Isabella Font

Isabella Font

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Isabella, a font by John Stracke, .

This font is called Isabella because it is based on the calligraphic hand used in the Isabella Breviary, made around 1497, in Holland, for Isabella of Castille, the first queen of united Spain.

It is released under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). You should have received a copy of the GPL along with this program; it’s in a file called COPYING. If not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA, or see .

Where the GPL refers to “source code”, I take that to refer to the file called Isabella-first.sfd, which is a file for editing with pfaedit (see, an outline font editor program. Pfaedit is not GPLed, but its license does seem to count as free software (it’s BSD-style, without the advertising clause). Thus, according to the GPL, if you distribute this font, you must make Isabella-first.sfd available to the recipient(s) under the terms the GPL specifies for source availability.

At the time of this writing, Isabella-first.sfd is available on my
Website at .

The font is, I think, complete for Latin-1 and Latin-2 (and maybe others); it covers the first 384 characters of Unicode, not counting control characters. It also has some other characters (e.g., the quotation symbols used in Spanish), for a total of 342. If you find that some character from your language is not quite right, please be kind; the only languages I’ve known are Latin, English, Spanish, and German, which means that most of the letters outside ASCII are new to me. (Spanish uses tilde and acute accents on vowels; German uses ess-zed. I had never heard of, say, ogonek, or accents on consonants, before doing this font.) It has a Euro symbol.

Naturally, the Isabella Breviary does not have an example of, say, @, so I drew such characters as best I could. The primary design goal on such characters was to look like something done with a calligraphic pen; the secondary goal was to look like the other characters of the font. So, for example, the copyright character (“c” in a circle) is made by shrinking down the letter “c” and placing it inside a circle.

The original hand, like many medieval hands, has a half-r character, used in ligatures for “or”, “pr”, “br”, and “dr”. I have not yet figured out how to get pfaedit to produce ligatures; for now, the “or” character is in the character position for Greek lowercase omega.

The alphabet wasn’t quite the same in 1497. There were no “j” or “w”; I have added them. Unusually, the original hand *does* have a “v”; many medieval writers used “u” instead. In addition, there was a “long s”, which was used in the middle of words (for which reason it is also called the “medial s”, and the modern “s”, used at the end of words, is called the “terminal s”); I have provided one. The German ess-zed (looks sort of like a Greek beta, but isn’t) originated as a ligature of the long “s” followed by the short “s”, so, in this font, I have represented ess-zed as the two “s”es together.


Microsoft Word 2000 has trouble with the long “s”; it introduces a line break before and after the “s”.

The ampersand is perhaps too authentic; it’s not really recognizable to a modern eye. Feedback is welcomed: .

Created by John Stracke with FontForge (formerly PfaEdit, May be used under either the SIL Open Font License or the LGPL. For the purposes of the OFL, the only Reserved Font Name is “Isabella”.

  • Designer: John Stracke
  • License: You can use this font for both personal & commercial.
  • Isabella Font
  • Isabella Font
  • Isabella Font
  • Isabella Font

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