Sunday, October 10, 2021

Aegean scripts in the digital age: a guide to fonts

I quite often get asked about fonts to use for Linear B and the other related Aegean and Cypriot syllabic writing systems, and since I’ve just come across a couple of new (to me) options, I thought I’d share them all here for anyone else looking to write Linear B et al. in digital form! Tl; dr, it’s easier than you might expect to write Linear B on an electronic tablet instead of a clay one… (sorry, obligatory “tablet” joke). Read on for some options!

Aegean font family: created by George Douros, this is probably the most widely-used font for Aegean scripts. Free for personal use only. Pros: this collection of fonts includes the widest range of Aegean and Cypriot scripts of any available font. “Aegean” contains Linear A, Linear B, the Cypriot Syllabary, and the Phaistos Disc, as well as other ancient East Mediterranean/ancient Near Eastern scripts; there are separate fonts for Cretan Hieroglyphic and Cypro-Minoan. They’re also fairly frequently updated. Cons: the frequent updates sometimes mean characters don’t display properly in old files, and the fonts are not licensed for any form of publication, academic or commercial. If you only want these fonts for personal/teaching use, and you want the more obscure scripts, then go for this one!

Alphabetum: created by Juan-José Marcos, this font includes Linear B, the Cypriot Syllabary, and the Phaistos Disc only (of the Aegean/Cypriot writing systems; it has a wide range of other ancient writing systems). A free trial version is available; the full version is not free, but licenses are very reasonably priced (one-off payments of €15 for a basic single-user version, or €45 for a multi-device license allowing use in academic or commerical publication, web applications, etc). Not updated as often as Aegean, but may be expanded in the future to include Linear A. This is the font I’ve been using in recent publications such as my book!

Everson Mono: new to me. Includes only Linear B; available as ‘shareware’ for a €25 fee (it’s not stated on the website whether this includes use in publications or not). I haven’t tried this one, and if you’re going to pay for one, would recommend Alphabetum instead, since it has more scripts and clearer T&Cs.

Google Noto: this family of fonts includes ones for Linear A, Linear B, and the Cypriot Syllabary (as well as lots of other ancient scripts). They’re all free to use for personal, academic, or commercial use under an Open Font License. These ones is also new to me, but after a quick install and inspection, they look pretty comprehensive and I would recommend these for anyone wanting free fonts for any use.

With all of these fonts, you’ll have to use the Insert > Symbol function, as they are not mapped to keyboards. There are a couple of online Linear B keyboards available, though:

Lexilogos: you can type in Roman characters to produce syllabograms, or click on the boxes below for ideograms (numbers and weights/measures symbols not available)

LingoJam: type in Roman characters to produce syllabograms only

NB: I’m aware of some other fonts listed as including one or more Aegean/Cypriot scripts on various font-sharing sites, but I am not including in this list any for which I have not been able to find active websites belonging to the original creators of these fonts, and therefore cannot verify the licensing information. But if I’ve missed any other options which do have reliable download links and licensing information, please share them in the comments!



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