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Athena Ruby Inscription Font

Information about Dumbarton Oaks' OpenType font for Byzantine inscriptions

Dumbarton Oaks is pleased to provide a single, comprehensive font for use in the scholarly publication of Byzantine inscriptions. The font, called Athena Ruby, is an OpenType, Unicode-compliant font, and therefore compatible with all major operating systems. 

Athena Ruby is now available for download here or at the development site, which provides documentation, tools, and examples. To see other examples of the font, visit our Byzantine Seals Online Catalogue. Users of the font are also invited to join the Athena Ruby Google group

Inscription fonts at Dumbarton Oaks

In the early 1980s Nicolas Oikonomides developed a True Type font suitable for publishing seal inscriptions. His 1986 study, A Collection of Dated Byzantine Lead Seals, published at Dumbarton Oaks, was the first book to use this font, later named Athena. The font was groundbreaking. It featured the ligatures, abbreviations, and variant letterforms characteristic of Byzantine seals. The way the book was made was just as innovative. Oikonomides prepared the entire volume on his Apple Macintosh 512 and generated camera-ready copy on a laser printer (only recently invented), an unusual process in the mid-1980s. His goal was to give sigillographers direct control over nuances in the typography, to allow them, for instance, to choose variant letterforms and ligatures. According to Oikonomides, This new method…does away with intermediate typings and retypings of the manuscript, eliminates several proofreadings, and ultimately saves time for the scholar and money for the publishing institution while producing an affordable book of an acceptable presentation.

The appearance of the book and the font inaugurated for Dumbarton Oaks an era of sigillographic publications, most notably Studies in Byzantine Sigillography and Catalogue of Byzantine Seals, which use Athena. In the 1990s the Publications Department at Dumbarton Oaks developed other digital fonts suitable for books about numismatics and epigraphy: Grierson, Grierson Variants, Coin Art, Coin Greek, and Coin Inscription. All these fonts in both Mac and PC versions form the basis for Athena Ruby, which supplants them.

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