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Serif and sans-serif 01.svg Sans-serif font
Serif and sans-serif 02.svg Serif font
Serif and sans-serif 03.svg Serif font
(serifs in red)
From left to right: a serif typeface with serifs in red, a serif typeface and a sans-serif typeface

A serif is a term in typography. If a letter is made of a line or lines, a serif is a tiny decorative line on the ends of letter's 'limbs'. Thus, in the illustration on the right, each serif letter has a serif on the end of its lines.

Alphabetic typefaces either have serifs or not. Those without are called sans-serif faces.

The design of our typefaces started in the 15th century, when the early printers used moulds from which letters made of lead were produced.[1]

The design of these letters were originally based on examples of handwriting and carving. Over the centuries a large number of typefaces were designed, and the serif/sans-serif feature is just one of many issues which type designers have to deal with.[2]

However, the original source of the serif may be in monumental inscriptions. Serifs are on the letters at the base of Trajan's column (built 107~113 AD), and are clearly illustrated in standard textbooks on typography.[1] Indeed, older literature often describes typefaces with serifs as "Roman". The word "serif" seems to be an early 19th century innovation.[3]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Gray, Nicolete 1986. A history of lettering: creative experiment and letter identity, p16, p25 and chapters 9 and 10. Oxford: Phaidon.
  2. Drucker J. 1995. The alphabetic labyrinth: the letters in history and imagination. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28068-1
  3. OED first mention of serif in 1830.