TengTelc to-do’s

There are still a lot left to do design-wise when it comes to Tengwar Telcontar: for example, all the tengwar should ideally have a corresponding larger, ornated variant, but there are still some missing, notably rómen and silme. The s-hook, or sa-rince, should ideally be able to attach to any tengwa, but there are still some that lack this combining ability. Today, I drew a sa-rince for rómen, and if I may say it myself I’m pleased with the result:

Rómen with sa-rince

(That is supposed to be the Latin word ars (‘art’), by the way. Now that I write this I suppose that you could read it as if it were English, but that was not my intent.) Anyhow, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think this particular combination is possible to write with any previous fonts, though it is in fact attested in Tolkien’s hand, in DTS 25. That specimen also exhibits an interesting lambe-lambe ligature. Hm…

However, the next thing I’m going to work on, probably, is a rather major change, but which takes place behind the scene: when finished, the resulting font will barely be noticably different from the current version. The change concerns the method to position the tehtar. Today, tehta positioning is achieved by means of anchor points: each glyph has a number of anchor points defined, and then the glyphs are attached to each other in such a way that the anchor points overlap:

Diagram showing how a tengwa and tehtar combine.

While this is a fairly elegant and powerful technique, it also has its drawbacks once we need more precision in the positioning. It is difficult to place the anchor points in such a way that all the tehtar combine nicely with all the tengwar. In the example below, the tehtar and the tengwa óre all have their anchor points in the logical places, visually centered horizontally.

Tehtar attached to óre, compared with silme.

Now, where should the anchor point be placed on silme? We can align the i-tehta in a visually pleasing way, and then it will define silme’s anchor point. But, what happens if we then try to use that point to also attach the a-tehta? It won’t work very well: wider tehtar should ideally be adjusted to not collide with tengwar with ascenders. To deal with issues such as this, one could use more anchor points, introduce kerning after the positioning, use alternative glyphs, etc. Needless to say, things easily get very complicated.

That is one reason, but the main reason why I’m moving away from anchor points is that they are difficult to implement with AAT, Apple’s smart font technology, and I would very much want to have Tengwar Telcontar work on the Mac. So, instead of anchor points, I will rely solely on contextual glyph substitution: exactly as how tehtar are positioned in Dan Smith’s fonts, there will be a number of glyphs for each tehta, each with varying displacement, but unlike Dan Smith’s fonts, the correct glyph will be chosen automatically, and, for me as a designer, there is no specific restriction on how many different glyphs I may use — I foresee that I may use as many as ten or more for each tehta, to get exactly the positioning I want on each tengwa.

In short, I will have to rewrite a large part of the code, but the end user will probably not notice the difference. Unless they use a Mac, that is.



  1. Måns said

    Thanks for another interesting post! Also, nicely spotted on the rómen+sa-rince combo and the lambe+lambe ligature. I’ll add those to my own to-do list as well. 😉

  2. Eoghan said

    Doesn’t the a-tehta then go below silme to keep it out of the way of the extension ?

    • Johan Winge said

      Tehtar are not usually placed below tengwar in the way you describe. However, you may be thinking of silme nuquerna, the flipped silme which extends below the line rather than up? It is true that a silme often is changed to a silme nuquerna in order to avoid collision, but not always! For example, an a-tehta is placed above silme in DTS 49 (to the right of the extender) and in DTS 50 (to the left).

  3. ashtarbalynestry said

    (3 years later) Are you still working on Tengwar Telcontar?

  4. raphenroch said

    Hi Johan,

    It’s Cillendor (Seth) who had emailed you last year about some suggestions regarding Telcontar. I’ve run into a few more things since then, if you’re still doing work on it. I totally understand if you’re too busy or otherwise unable/unwanting to continue, but if you are working on it then here are some ideas.

    1. No decorated *rómen* and *silme* glyphs.
    2. ZWJ ligatures involving the long stem cause OOo to crash.
    3. Double u-tehtar followed by another letter (e.g., iluuvatar) cause OOo to crash.
    4. No Y^ and y^ characters in the standard Latin font.
    5. Annatar-Italics incorporated into Telcontar for true italics version (I realize this is a HUGE request and unlikely to happen without financial support)

    I hope all is well with you, and I’m looking forward to the next release of this font. :3

    • Johan Winge said

      Hi! I don’t currently have the time to work on Telcontar, but I definitely intend to improve it and release a new version — sometime… As to the issues you are having, when you say that OOo crash, do you mean that it actually shuts down, or just that the font rendering is faulty? What version of OOo are you using?

      • Cillendor said

        Hi Johan, after I sent you this, I found out that there was a new Beta version of OOo available. I installed it, and now it doesn’t crash. I guess it was the specific version I was using, but it is now fixed. Version 4.0.1 crashes, but Beta 4.1.0 does not.

        I completely understand about the time issue. I am not trying to nag, but I was just wondering if there had been any progress. The development page you showed me last year hadn’t changed, so I was curious.

        Is there anything that I could do to help in the development process? I’m utterly clueless in font design, but I’d love to assist in whatever way I can.

      • Cillendor said

        Hi again, Johan. I hope all is going well with you. I know that you are very busy, and I can’t imagine how much time working on fonts must take, so I don’t want to ask again about an update.

        Instead, I want to show you some work that I’ve done using your fonts. My friend Jenna Carpenter (Xandarien or Galadivren in Tolkien forums) translated the Ainulindalë into Sindarin. I think I’d shown you a rudimentary version of it transcribed in the Gondorian mode, but I have since redone it in the Beleriandic mode. You can view it here:


        Also, the guy(s?) at Quenya101.com made an impressive translation of the Ainulindalë into Quenya. However, the Tengwar transcription is very difficult to read, so I retyped it using T.Telcontar. You can view it here:


        I am currently working on a translation of The Lay of the Children of Húrin in Doriathrin Sindarin (so it’s mostly made up, hahaha…), and that will also be transcribed in T.Telcontar, if I ever finish it. You can view the first page of it here:

        So while not asking about updates, I hope that this will inspire you to continue in your valiant efforts. The Tengwar were literally what got me interested in Tolkien, so I guess I have a special love for them.

        ~Cillendor (Seth)

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