||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Glyph. (Discuss) Proposed since May 2013.|
A letterform, letter-form or letter form, is a term used especially in typography, paleography, calligraphy and epigraphy to mean a letter's shape. "Letterform" is a synonym for glyph, which is a specific, concrete way of writing an abstract character or grapheme.
In one sense, letterform applies strictly to the design of individual letters. In typography, "letterforms" is often used to describe the study and design of individual letters while typography applies to the design and use with letterforms. As such, "letterform" applies not only to letters but to any graphic elements of a script, typeface or font (including numbers, symbols and punctuation).
In another sense letterform applies to the individual shapes of letters that gives a text an aesthetic. In this way, medieval scholars, for instance, may discuss the particular features of a script that give it distinction and definition among other scripts.
The history of letterforms is discussed in fields of study relating to materials used in writing. Epigraphy includes the study of letterforms carved in stone or other permanent materials. Paleography is the study of writing in ancient and medieval manuscripts. Calligraphy treats the letterforms of decorative writing, usually in ink. Typography includes the arrangement of letterforms designed for metal print or computer. More broadly letterforms may be discussed wherever letters appear stylistically - in graffiti for example.
- Letterforms in alphabets: Arabic alphabet, Cyrillic script
- Letterforms in calligraphy: Man'yōgana, Hentaigana
- Letterforms in history: Long s, R rotunda
- Letterforms in technology: Typeface, Computer printer