, because I see it used fairly often — mostly, of course, in the cursive variant mimicing the ring inscription, since there’s really no better alternative to it, but also in the upright version. In a way, this is naturally flattering, but it also irks me somewhat because of what I now see as shortcomings in its design. Except for the bad decisions on my side, these are due primarily to two things: limitations in Dan Smith’s encoding model, and the outcome of automatic transcribers. An example:Shortcomings in Tengwar Annatar So, what is wrong with this picture? Read the rest of this entry »

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