CJK glyph generation (was RE: "Giga Character Set": Nothing but noise)

From: Edward Cherlin (edward.cherlin.sy.67@aya.yale.edu)
Date: Tue Nov 07 2000 - 02:40:34 EST

I've been away in China. Since this question hasn't been answered
after several weeks, I'll add my (er jiao--2.5 cents).

At 09:31 -0800 2000/10/18, James E. Agenbroad wrote:
>On Wed, 18 Oct 2000 Marco.Cimarosti@icl.com wrote:
>> Jon Babcock wrote:
>> > It seems to me that if not for that, how could anyone
>> > make a Chinese font? Who is going to sit down and
> > > draw a *myriad* or more characters?

A calligrapher. It wasn't that many until quite recently. According
to the back of my envelope, at one glyph/minute, 3000 glyphs (the
repertoire of a Japanese phototypesetting machine I saw long ago)
would take 50 hours of work time (plus meetings, tea breaks, and what
have you). Chinese scholar-officials in training used to practice
writing the 3000 Character Classic over and over and over...and yes,
it contained 3000 distinct characters once each.

Carving wood blocks took a lot longer, but we have examples such as
the 13th century Tripitaka Koreana (phal man dae jang gyeong),
consisting of 84,000+ wooden blocks carved on both sides.

>Since elements
>> > recur, this reduces the amount of labour required
>> > greatly.
>> I too would have bet that all CJK foundries used some form of (automatic?)
>> composition to build their fonts.
>> But, after a few enquiries, it seem that they don't (or they do, but
>> zealously guard the secret).
>> _ Marco
> Wednesday, October 18, 2000
>If I had to make a guess it would be that transforming the glyphs of parts
>of characters so they will fit together in a pleasing fashion would take
>about as much effort (or more) than designing separate glyphs for each new

URW worked on this problem for a time, and showed a partially
developed system for composing Chinese glyphs from components at
Seybold in the early 1990s. Mike Parker told me later that URW had to
give it up because the shaping behavior was too complex, and it was
easier to do the glyphs individually. Automatic hinting didn't work
well enough either. Mike also told me that the leading Japanese font
houses had their glyphs individually written by master calligraphers,
and regarded the originals as their most important intellectual
property. At least one refused to license digital versions at all
back then, but I haven't heard about later developments.

> Regards,
> Jim Agenbroad ( jage@LOC.gov )
> The above are purely personal opinions, not necessarily the official
>views of any government or any agency of any.
>Phone: 202 707-9612; Fax: 202 707-0955; US mail: I.T.S. Dev.Gp.4, Library
>of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20540-9334 U.S.A.


Edward Cherlin, Spamfighter <http://www.cauce.org> "It isn't what you don't know that hurts you, it's what you know that ain't so."--Mark Twain, or else some other prominent 19th century humorist and wit

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