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Gaelic Typefaces: History and Classification

Michael Everson

Version 1.5, 2000-06-19

Edward W. Lynam (1924) and Dermot McGuinne (1992) have published the two most definitive works on Irish typefaces to date. Both described the most important typefaces produced during the heyday of printing in the Gaelic script. McGuinne identifies 11 major designs, which he names after their foundries or patrons, as indicated in the chapter headings of his book. Because a great many more than 11 typefaces are discussed in those chapters, I became interested in preparing a list which would provide information on each individual typeface. In this contribution I endeavour to classify Irish typefaces according to principles of their design. I also present a table of all the Gaelic typefaces known to me, presenting information on date, designer, etc. I have also included Anglo-Saxon typefaces, intimitely related to Irish typefaces, as well as a large number of "Celtic Uncial" typefaces -- few of which, at present, support Celtic languages.

Both Lynam and McGuinne were interested in metal types, and so neither discussed modern digital typefaces. Surprisingly, however, neither discussed in detail the typewriter faces which existed for Irish, though Lynam does mention them in passing. Research on the origin dates and designers of the Gaelic typewriter faces has yet to be completed.

Between 1567 and 1964, some 57 Gaelic or Celtic typefaces were produced, as shown in the list below. At present it appears that no typeface development occurred between 1964 and 1988. If this is the case, those 24 years represent the longest hiatus known in Gaelic type design since 1800.

Since 1988, at least 50 more typefaces have been designed. We live in a time of real renaissance. However, because the tradition of Gaelic typography has been interrupted, many new designers are unfamiliar with the true insular letterforms which are essential, in Ireland at least, for a typeface to be considered authentic. Designers may "modernize" their designs to contain Carolingian g instead of the s-shaped g, and t with its ascender piercing the crossbar, on the grounds that these are somehow "easier" for the modern reader. Personally I think they have simply had their tastes dulled by overexposure to the successful and ubiquitous American Uncial. In any case, these Pseudo-Gaelic letterforms are not suitable for Irish Gaelic, and at the very least one must hope that designers will choose to provide Gaelic alternates in their typefaces, in addition to the accented letters required for the Celtic languages.

Considering the reverence given by many designers to the insular manuscript hand and the artistic traditions it belonged to, ensuring that their typefaces can be used to write Celtic languages should be one of their prime considerations.

In the table below, each typeface is described according to a number of categories.

  • Year indicates the earliest and latest known use of the type ("latest known use" is really more relevant for the metal types than it is for digital typefaces).
  • Name indicates the generally-accepted name of the typeface; where a face has been known by other names, these are given in parentheses. Typefaces whose names are given in italics are typefaces which I have never myself seen.
  • Designer gives the name of the person who cut (or digitally designed) the typeface; the name of the person who provided a manuscript model or other inspiration is given in parentheses, as is the italicized name of a typeface which was used as the basis for the design.
  • Place indicates the city or country in which a typeface was prepared.
  • Digitized gives the name of a revived typeface and the year it was digitized, or indicates the year a purely digital typeface was designed.
  • Code indicates the level of support for Celtic languages which is provided.
    • M = Minimum Gaelic character set (all traditional 18 Irish letters but no others), digits, punctuation.
    • D = Defective, does not have the accented vowels or dotted consonants required for Irish Gaelic.
    • S = Standard: identical to or a superset of ISO/IEC 8859-14 (Latin 8). The scope of that standard shows that it supports at least the following languages: Albanian, Basque, Breton, Catalan, Cornish, Danish, Dutch, English, French (with restrictions), Frisian, Galician, German, Greenlandic, Irish Gaelic (old and new orthographies), Italian, Latin, Luxemburgish, Manx Gaelic, Norwegian, Portuguese, Rhaeto-Romanic, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Swedish, and Welsh.
    • j = has j k q v w x y z.
    • e = has the euro sign.
    • & = has both the Tironian et sign and the ampersand.
    • + = has traditional Irish manuscript ligatures.

  • Classification indicates the assigned typology. It is not always easy to classify Gaelic typefaces. Often a mix of terminology is required. I welcome criticism and elaboration of the classifications below.
  • First order classification
    • Gaelic fonts have Insular letterforms: delta-form d; s-form g; dotless i; round t with no ascender above the crossbar.
    • Pseudo-Gaelic fonts may be identical to Gaelic ones in other respects, but are inauthentic in that they have Carolingian letterforms: a bowled g and/or either a round t with its ascender piercing the crossbar or a rectilinear T. May have a tall f or a two-stroke vertical b and d. May have a dotted i (this is a cardinal sin).
    • Roman fonts use unmodified Roman forms, but have dots above and acute accents required for Irish Gaelic. If dotted i is used, its dot and the dot of lenition must be harmonized with regard to height.
    • Hybrid fonts use both Roman letterforms and Gaelic letterforms. The earliest faces mix special Gaelic glyphs with existing Roman ones. A few faces give Roman capital letters with Gaelic small letters; even if the strokes of the capital letters are "gaelicized", if they are not strictly speaking Gaelic, Hybrid is used to classify the face.
    Second order classification
    • Manuscript fonts are generally spiky or angular; often irregular.
    • Transitional fonts are designs intermediate between faces that reproduce calligraphic manuscript hands and rectified, regularized typographical faces.
    • Modern fonts are regularized typographically.
    Third order classification
    • Angular fonts have the inverted-v type a, though sometimes this contrasts with round-humped h, m, n.
    • Round fonts have the script type a.
    • Uncial fonts give a strong suggestion of pen-based strokes. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between Manuscript and Uncial but the latter is a "pre-Gaelic" class (there are non-Insular Uncials)
    • Monowidth fonts are typewriter typefaces.
    • Sans-serif fonts have no serifs.
    • Grotesque fonts have no serifs.


    • Lynam, E. W. 1969 (1924). The Irish character in print, 1571-1923. Introduction by Alf MacLochlainn. New York: Barnes & Noble.
    • McGuinne, Dermot. 1992. Irish type design: a history of printing types in the Irish character. Blackrock: Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0-7165-2463-5
    1567-1574 Anglo-Saxon John Day (Matthew Parker) England Dj Hybrid Modern
    1571-1658 Queen Elizabeth John Kearney (Roman glyphs Pierre Haultin) Dublin? Cois Life draft Mj+ Hybrid Modern
    1611-1728 Louvain A Thomas Strong? (Bonaventure O'Hussey) Louvain Lóbháin draft M+ Gaelic Manuscript
    1641-1662 Louvain B unknown (Anthony Haly) Louvain M+ Gaelic Manuscript
    c. 1667 Saxon De Walpergus? (Franciscus Junius) England? Junius 1996 D Hybrid
    1675-1937 Rome John the Teuton? Rome M+ Gaelic Manuscript Angular
    1680-1887 Moxon Joseph Moxon London M+ Gaelic Manuscript Angular
    1732-1751 Paris Loyson foundry (Conor O'Begly) Paris Páras draft M+ Gaelic Manuscript Angular
    1787-1815 Parker (Brooke, Bonham) Stephen Parker (Muiris O'Gorman) Dublin M Gaelic Manuscript Angular
    1799-1887 Fry/Moxon (Graisberry) Edmund Fry London M+ Gaelic Manuscript Angular
    1804-1805 Marcel J. J. Marcel (partly recut Rome; Paris influence) Paris M+ ?? Gaelic Manuscript Angular
    1808-1821 Barlow John Barlow Dublin M+ Hybrid Early Transitional
    1808-1845 Neilson William Neilson Dublin D Roman
    1815-1844 Christie James Christie Dublin M+ Gaelic Early Transitional Angular
    1815-1895 Early Figgins (Hardiman) Vincent Figgins (Valancey 1773) London M+ Gaelic Late Transitional Angular
    1818-1931 Watts Richard Watts London Acaill 1997, Seanchló 1998 M+ Gaelic Early Transitional Angular
    1819-1869 Fry A (Gothic capitals) Edmund Fry Cambridge? M+ Gaelic Transitional Angular
    1835-1961 Petrie A (Irish Archaeological Society 1, 3) George Petrie Dublin M Gaelic Uncial Round
    1836-1869 Fry B (Gaelic capitals) Edmund Fry Cambridge? M+ Transitional
    1836-1927 Legrand Marcellin Legrand (Francisque Michel) Paris M Hybrid
    1842 Furlong John Mullany Dublin M+ Roman Aspirated
    1845-1910 Vienna A (Altirisch A, Altkeltisch) Alois Auer? (Rome) Vienna M+ Manuscript
    1845-1910 Vienna B (Altirisch B, Neukeltisch) Alois Auer? (Petrie A) Vienna M+ Gaelic Uncial Round
    1850-1957 Petrie B (Irish Archaeological Society 2) George Petrie Dublin Mj Gaelic Uncial Round
    1856-1887 Petrie C (Thom) Alexander Thom (George Petrie) Dublin M Gaelic Modern Round
    1857-1900 Newman (Keating Society) George Petrie Dublin Gaeilge 1991, Bunchló 1996 M Gaelic Modern Angular
    1861- Ballhorn (Leipzig) F. Ballhorn (Watts) Leipzig M Gaelic Early Transitional Angular
    1874-1902 Reed Charles Reed (Newman) Dublin M Modern Angular
    1877 Bourke (Romano-Keltic) Ulick J. Bourke (or James Marr?) London M Roman
    1881-1900 Irish Echo unknown (Watts) Boston M Gaelic Early Transitional Angular
    1891 Hogan A. Thom (Edmund Hogan) Dublin Mj Roman
    1897-1904 Later Figgins Vincent Figgins? (Pádruig Ó Briain; Newman) London M Gaelic Modern Angular
    1904- Later Figgins Bold (Stevens Celtic) R. H. Stevens London M Gaelic Modern Angular
    c. 1905 Underwood unknown New York? Darmhagh Underwood 1999, Darmhagh draft Mj Gaelic Modern Angular Monowidth
    1906-1922 Monotype Series 24 A unknown (recast Michael O'Rahilly 1913; Later Figgins) ? Duibhlinn 1993 M Gaelic Modern Angular
    c. 1906? Monotype Series 85 unknown (Later Figgins bold) ? M Gaelic Modern Angular
    c. 1910? Hammond unknown ? Mj Modern Angular Monowidth
    c. 1910? Royal unknown Hartford? Doire 1993, Doire Royal 1999 Mj Gaelic Modern Angular Monowidth
    1913 Intertype unknown (Later Figgins) ? M Modern Angular
    1913 Intertype Bold unknown (Later Figgins) ? M Gaelic Modern Angular
    1913 Monotype Series 117 Cahill's foundry (Michael O'Rahilly), Monotype Series 81 ? Cluain draft? Mj Gaelic Modern Grotesque
    1915? O'Rahilly Display Michael O'Rahilly ? Mj led to Monotype Series 117, never cut
    1916 American Type Founders (ATF) unknown (Later Figgins) New Jersey M Gaelic Modern Angular
    1916 Linotype unknown (Later Figgins) ? M Gaelic Modern Angular
    1921-1953? Hammerschrift (Hammer Unziale) A. Schuricht (Victor Hammer) Offenbach Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1925 (Ó Searcaigh) unknown (Séamus Ó Searcaigh? Anglo-Saxon face?) Germany M Modern Round
    1932? 1945? American Uncial Victor Hammer? Offenbach Gaeilge 2 1993 Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1932 Baoithín Colm Ó Lochlainn, Victor Hammer (Hammerschrift) Offenbach Loch Garman 1999 Mj Modern Gaelic Uncial
    1933-1988 Colum Cille (Monotype Series 121) Colm Ó Lochlainn, Karl Uhlemann Dublin c. 1989 Mj& Modern Round
    1933 Pindar Victor Hammer Offenbach Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1938 Libra Uncial Sjoerd Hendrik de Roos Amsterdam Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1945-1948 Czech Uncial Oldrich Menhart Czechoslovakia Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    c. 1950 Tower (Sears?) unknown ? Teamhair 1997, Teamhair Tower 1999 Mj Gaelic Modern Round Monowidth
    1953 Biggs Michael Biggs Dublin Doolish draft D Modern Gaelic Uncial
    1953 Solemnis Günther Gerhard Lange Berlin Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Hybrid Uncial
    1964 Nua-Rómhánach Liam Miller (William Britton) ? Mj?? Hybrid
    1988 Kells Casady & Greene foundry USA 1988 Dj Modern Round
    1988 Meath Casady & Greene foundry USA 1988 Dj Modern Round
    1989 Gaillimh Michael Everson Portland 1989 bitmap Mj Gaelic Modern Angular
    1991 Gaeilge Christopher Young (Newman) Pittsburgh 1991 Mj Gaelic Angular
    1993 Ceanannas Michael Everson (George Bain) Dublin 1993 Se& Gaelic Modern Gaelic Uncial
    1993 Doire Michael Everson (Royal) Dublin 1993 Se& Gaelic Modern Angular Monowidth
    1993 Duibhlinn Michael Everson (Monotype Series 24) Dublin 1993 Se& Gaelic Modern Angular
    1993 Durrow David F. Nalle Austin 1993 Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1993 Gaeilge 2 Pádraig McCarthy (American Uncial) Dublin 1993 ? Gaelic Modern Uncial
    1993 Tuamach Colum Twomey 1993 S Gaelic Modern Angular
    1994 Bainín Michael White Trim 1994 ? Gaelic Modern Uncial
    1994 Glanchló Vincent Morley (Petrie A, Colum Cille) Dublin 1994 Mje& Modern Round
    1995 Beowulf-1 Peter Baker (Beowulf MS scribe 1) Virginia 1996 Dj Pseudo-Gaelic Manuscript
    1995 Éirinn Norbert Reiners (Petrie A) Aachen 1995 Mj+ Modern Round
    1995 Everson Mono Gaelic Michael Everson Dublin 1995 Se& Hybrid Sans Serif Monowidth
    c. 1995 Kells Round P22 foundry (Book of Kells?) Buffalo c. 1995 Dj?? Manuscript
    c. 1995 Kells Square (Lindisfarne MS) P22 foundry Buffalo c. 1995 Dj?? Manuscript
    1995 Ossian Norbert Reiners Aachen 1995 Modern Round
    1996 Bunchló Vincent Morley (Newman) Dublin 1996 Mje& Modern Angular
    1996 Junius Peter Baker (Saxon) Virginia 1996 Dj Modern Hybrid
    1996 Úrchló Vincent Morley Dublin 1996 Mje& Modern Hybrid Sans Serif
    1997 Acaill Michael Everson (Watts) Dublin 1997 Se&+ Gaelic Early Transitional Angular
    1997 Corcaigh Michael Everson (Conradh na Gaeilge) Dublin 1997 Se& Gaelic Modern Angular
    1997 Fíorchló Vincent Morley (Colum Cille) Dublin 1997 Mje& Gaelic Hybrid Uncial
    1997 Oireachtas Con Kennedy Dublin 1997 Dj Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1997 Stonecross David F. Nalle Austin 1997 Dj Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1997 Teamhair Michael Everson (Tower) Dublin 1997 Se& Gaelic Modern Round Monowidth
    1997 Uachtarán Con Kennedy Dublin 1997 Dj Modern Round
    1998 Aon Cari Cari Buziak (Lindisfarne MS) Calgary 1998 Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1998 Cianán Feòrag NicBhrìde (Seán Ó Cianáin) Edinburgh 1998 Se& Modern Round
    1998 Seanchló Vincent Morley (Watts) Dublin 1998 Mje& Modern Transitional
    1998 Slaine James Shields Dublin 1998 Dj Modern Angular
    1998 Vespasian Feòrag NicBhrìde Edinburgh 1998 Dj Modern Round
    1999 Darmhagh Underwood Michael Everson (Underwood) Dublin 1999 Se& Gaelic Modern Angular Monowidth
    1999 Doire Royal Michael Everson (Royal) Dublin 1999 Se& Gaelic Modern Angular Monowidth
    1999 Léarchló Vincent Morley (Libra) Dublin 1999 Mje& Modern Uncial
    1999 Loch Garman Michael Everson (Baoithín) Dublin 1999 Se& Gaelic Modern Uncial
    1999 Morgow David F. Nalle Austin 1999 Dj Modern Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    1999 Teamhair Tower Michael Everson (Tower) Dublin 1999 Se& Gaelic Modern Round Monowidth
    draft Cluain Michael Everson Dublin draft Se& Gaelic Modern Grotesque
    draft Cois Life Michael Everson (Queen Elizabeth) Dublin draft Se&+ Hybrid
    draft Darmhagh Michael Everson (Underwood) Dublin draft Se& Gaelic Modern Angular Monowidth
    draft Doolish Michael Everson (Biggs) Dublin draft Se& Gaelic Modern Round
    draft Lóbháin Michael Everson (Louvain) Dublin draft Se&+ Gaelic Manuscript
    draft Páras Michael Everson (Paris) Dublin draft Se&+ Gaelic Manuscript
    199? Alba Text David F. Nalle Austin ? Angular Hybrid Uncial
    199? Dahaut David F. Nalle Austin ? Uncial
    199? Glendower David F. Nalle Austin ? Uncial
    199? Lindisfarne David F. Nalle Austin ? Manuscript
    199? Sualtim David F. Nalle Austin ? Pseudo-Gaelic Uncial
    199? Teyrnon David F. Nalle Austin ? Pseudo-Gaelic Hybrid Uncial

    Pronunciation of Gaelic typeface names

    Acaill ['akəlʲ]
    Aon Cari ['i:n 'kari]
    Bainín ['banʲi:nʲ]
    Bunchló ['bunxlo:]
    Baoithín ['bi:hʲi:n]
    Ceanannas ['kʲanənəs]
    Cianán ['kʲiəna:n]
    Cluain [kluənʲ]
    Cois Life [kosʲ 'lʲifʲə]
    Colum Cille ['koləm kʲilʲə]
    Corcaigh ['korki:]
    Darmhagh ['daru:]
    Doire ['dorʲə]
    Duibhlinn ['difʲlʲinʲ]
    Éirinn ['e:rʲinʲ]
    Fíorchló ['fʲi:rxlo:]
    Gaeilge ['ge:lʲgʲə]
    Gaillimh ['galʲəvʲ]
    Glanchló ['glanxlo:]
    Lóbháin ['lo:va:nʲ]
    Loch Garman [lox 'garəmən]
    Nua-Romhánach [nuə ro'va:nəx]
    Oireachtas ['orʲəxtəs]
    Ó Searcaigh [o: 'sʲarki:]
    Páras ['pa:rəs
    Seanchló ['sʲanxlo:]
    Sláine ['sla:nʲə]
    Teamhair [tʲaurʲ]
    Tuamach ['tuəməx]
    Uachtarán ['uəxtəra:n]
    Úrchló ['u:rxlo:]

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, Cnoc Sceichín, Leac an Anfa, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo, Éire, 2002-09-17

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