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Elstob Header

The Elstob font (named for the eighteenth-century Anglo-Saxonist Elizabeth Elstob) is based on the Double Pica commissioned by Bishop John Fell in the seventeenth century. Elstob is designed as a webfont. Thus:

  1. It is a variable font, with weights ranging from ExtraLight to ExtraBold, optical sizes from "Fine Print" (circa 6 points) to "Display" (circa 18 points or greater) and also a grade axis (1-500). (A non-variable desktop version is also available.)
  2. Outlines have been kept simple to limit file size.
  3. The intention of the font is to include everything in Unicode useful to a substantial number of medievalists, but the character set has been limited to around 1000 glyphs to keep file size reasonable. Many characters from the Medieval Unicode Font Initiative, present in the designer's Junicode font, can be represented with combining diacritics.


Visit the specimen page to see how a variable font works and put Elstob through its paces.

I'll share new developments on Twitter from time to time and will welcome your feedback there.

Downloading and Installing

It is strongly suggested that you avoid downloading Elstob from commercial sites, as these do not generally offer the latest version, and some downloads may carry viruses.

For Linux users, packages exist for Debian, Arch Linux, Parrot, and others. Check your distribution for availability.

Windows users, Mac users, and Linux users whose distributions do not offer Elstob should download from this site and follow the instructions for installing on their systems.


To build Elstob, you will need Python 3.10.4 or later. It is best to create a virtual environment in which to run the build script and install any Python-based dependencies in the environment.

The build script, build_font, is a bash script, which you can run in a Mac OS, Linux, or other similar terminal. The script depends on several utilities available in all such systems: grep, sed (on the Mac, install gsed via Homebrew), and xsltproc. In addition, you will need fontmake and its dependencies (which pip will install automatically). If you want the variable fonts to be hinted, install Xgridfit 3, also with pip. If you are generating TrueType (.ttf) static fonts and want them to be hinted, install ttfautohint (available in Linux repositories and via Homebrew). If you are generating CFF (.otf) static fonts and want them to be hinted, use pip to install psautohint. If you want to generate woff2 webfonts, install woff2_compress.

To run build_font, open a terminal, navigate to the source directory, make the file executable (chmod +x build_font), and run it to display the help text, ./build_font -h, which will tell you how to build the various flavors of Elstob.

By default, the script builds variable fonts. To build static TrueType fonts (the most common kind, with the suffix .ttf), use the -t option; to build static CFF fonts (with the suffix .otf), use the -o option.

If you want to rename the font (like “ElstobD,” the desktop version of Elstob), use the -f option to specify another family name. Other options control hinting and other details of font generation.

If you are building static fonts, you may customize a couple of aspects while building. The -s option controls the slant of the italic. Supply a number between 0 and 15, where 0 is steeply slanted (in fact, the slant of the original typeface) and 15 is nearly upright. The -p option controls the width of the space character. Supply a number between 0 and 1, where 0 produces a narrow space (in the modern fashion), and 1 produces a wider space, as in old books printed with metal type.

Once you have decided on your options, run the script once for each Glyphs file: Elstob.glyphs and Elstob-Italic.glyphs.

Some examples. To build a variable font with Xgridfit hinting:

./build_font Elstob.glyphs

To build a reduced collection of TrueType italic static fonts with the family name ElstobD and a relatively upright style:

./build_font -t -i -s 12 -f ElstobD Elstob-Italic.glyphs

Copyright 2020–2023 by Peter S. Baker.

This Font Software is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1. See the file OFL.txt or visit