Computer Modern fonts

Last update: Fri Apr 14 07:45:43 2006

The Computer Modern font family is a large collection of text, display, and mathematical fonts in a range of styles, based on Monotype Modern 8A. It was created using the metafont font design system, which was developed as part of the TeX Project at Stanford University (1978--1988), by noted the computer scientist and prolific author, Professor Donald E. Knuth.

Computer Modern fonts are standard with every TeX distribution, and many people mistakenly associate TeX with Computer Modern, whereas TeX can use any fonts for which adequate character metrics are available.

The Computer Modern font family is illustrated and fully documented in Volume E of Knuth's five-volume magnum opus Computers and Typesetting:

@String{pub-AW                  = "Ad{\-d}i{\-s}on-Wes{\-l}ey"}
@String{pub-AW:adr              = "Reading, MA, USA"}

@Book{Knuth:1986:CMT,
  author =       "Donald E. Knuth",
  title =        "Computer Modern Typefaces",
  volume =       "E",
  publisher =    pub-AW,
  address =      pub-AW:adr,
  pages =        "xv + 588",
  year =         "{\noopsort{1986e}}1986",
  ISBN =         "0-201-13446-2",
  LCCN =         "Z250.8.M46 K574 1986",
  bibdate =      "Fri Jul 22 09:06:29 1994",
  series =       "Computers and Typesetting",
}

Computer Modern is unusual in four important respects, the first two of which are unique in the history of font design:

For mathematical typesetting, no widely-, and publicly-, available font family is adequate, other than Computer Modern.

The Concrete Roman and Euler mathematics font families developed for the book

@Book{Graham:1994:CM,
  author =       "Ronald L. Graham and Donald E. Knuth and Oren
                 Patashnik",
  title =        "Concrete Mathematics",
  publisher =    pub-AW,
  address =      pub-AW:adr,
  edition =      "Second",
  pages =        "xiii + 657",
  year =         "1994",
  ISBN =         "0-201-55802-5",
  LCCN =         "QA39.2 .G733 1994",
  bibdate =      "Wed Jul 6 14:39:36 1994",
  acknowledgement = ack-nhfb,
}
are derived from Computer Modern, but have a rather different appearance.

The commercial Lucida font family from the firm of Bigelow & Holmes duplicated the Computer Modern mathematical repertoire, largely because Chuck Bigelow and Donald Knuth are both Stanford professors who have had a very fruitful collaboration. Lucida has been the major text font used in Scientific American for the last several years.

The commercial MathTime font family originally developed for the American Mathematical Society (AMS) by Michael Spivak, and then extended by Y&Y, and the AMS, includes a large set of mathematics characters. The development of MathTime permitted the AMS to move its journal production from a proprietary commercial typesetting system, where many journals were set with the well-known Times font family, to a TeX-based system, without significantly changing journal article appearance, and gaining the advantages that authors can prepare the TeX input for their own articles, and the full text of those articles can be stored in a common format in the MathSciNet and MathReviews databases.

There have been rumors that Adobe Systems is developing another major font family with a large component of mathematical characters, but so far, it has yet to be announced.

Essentially all mathematical typesetting in the world today is being done in one of the above fonts, or else in a commercial proprietary font that is inaccessible to mathematical authors. For this reason, and because of considerations of cost, portability, archivability, and availability, most academic researchers in Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science use TeX (and usually, Computer Modern, Lucida, or MathTime) for all of their scientific documentation.