Shaft (font)

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Examples of vertical shafts ( Antiqua )
Examples of diagonal shafts ( Antiqua )

In writing (in chirography , palaeography and microtypography ) shaft denotes a straight vertical or diagonal line that is part of a character or a glyph . The term is mostly used in relation to fonts in the Latin alphabet .

Terms and demarcation

A vertical shaft is also called a stem , stand line , vertical line or base line . The term diagonal is also used for diagonal shafts .

The upper end of a shaft is called the shaft base and the lower end is called the shaft base .

Unlike the stems straight horizontal lines are beams , cross beams , dashes or arms called a lying inside the character bar and indoor bar and the upper bar in the T and Z and top coat . Rounded lines are called bellies , arches , curves , curved bars or shoulders , depending on their type and position . There also are a variety of special designations for certain lines, often the language used in calligraphy, which in recent centuries to write headlines and focused, in typography, focusing on typefaces has developed separately concentrated.

Variations of the shafts

Slope and roundness

The letters L and L in Latin script : the shafts are inclined and curved

A paleographic examination of scripts often reveals characteristic changes in the shafts. In cursive script (both in Latin script and in German Kurrent script ) the letters are usually inclined. The vertical shafts are also tilted. Also in the typeface you find the inclination of the otherwise vertical shafts in italics and Oblique fonts.

Also, very often straight lines turn into curves. In the Irish script , for example, the shafts of several letters are strongly curved, for example the T to the Ꞇ. Shafts are often found drawn with a slight S-shaped curve as so-called flame lines , more rarely the other way round in a curved ≀-shape. In the cursive, but also in the capital letters of some types of printing, there are often curvy curves and flourishes .

Decorative finishes

Quadrangle in the Textura (red arrows)
The Old English capital letters
(Blackletter) have many curves, doubled shafts and decorative finishes. Quadrangels can be seen in the minuscules, e.g. B. below at t and above at u, also below at the numbers 1 and 4.

Depending on the font, there may be decorative ends at the base of the shaft and feet. Common decorative statements in Antiqua fonts are the serifs . Others are roughly spatula-shaped shaft approaches in the insular scripts or pointedly elongated ends, so-called spurs.

In broken scripts there are quadrangles (literally "squares") at the base of the shaft and feet . Quadrangles are pointed diamonds or parallelograms at the top or bottom of the shaft. The quadrangle is usually connected to the base line in such a way that only three of the four corners are visible (see arrows in the illustration). The shaft is "broken" at the transition to the thicker square tang. The refraction of the writing becomes even clearer when all four corners of the quadrangle are visible. In the figure, this can be seen in the upper area of ​​the lowercase letter r: In addition to the square tang, which sits directly on the shaft and is connected to it, the right-pointing flag of the r appears as a detached quadrant with four corners.

In cursive handwriting, decorative borders are generally dispensed with in order to increase writing speed.

Doubling of the shaft line

The calligraphic capitals of some broken fonts, such as the Textura formata and the Rotunda , have decorative strokes. Some of these strokes are vertical and double a shaft. When adding the decorative strokes (as in the illustrated Blackletter -M), it is partly deliberately avoided to cross the white gap between the two lines of the shaft with another line, which makes the two lines including the gap appear more clearly as a single object.

Shanks and weights

Capitalis monumentalis W.SVG
Variation of the line width with a broad nib (left) and a swell spring (right)

The stroke width can vary between different shafts - even within the same glyph, for example with the four shafts of the letter W in an Antiqua font. In typography, the thinnest lines are referred to as a hairline and the thickest lines are referred to as a shadowline . The line width can even vary within a shaft. Historically, these variations in line width are due to writing by hand with traditional writing implements , especially nibs . But because of their aesthetic effect, they are also used in the typeface .

  • When writing with a quill pen or a tension spring , different line widths result exclusively from the direction of the line relative to the orientation of the nib on the writing material. They arise automatically, inevitably and are independent of the pressure exerted on the tip of the pen. The maximum possible line width corresponds to the nib width. The angle at which the nib is placed on the writing surface is typically around 40 degrees. The widest lines are created with ╲-diagonals and the thinnest lines with ╱-diagonals. Larger, targeted deviations from this are not possible without leaving the usual pen and hand position.
  • In the case of the expansion spring , the line thickness depends primarily on the pressure and not necessarily on the direction of the line. The more pressure is exerted on the thin, split pen tip, the more it spreads, creating a wider line. The pressure-dependent swelling and swelling creates a so-called swell line . This offers the writer more flexibility to influence the line thickness. With a swellable tension spring, for example, lines in the ╲ direction can also be thin or end in a fine point, which would be wide with a flat tension spring due to their direction. However, there is also a dependency of the line thickness on the direction of the line with swell springs: Spreads can only be carried out with low pressure, because otherwise the nib would get caught in the paper and are therefore thin, while strokes are almost automatically carried out with higher pressure and thus thicker Create lines. This is also desired in terms of the typeface.
  • Basically anything is possible in typeface when it comes to variations in line width. In practice, however, the font designers mostly orientate themselves on the patterns of the handwritten font. In the case of non-grotesque fonts, vertical shafts usually have a uniform line width, while ╱-shafts tend to be thin and ╲-shafts tend to be thick (see example images above right). In grotesque fonts, the line width is deliberately not varied, or slight variations in the line width are used in such a way that they do not impair the impression of constant line width.

Many modern writing implements such as ballpoint pens or felt-tip pens always produce the same line width, regardless of the direction of the line and regardless of the pressure.


Example of writing in a Textura, 1407

Medieval broken fonts such as the Gothic minuscule or the Textura emphasize the evenly spaced vertical shafts so that the typeface resembles a grid or fabric. This makes legibility more difficult, but leads to a very even text image.

Because of its shaft, the long s is also called "shaft-s".

Web links

Wiktionary: shaft  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Complete Guide to Digital Type: Creative Use of Typography in the Digital Arts . Laurence King Publishing, 2006, ISBN 978-1-85669-472-8 , pp. 12 f . ( ). (based on the English equivalent of shaft, stem )
  2. letter . In: . 2017 ( ).
  3. letter . In: . 2017 ( ).
  4. On the typeface and the typefaces: typeface design - design . Reinhard Welz Vermittler Verlag eK, 2006, ISBN 978-3-938622-09-4 , p. 116 ( ).
  5. On the typeface and the typefaces: typeface design - design . Reinhard Welz Vermittler Verlag eK, 2006, ISBN 978-3-938622-09-4 , p. 110 ( ).
  6. Writing instructions for the tension spring. In: Retrieved February 27, 2018 .
  7. On the typeface and the typefaces: typeface design - design . Reinhard Welz Vermittler Verlag eK, 2006, ISBN 978-3-938622-09-4 , p. 103 ( ).
  8. On the typeface and the typefaces: typeface design - design . Reinhard Welz Vermittler Verlag eK, 2006, ISBN 978-3-938622-09-4 , p. 103, 116 ( ).