Porson (typeface)

Porson is a typeface in the Greek alphabet based on the handwriting of the English classicist Richard Porson, who, as his biographer writes, "excelled ... in writing with neatness and beauty" and "wrote notes on the margins of books with such studied accuracy that they rivalled print".[1]

The face was based on Porson's transcription of the Medea.[2] Richard Austin was commissioned by the Cambridge University Press to cut it, from 1806 onwards.[3] It was cast by Caslon foundry, but it never appeared in their specimens, as the type was peculiar to Cambridge.[4] It was completed and used only after Porson's death in 1808, in the editions of plays of Euripides produced by Cambridge scholars.[5] After its first appearance, it was soon copied by other founders, and was released by Monotype with some corrections in 1912.[3] By the end of the 19th century, it has become the predominant Greek type used in Britain,[4] with Victor Scholderer's New Hellenic typeface (favored by Cambridge University Press) the only notable exception.

Comparing with Greek types used previous to it (known as "Old Style"), Porson is characterized by its simplified forms and its abandonment of ligatures and alternative forms, which have influenced later Greek, and even Roman types.[4] It has been described as "calm yet energetic",[3] and used by the Oxford Classical Texts for over a century.[3]


  1. ^ Watson, 361
  2. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, 162
  3. ^ a b c d Bringhurst, 278
  4. ^ a b c Bowman, x
  5. ^ Sandys, 428


  • Bowman, J. H. (1992). Greek Printing Types in Britain in the Nineteenth Century: A Catalogue. Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society.
  • Bringhurst, Robert (2004). The Elements of Typographic Style. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks.
  • Dictionary of National Biography (1917). Vol. XVI. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Sandys, Sir John Edwin (1998 [1903-1908]). A History of Classical Scholarship. Vol. II . Bristol: Thoemmes Press.
  • Watson, John Selby (1861). A Life of Richard Porson, M. A.. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.

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