In Latin script typography, roman is one of the three main kinds of historical type, alongside blackletter and italic. Roman type was modelled from a European scribal manuscript style of the 15th century, based on the pairing of inscriptional capitals used in ancient Rome with Carolingian minuscules developed in the Holy Roman Empire.
During the early Renaissance, roman (in the form of Antiqua) and italic type were used separately. Today, roman and italic type are mixed, and most typefaces are composed of an upright roman style with an associated italic or oblique style.
Early roman typefaces show a variety of designs, for instance characters resembling what would now be considered blackletter. Printers and typefounders such as Nicolas Jenson and Aldus Manutius in Venice and later Robert Estienne in France codified the modern characteristics of Roman type, for instance an 'h' with a nearly straight right leg, serifs on the outside of the capital 'M' and 'N', and 'e' with level cross stroke, by the 1530s.
The name roman is customarily applied uncapitalized distinguishing early Italian typefaces of the Renaissance period and most subsequent upright types based on them, in contrast to Roman letters dating from classical antiquity.
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[On Robert Estienne's typefaces of the 1530s]: Its outstanding design became standard for Roman type in the two centuries to follow...From the 1540s onwards French Romans and Italics had begun to infiltrate, probably by way of Lyons, the typography of the neighbouring countries. In Italy, major printers replaced the older, noble but worn Italian characters and their imitations from Basle.
- Bergsland, David. "Aldine: the intellectuals begin their assault on font design". The Skilled Workman. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Bringhurst, p 124.
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- Carter, Harry (1969). A View of Early Typography up to about 1600 (Second edition (2002) ed.). London: Hyphen Press. pp. 72–4. ISBN 0-907259-21-9.
De Aetna was decisive in shaping the printers' alphabet. The small letters are very well made to conform with the genuinely antique capitals by emphasis on long straight strokes and fine serifs and to harmonise in curvature with them. The strokes are thinner than those of Jenson and his school...the letters look narrower than Jenson's, but are in fact a little wider because the short ones are bigger, and the effect of narrowness makes the face suitable for octavo pages...this Roman of Aldus is distinguishable from other faces of the time by the level cross-stroke in 'e' and the absence of top serifs from the insides of the vertical strokes of 'M', following the model of Feliciano. We have come to regard his small 'e' as an improvement on previous practice.
- Bringhurst, Robert (2008), The Elements of Typographic Style (version 3.2). Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. Often referred to simply as "Bringhurst", Elements is widely respected as the current English-language authority on typographic style.
- Nesbitt, Alexander The History and Technique of Lettering (1957), Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-40281-9. The Dover edition is an abridged and corrected republication of the work originally published in 1950 by Prentice-Hall, Inc. under the title Lettering: The History and Technique of Lettering as Design.