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The Classic Roman Letterform

Carved in Stone


Trajan inscription

An inscription in Latin on the left side of the Arch of Trajan at Benevento.

CC by 2.0 isawnyu via Flickr.com

A common saying in many fields, including design, is that "nothing is carved in stone." It means that things change, flexibility is allowed. Even such ingrained rules as "never set script type in all caps" or "serif fonts are more readable than sans serif" can be and are broken every day. But some font matters are carved in stone — literally.

The classic Roman letterform upon which many serif fonts are based can be traced to an inscription carved in stone at the base of a monument erected by the Roman emperor Trajan in AD 106-113.

There's even a digital font called Trajan, an all capitals font (like the inscription) designed by Carol Twombly.

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