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In metal typesetting, a font is a particular size, weight, and style of a typeface. Each font was a matched set of type, one piece (called a “sort”) for each glyph, and a typeface consisting of a range of fonts that shared an overall design.
In modern usage, with the advent of digital typography, “font” is frequently synonymous with “typeface”, although the two terms do not necessarily mean the same thing. In particular, the use of “vector” or “outline” fonts means that different sizes of a typeface can be dynamically generated from one design. Each style may still be in a separate “font file”—for instance, the typeface “Bulmer” may include the fonts “Bulmer roman”, “Bulmer italic”, “Bulmer bold” and “Bulmer extended”—but the term “font” might be applied either to one of these alone or to the whole typeface.
In a manual printing (letterpress) house the word “font” would refer to a complete set of metal type that would be used to typeset an entire page. Unlike a digital typeface, it would not include a single definition of each character, but commonly used characters (such as vowels and periods) would have more physical type-pieces included. A font when bought new would often be sold as (for example in a Roman alphabet) 12pt 14A 34a, meaning that it would be a size 12-point font containing 14 uppercase “A”s, and 34 lowercase “A”s.
In addition to the character height, when using the mechanical sense of the term, there are several characteristics which may distinguish fonts, though they would also depend on the script(s) that the typeface supports. In European alphabetic scripts, i.e. Latin, Cyrillic and Greek, the main such properties are the stroke width, called weight, the style or angle and the character width.
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