SBL Greek font just posted

March 6, 2009

The SBL Unicode Greek font has just been posted for download. It’s been in development for some time. It’s a nice looking face. Here’s a quick screen dump (it will likely be compressed horizontally; right click and View Image for accurate picture):


I haven’t had time to work with it much or explore it’s character set.

Download page is here and a direct link for the ttf file here (TrueType Font file, v1.00 Build 010, updated 3-6-09).

See the comments for updated info and details on the font.

17 responses to SBL Greek font just posted

  1. Thanks for posting this, Dr. Decker. If SBL ever puts out a combined font (Hebrew, Latin, and Greek) I’m going to be sold. Otherwise, I think I’ll stick with Minion Pro for work in Greek. I’m curious what you’re using these days for Greek. And do your publishers have any preference when it comes to Greek or are they only concerned that it’s unicode?

  2. I just spent some time with SBL Greek and I’m disappointed to say that it lacks a true italic, bold, and bold italic, something that Minion Pro has. Gentium has an italic but not a bold or bold italic. One thing I’m often disappointed with in books that try to markup Greek text in various meaningful ways is they’re use of slanted (not italic) and faux-bold. Do publishers just not know about Minion Pro or Adobe Garamond Premier Pro?

  3. I just opened the new SBL Greek font with FontLab and made a brief tour. It is quite extensive: 1,514 glyphs, 16,575 kerning pairs, full hinted, numeroud OpenType features, etc. In style, I’d say that it is a “Didot” style font (except for the φ)—though not the “GFS Didot” design. My first thought was Porson, but it doesn’t match the Porson font. (These judgments are based on comparing the illustrations in *Greek Letters: From Tablets to Pixels,* ed. M. Macrakis [Greek Font Society; New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 1996], see p. 12 for a Didot sample).

    I’ll post the licensing terms in a separate comment doe to the length.

    From the summary of OpenType features included, here are some of the design elements: case sensitive features, contextual alternatives, fractions, denominators, numerators, sub/superscripts, discretionary ligatures, both lining and old style figures, small caps, etc.

    There are no Coptic glyphs (which are [tech: “were”] in the same range as Greek in Unicode). The standard set of NA text crit symbols are included (2E00–0D), as are a number of other related symbols from the manuscript tradition.

    And you are correct Peter—no italic or bold face. I hope that is under development. I’m glad they released this version without, however, since we’d likely waits years for it if we had to wait for the italic and bold faces to be drawn. (We’ve been waiting for how long for Gentium bold?!) There is no mention on the SBL site as to future plans in this regard. 🙁 (Does anyone have more info along this line?)

    And BTW, the “SBL BibLit” font is a *transliteration* font per the SBL font FAQ. I hoped from the name that it would be a combo of the various scripts used in biblical studies, but that is apparently not hte case.

    As for Minion Pro, be careful–there’s at least one incorrect character there. Unless it’s been corrected in a recent version, at one time one of the precomposed rho characters had an incorrect diacritic (if memory serves me right, a smooth instead of rough breathing maybe?). I started using it, but abandoned it when I discovered the problem and sent back to Gentium–which I use for almost all Greek-related purposes these days. The Minion glyphs have a bit more design “flair” to them, but Gentium is very servicable, esp. since a lot of my material goes through the copier (or a student’s printer via pdf). As to what publishers use, that’s more variable. I don’t have a large base for judgment, but my impression is that most publishers are still in the conversion stage to Unicode even as of this past year and haven’t worked out all the intricacies yet. So long as copy is submitted in Unicode, they can then use whatever Greek Unicode font they want.

    It’s a bit of a workaround right now, but at least with the new Gentium basic fonts one can have true bold and bold italic for English, even if there is only Roman and italic for Greek (some apps will do a “force bold” to create a pseudo bold for the Greek, though that will depend also on the printer as to whether it will be printed or not—some printers won’t, and some apps won’t create the bold).

    So we’re not in an ideal typographical world yet. But we’re getting there.

    • I’ve never noticed the rho problem in Minion Pro, but maybe I’ve just missed it. I’ll have to check that out. What I really like about using Minion is that the Greek letters flow so well with their Latin counterparts so that a paper set entirely in Minion come out looking really sharp.

      Now this may be a stupid question, but how does SBL Greek have OpenType features (and lots of ’em from the sound of it) if it’s in TrueType format?

      • The relationship between TT and OT is a bit blurred. As I understand it, a TT font can have OT features. There are technical differences between the two, but I think some of that amounts to the icon used (at least in Windows, if the font has a digital signature, it gets the OT icon, if not, then the regular TT one). Cardo, e.g., uses OT for Hebrew vowel placement, but it’s a TT font. I assume the same is true for SBL Hebrew. This new SBL Greek font is the first (that I know of) to have similar OT features. Of course one must have software that can take advantage of these extras. Most word processors do not. InDesign has some of the best support, I’m told.

      • Minion does “flow” well, but so does Gentium. I think Minion has a bit better look due to the lighter stem widths. Gentium is a heavier font. If it were in printed form (i.e., from a typesetter), Minion might be a better choice, but for the typical user printer (laser or inkjet), especially if duplicated on a photocopier, then Gentium often reproduces better.

        As for the rho, perhaps it has been fixed by now. Changes in some of these standard fonts don’t seem to get announced. E.g., Times New Roman is now fully polytonic for Greek as of v. 5, but previous versions were only monotonic.

      • I noticed that about Times New Roman not too long ago. Do you know when they did that and what software comes with v. 5? I’m on Vista now so I’m sure it came with that, but I’m wondering what versions of Office have it. It seems like a nice set of polytonic glyphs (the grave and acute accent are a bit harsh), but since I can’t stand Times New Roman I wouldn’t recommend it.

        You’re right about Gentium though, when used for Latin and Greek it flows well too. I guess I was thinking of Gentium combined with Times New Roman or something.

      • I *think* it also came with the last version of Office, so some XP users will also have it. It’s in Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) or Office 2008 for Mac. I didn’t discover it in Mac until after the new version of Office, but it may have been there before.

        I would shudder to see Gentium used with TNR! If for some reason TNRmust be used, better to stick with the TNR polytonic glyphs.

        What I’ll be interested to see is if the Roman glyphs in SBL Greek are usable, of it that will need a “companion” face for English—and if so, which ones will harmonize well. I haven’t had time to work with it yet in an actual document.

  4. Here is the font license for the SBL Greek font (copied from the ttf font file itself)

    1. The digitally encoded machine readable font software for producing
    the typefaces licensed to you is the property of Tiro Typeworks. It is
    licensed to you for use under the terms of this end user license
    agreement. If you have any questions about this license agreement, or
    have a need to use the font software in a way not covered by this
    agreement, please write to

    2. You may use this font software free of charge for all
    non-commercial purposes. If you wish to obtain a license for
    commercial use of this font software, please contact the Society of
    Biblical Literature at, or write to Fees for commercial licenses are at the individual
    discretion of the Society of Biblical Literature and Tiro Typeworks.

    3. You may redistribute this font software free of charge as long as
    the software is unmodified, all copyright and trademark notices are
    intact, and the font contains or is accompanied by a copy of this
    license agreement. You may not charge any fee for the distribution of
    this font software or alter the terms of this license agreement.

    4. You may decompile and modify this font software for non-commercial
    and personal use by you as an individual or internal use within your
    organisation. Tiro Typeworks maintains copyright to all derivative
    fonts in any format. You may not delete, edit or add to copyright,
    trademark or license information in the font. You may not change the
    embedding bit. You may not redistribute any modified version of the
    font software, either free of charge or for a fee. Copies of modified
    fonts should be submitted to Tiro Typeworks ( and to
    the Society of Biblical Literature (, along with
    any relevant documentation. Tiro Typeworks reserves the right to
    incorporate any such changes into its own fonts.

    5. You may embed the font software in non-commercial electronic
    documents, including but not limited to web pages and e-books. Font
    embedding must respect the embedding bit in the font, which must not
    be changed. The embedding bit for this font software is set to
    ‘Editable Embedding’, meaning that documents containing this font
    software may be viewed, printed and edited, but the embedded font may
    not be installed on the recipient user’s system.

    6. All other rights are reserved by Tiro Typeworks, except as
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    7. Neither Tiro Typeworks not the Society of Biblical Literature
    warrant the performance or results you may obtain by using this font
    software. Excepting any warranty, condition, representation or term
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  5. Thanks for the heads up about Gentium Basic. I hadn’t seen that until today.

  6. Is everyone getting Greek, I am only getting a nice English font, what am I missing? John

    • John, This is a Unicode font, so you have to tell the OS that you want to type Greek instead of English. If I remember right, you’re on a Mac? If so, Use the Input menu to select Greek Polytonic. If you’ve not been using Unicode, you may have to set it up first. Go here for some help:

      Also see the Deinde blog for more detailed info:

      If Unicode is totally new, you might want to read my paper on using Unicode for biblical studies:

      It focuses mostly on Windows, but the concepts are cross-platform and very important.

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