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Initial Letters: Classifying the Unclassifiable | Myfonts

Initial Letters: Classifying the Unclassifiable

Initial_Letters- Classifying_the_Unclassifiable
Not all Fancy Caps, however, need to be scholarly studies of ancient letterforms.

Since initial letters have been around for such a long time, they come in more shapes and sizes than can be imagined. And while no one has attempted a systematic classification, they can be categorized into three basic groups: Big Letters, Fancy Caps and Wow!

Big Letters

“Big Letters” are single fonts specially designed to be used as initial letters, the titling fonts from text typeface families, or just great looking capital letters from regular fonts.

Perhaps the most traditional titling font currently available is Trajan, which is based on the monumental letters of the ancient Trajan Column, this two-weight family pays homage to what many consider the quintessential Roman alphabet. Other titling fonts are Perpetua Titling and Bembo Titling. (The design differences between the three are subtle.)

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Fancy Caps

Fancy Caps are just that: fancier than simple Roman capitals. Like “Big Letters,” they were initially elaborate letters cut in wood or cast as fonts of metal type.

Gill Floriated and Lombardic Capitals are two, very different, revivals of initial alphabets that grew out of hand lettering. Neither was intended to be used as a font, but both made the transition remarkably well.

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Castellar and Special Alphabets 6, originally called Schoeffer Initials, are digital revivals of fonts first cast in metal. The slightly funky Schoeffer Initials, first released in the latter part of the nineteenth century, falls at one end of the stylistic spectrum, while Castellar, with its elegant letterforms, falls at the other.

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Not all Fancy Caps, however, need to be scholarly studies of ancient letterforms. There are times when it is more appropriate to be playful than erudite. Initial letters such as those found in Buccaneer or Stemple Two can be perfect for these occasions.

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Wow!, as the name implies, are letters that are just too cool, too outrageous or too illustrative to be called merely “big” or “fancy.” They can be swash characters from script typefaces. Some, like Gentle Whisper Floral or are garnished with flowers. Some, like Stempel™, may be almost intelligible, while others, like ITC Stained Glass™, are almost illustrations rather than fonts of type.

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Wow! initials can be great typographic fun. Just be sure to use them sparingly. A little Wow! goes a long way.

Download a pdf version of the Initial Letters: Classifying the Unclassifiable.

Fonts in the manual.

Bembo® MT contains 8 styles for $332.99

Buccaneer contains 3 styles for $18.00

Castellar MT® contain 1 style for $29.00

Daylilies contain 1 style for $29.00

ITC Kendo™ contain 1 style for $29.00

Lombardic™ contain 1 style for $29.00

Perpetua® contains 7 styles for $199.99

Special Alphabets contains 9 styles for $284.99

Stempel™ contains 2 styles for $108.99

ITC Stained Glass™ contain 1 style for $29.00

Trajan™ contains 2 styles for $55.00