Posts tagged

Baskerville’s Religion /
Cambridge Bible printed by John Baskerville in 1763
Cambridge Bible printed by John Baskerville in 1763

Truth is not typeface dependent, but a typeface can subtly influence us to believe that a sentence is true. Could it swing an election? Induce us to buy a new dinette set? Change some of our most deeply held and cherished beliefs? Indeed, we may be at the mercy of typefaces in ways that we are only dimly beginning to recognize.

Errol Morris, “Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth,” The New York Times (Aug 8, 2012)

The author suggests that Baskerville (the irreligious man of the 18th century) created a typeface that has religious pull. Text set in Baskerville (the typeface) is more likely to be viewed as true than text set in other typefaces.

I’m more inclined to say that the typeface has historical and cultural weight that has settled on it like dust on books. It’s the same sentiment of truthiness as the reverence I’d feel in a musty library.

I enjoyed the two-part series about the effect of typography on perception, with it’s religious undertone. Baskerville was antagonistic to religion even in his death. He adjured others in his will and epitaph to turn from religion. But there’s a nugget in this story for Christian preachers:

[I]n a news item in the Birmingham Daily Mail, “Baskerville, who did not believe in eternal life, said, when dying, that if there were any truth in the resurrection, he would revisit the earth again in fifty years.” He was remarkably prescient. Sort of. Forty-six years after his inhumation at Easy Hill, his remains were exhumed and put on display.

Baskerville died in 1775. His mansion was “sacked, gutted and burned to the ground” by rioters in 1791, following which the property (and Baskerville’s grave) were abandoned. A canal was dug through the land, and the body “was found by workmen beneath a pile of gravel.” The coffin was on display for ten years in the canal builder’s warehouse and later in a shop. Baskerville did make his reappearance. Those who could stomach to study his corpse noted how well it was preserved.

There was no one in England willing to purchase Baskerville’s types. A Frenchman named Beaumarchais bought them to publish a 70-volume complete works of Voltaire. It failed and became “a mountain of waste-paper.” The article’s author notes the irony himself: “It is fitting that Voltaire and Baskerville, two infamous atheists of the 18th century, were posthumously connected in this ill-fated publishing venture.”

Voltaire had died just a few years after Baskerville. He was famous for saying, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” While there’s no evidence for the story that a Bible society moved into his house within fifty years and used his own press to make Bibles (Wax, “Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition”), Voltaire, like Baskerville, was wrong in his prediction.

Baskerville’s story makes for a good illustration for preaching or apologetics in favor of God’s sovereignty. His “resurrection” is notably ironic, like Caiaphas the high priest’s inadvertent prophecy in John 11:49–52. It’s not wise to repeat anecdotes without substantiating them (like the story of Voltaire’s house) or take advantage of another’s ignominy, but I do enjoy seeing God’s promises endure. And I enjoy reading Scripture, well typeset.

Kent Anderson, “The Typography of Authority — Do Fonts Affect How People Accept Information?” The Scholarly Kitchen (Aug 12, 2012)

While I do not profess to be an expert, I have often pondered the how’s and why’s of typeface and document layout efficiencies with respect to speed of reading, and the understanding of content from a neurophysiological perspective. …

Donald Samulack, “Reflections on Text and Language Perception, and the Ramifications for Publishing Workflows,” The Scholarly Kitchen (Aug 16, 2018)


  • [x] Reduce the file size (with subsetting and unicode-range)
  • [x] Load key font files as early as possible (with preloading)
  • [x] Manage FOUT and FOIT (with font-display)

Ollie Williams, “Three Techniques for Performant Custom Font Usage,” CSS-Tricks (Mar 5, 2018)

Marcin Wichary, “Typography is impossible,” Medium Engineering (Aug 24, 2016)

Apple System Fonts /

Update: Newer browsers use system-ui as a font name alias for the system font. For example, this will display “San Francisco” on macOS, “Segoe UI” on Windows, and “Roboto” on Android in supported browsers.


font-family: -apple-system, sans-serif;

There are other names to access the system font on older macOS versions (when it was OS X). See, for example, WordPress’s or GitHub’s CSS for a full stack of system fonts. For my use case — local Markdown preview and export — -apple-system is enough.

The San Francisco font family is versatile, having italics, all weights, small-caps, and a wide Unicode range.

There’s also other San Francisco fonts for watchOS that you can call in your CSS:

  • ".SF Compact"
  • ".SF Compact Rounded"
  • ".SF Compact Text"

Some of the fonts are available for download at the Apple Developer site.

Nepali (Devanagari) Unicode Input for macOS /

Unicode provides a universal character encoding so that scripts, even complex ones, can be viewed across all modern computers, platforms, programs, and languages.

Enabling Nepali Input

In macOS (or Mac OS X) There is a built-in keyboard for Nepali Devanagari input. See below for a “romanized” layout that is more natural for Westerners.

To enable Nepali input in macOS, go to “System Preferences,” then the preference pane for “Keyboard” (in older versions, “Language & Text” or “International”), then the “Input Sources” tab. Add (“+”) an input source, “Nepali.” You should select the optional checkbox “Show input menu in menu bar” to be able to change the language easily from the menu bar. When you turn on this menu, you can also enable the helpful “Keyboard Viewer” by going to “Keyboard” tab (in the “Keyboard” preference pane). Select the “Show viewers for keyboard, emoji, and symbols in menu bar” (in older versions, “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar”). Now you can select Nepali from the menu bar icon. You can also select “Show keyboard viewer” from the same menu bar icon to see how Nepali Devanagari is mapped to your keyboard. You can click and insert Nepali characters from the viewer if necessary.

Adding a Nepali Phonetic Keyboard

A phonetic (“romanized”) layout is available to help Westerners (the ‘क’ is mapped to ‘k’, ‘ख’ to ‘shift + k’, etc.). Using the phonetic layout is a much more natural way to learn to type Nepali. To use the phonetic layout, download the zip file attached to this post. The phonetic keyboard layout is taken from but with the macOS default icon for Nepali and a small correction. This keyboard in turn is based on the standard set by the Kathmandu library, Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya.

Install the custom “Nepali – Phonetic” keyboard layout for macOS:

  1. Download and unzip the attachment. In it are two files: the layout and the icon for the menu bar.
  2. Move the two files into the “Keyboard Layouts” folder in the “Library” folder.
    • To make the layout accessible to all users on the computer, go to the root “Library” folder at /Library, or,
    • To make the new layout accessible only to the current user, move the files into the hidden “Library” folder of your home directory.
    • Find the hidden “Library” folder by opening Finder, holding the option key and clicking the “Go” menu; “Library” is listed there.
  3. A dialogue box may appear to authenticate the move; enter username and password of an administrator.
  4. You may need to log out and back in (or restart the computer) for changes to take effect.
  5. Now follow the directions above in “Enabling Nepali Input” and enable “Nepali – Phonetic” instead of “Nepali” as an input source in “System Preferences.” In newer systems, custom keyboards like this appear under “Other” in Input Sources.

Using the Nepali Keyboard

Change the input keyboard by selecting “Nepali” (or “Nepali – Phonetic”) from the menu bar icon. The keyboard shortcut is control + space. Select “Show keyboard viewer” in the menu bar icon to familiarize yourself with the layout (see directions above to enable it). You can see how pressing “shift” and “caps lock” affect the input. The Keyboard Viewer will float above other applications while it is open. If you have not enabled the menu bar option, you will have to change the keyboard layout to “Nepali – Phonetic” within System Preferences.

Devanagari and Nepali-Specific Fonts

Devanagari Unicode fonts are available on Mac systems. OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and up uses “Kohinoor Devanagari” as its Devanagari default, and there is also “ITF Devanagari” and “Shree Devanagari 714.” Previous versions (10.2 and up), used “Devanagari MT” as the default and also had “Arial Unicode MS” as a fallback. The computer will use the default Devanagari font automatically when you select Nepali input and begin to type (if another Devanagari Unicode font is not already selected).

In older versions, the Asian language kit may need to be installed from installation disks. You will know that your computer needs this step if in place of Unicode text such as ‘नेपाली,’ there are only empty squares. The default browser, Safari, needs no special adjustment to view Unicode pages. Not every word processing application can handle complex Unicode scripts, like Devanagari conjuncts, or half-letters. Applications that are ready for complex Unicode scripts include TextEdit, Pages, Word (2016), OpenOffice and LibreOffice.

Devanagari is used for many South Asian languages. The Unicode fonts are not specific to Nepali, but are still acceptable for writing Nepali. Some differences between generic Devanagari and Nepali include the “झ” character and some numbers. Darjeeling-area Nepali uses the generic Devanagari characters, like Hindi. Devanagari Unicode fonts also include Sanskrit characters which are not used in Nepali writing. If you are looking for a Unicode font that has all the Devanagari variants specific to Nepali, see the Annapurna SIL Nepal font. There are also Nepali-specific Devanagari Unicode fonts at South Asia Language Resource Center.


  • 6/10/19: Corrected shortcut to change the input keyboard from ‘command + space’ to ‘control + space.’
  • 3/22/18: Updated link to original keyboard layout.
  • 11/13/17: Updated links to external sources and clarified the steps to install the phonetic keyboard.
  • 10/2/16: Updated directions for macOS Sierra and external links to source files and SIL Annapurna font page.
  • 8/17/15: Corrected keyboard layout (removed unnecessary space before ृ) and changed name from “Nepali Romanized” to “Nepali – Phonetic” to match system.
  • 12/11/14: Attached archive file of keyboard layout (from with default OS X menu icon for Nepali.
  • 12/3/14: Apple updated the default Devanagari fonts which work well for Nepali (see–1010-yosemite-new-devanagari-fonts.html).