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Fonts & Encodings by Yannis Haralambous

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F.2. The Computer Modern Family of Fonts

When Knuth developed TEX, his goal was to be able to typeset his own books. But to do so he needed a font—nay, an entire family of fonts, with a "typewriter" version (for computer code) and all the mathematical symbols that he wanted. He needed to find a reasonably neutral typeface that would be suitable for any type of text, yet one that was also sophisticated enough to demonstrate the possibilities of the METAFONT language. And, if possible, an American typeface. After some investigation, Knuth decided to focus on the "legible" typefaces from the turn of the twentieth century, an in particular on Monotype Modern. He found several designs of Modern, including one produced by Monotype's American branch, the typeface Modern 8A. This is the typeface that he used as a basis for designing what was to become one of the most widely used typefaces on the planet, at least in the academic world: Computer Modern.

In this section, we shall very quickly present the structure of this family of fonts, which greatly exceeds in its complexity everything else that has ever been designed in METAFONT, before or since. To be sure, some people may say that this complexity was somewhat gratuitous and that Knuth wished to face the challenge of a single program that could generate roman type, italic type, slanted type, "typewriter" type, sans serif type, calligraphic type—all in every weight and every optical size. Was it really necessary? Let the reader decide. ...

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