One could argue that Matthew Carter’s Sophia and Mantinia were ahead of their time. Which is a peculiar thing to consider, because their design is firmly rooted in antiquity. Carter found inspiration for the distinguished titling faces in ancient history: engraved letters from sixth-century Constantinople and imperial Rome. The all-capital designs featured typographic niceties that were technically too advanced for the original pre-OpenType versions released in 1993. Users had to insert ligatures and alternates manually. Now, with the help of Kent Lew and Type Network’s Jill Pichotta, Sophia CC and Mantinia CC have reached their full potential as feature-rich OpenType fonts.
For Mantinia’s design, Carter examined the work of Andrea Mantegna. This artist of the Italian Renaissance was one of the first people to study the monumental lettering of imperial Rome, reviving it in his painted and carved lettering. Paying homage to its inscriptional roots, Carter outfitted Mantinia with several surprising ligatures and a few tall capitals. The face also includes two full complements of small capitals—one set sits on the baseline, the other consists of raised versions—that can be tucked underneath the arms or above the legs of neighboring letters.
Aside from the Standard ligatures, the idiosyncratic Discretionary ligatures add typographic wonder to Mantinia CC. And the beauty of the Stylistic sets lies in their descriptive names, which are—literally—self-explanatory. SS1 (“Long R”), SS2 (“Long Q”), and SS3 (“Long Ampersand”) enhance the elegance of these letters by extending the leg of the R and the tails of the Q and ampersand. SS4 (“Tall T”), SS5 (“Tall Y”), SS6 (“Tall L”), and SS7 (“Tall I”) make those capitals extend above the cap height. SS8 (“Palm-tree Y”) and SS9 (“Upturned T”) activate the alternate versions of the Y and T. The Contextual alternates feature searches for the best possible pairings with regular or raised small caps by tucking them underneath arms and above legs.
Carter found inspiration for Sophia in hybrid alphabets from sixth-century Constantinople. These encompass a Byzantine blend of cosmopolitan influences: Roman classical capitals, early uncials, and Greek letterforms. True to the models that suggested his design, Carter added a selection of variants. These alternates can now easily be accessed via Stylistic sets. SS1 (“Broken A”) and SS2 (“Angular M”) bring up the alternate forms for these two letters. The variants in SS3 (“Long Arms”) have extended arms that connect with neighboring letters to form ligatures; legs and vertical stems stick out below the baseline when selecting SS4 (“Long Legs”) and SS5 (“Descending Alternates”), respectively.
Take Sophia CC and Mantinia CC for a spin and marvel at the smooth OpenType substitutions. The stately titling faces will add a touch of class to book and magazine design, posters and packaging, and any display use that calls for a classic, refined look.
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