PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am


A font is a style of writing the letters in the alphabet - or Chinese characters. Fonts should really be called typefaces. But most people today just say font.

In the very old days, before printing, people wrote out books by hand. But around 1450, in Germany, Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press. The typeface - all the letters - were made of lead.

Meanwhile in China

In China there was a typeface 400 years before Gutenberg invented the press. The letters were made of ceramic. But it was not used much because it was too difficult. In China, for a long time, when something had to be printed, somebody had to carve a piece of wood with all the characters on it. If you covered the raised characters with ink and pressed it on paper, you had a woodblock print. You can do something similar at home with a potato.

Early fonts

The first font ever invented was called D-K 2. It had 202 letters. Although there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, a font needs a lot more. This is because you need different sizes for the letters. You also need slanted letters - italics - and dark, thicker letters - bold.

Those early fonts developed in Germany are not used today. But soon the Italians started developing fonts. They based them on the writing on monuments in Rome that were very old. Antiqua is a font developed then that is still used. Roman is another important font. It was developed in 1470.

With a flourish

Fonts divide basically into two kinds. Fonts in which the letters have a flourish or 'tail' are called serif. For example, if you look at the letter T in this style, you'll see it has that extra bits on the end of the letter - serifs. Fonts which do not have these extra bits are called sans-serif. Like this T. 'Sans' means 'without' in French.

Probably the most used font is a serif font. If you use a computer and write in English, you probably use it. Times New Roman was commissioned by The Times newspaper in London in 1931. It might be the most successful font in history.

now do this

1 The earliest European fonts were made of ...

a. wood

b. lead

c. ceramic

2 Slanted fonts are called ...

a. italics

b. bold

c. Roman

3 Times New Roman, one of the most successful fonts, was developed ...

a. by the Italians

b. by a London newspaper

c. Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press

Answers on page 11 next Friday


Page 5:

1. c, 2. a, 3. c