Medieval Unicode Font Initiative

Disclaimer: This site is managed by scholars in Medieval studies with the aim of establishing a consensus on the use of Unicode among medievalists. It is not affiliated with or endorsed by Unicode.


The Medieval Unicode Font Initiative is a non-profit workgroup of scholars and font designers who would like to see a common solution to a problem felt by many medieval scholars: the encoding and display of special characters in Medieval texts written in the Latin alphabet.

MUFI was founded in July 2001 by a workgroup consisting of Odd Einar Haugen (Bergen), Alec McAllister (Leeds) and Tarrin Wills (Sydney/Aberdeen). The members of the workgroup communicates primarily by e-mail, but have occasionally met in Leeds (July 2002 and 2003). The first MUFI group meeting was held in Bergen (30-31 August 2003), the second in Lisboa, (10-12 March 2005), the third in Bonn (12-13 June 2006), the fourth in Mainz (23 June 2008) and the fifth in Bergen (7-8 April 2011). As of August 2006, MUFI has a board of four members (listed in the right column of this page).

Any scholars or font designers who would like to join the workgroup should contact one of the board members listed on this page. Over the last six years the MUFI group has had regular contributors from (in alphabetical order) Australia, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, Great Britain, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and USA.


Why Unicode?

Unicode is the new international font standard. In version 5.0, it covers approx. 100,000 characters in living as well as historical scripts. It is fully supported by computer platforms like Linux, Mac and Windows. There is simply no alternative to Unicode.

Many characters needed by medieval scholars are already defined in Unicode, but a great number of other characters, and especially abbreviation marks, are missing. The Private Use Area in Unicode may be used for encoding missing characters, but we would like to see as many special characters defined in the official area as possible.

For this reason, the MUFI groups is pursuing two lines, (a) coordinating the allocation of medieval characters in the Private Use Area and (b) proposing missing medieval characters to Unicode.

In the Unicode Standard v. 5.1, which was released 4 April 2008, 152 medieval (and classical) characters have been accepted. The new characters are located in the charts Combining Diacritical Marks Supplement (26 chars.), Latin Extended Additional (10 chars.), Supplemental Punctuation (15 chars.), Ancient Symbols (12 chars.), and especially Latin Extended-D (89 chars.). Cf. the section on medievist proposals to Unicode below.

The latest version of the Unicode Standard is 6.3 (as of April 2014).


MUFI character recommendation

Although the ultimate goal of the MUFI group is to add a representative and well defined inventory of medieval characters to the Unicode standard it will be necessary to assign characters to the Private Use Area for some time. In order to establish a coordinated usage of this area, the MUFI group has published a recommendation for the selection of characters from the Unicode Standard and for characters to be assigned to the Private Use Area. This recommendation coordinates the usage of the PUA with several other fonts and font projects, notably the TITUS project and Junicode.

The recommendation is being edited by Odd Einar Haugen. The first version of the recommendation was published on 8 December 2003 and contains 828 characters.

Version 2.0, which was published on 22 December 2006, is a major update of the recommendation. It contains a total of 1326 characters, and, for easier reference, is divided into two parts, one which lists all characters in alphabetical order and one which lists them in code chart order.

Version 3.0 was published on 24 June 2009. This is also a major update and contains all new characters in Unicode Standard v. 5.1 as well as many new characters, especially for Medieval German texts. It has a total of 1548 characters.

MUFI character recommendation (all versions)

We have already received proposals for additional MUFI characters. They have been put on the waiting list and will be considered for the next version of the recommendation:

Proposals for new MUFI characters (the MUFI pipeline)

After the meeting in Bergen 7-8 March 2011, a total of 21 new base characters have been given codepoints in the Private Use Area. However, many others will be handled by OpenType functionality or they need further clarification:

Encoding of upcoming characters (additions to the MUFI pipeline)


MUFI font page

Several MUFI compliant fonts are presently being developed. All fonts contain a wide selection of special characters and make extensive use of the Private Use Area in the Unicode Standard. Fonts will be available either as shareware (for a modest fee) or as freeware.

MUFI font page (link opened 9 February 2004)

This page contains a list of all MUFI compliant fonts with details on design, format, availability etc.

A recent update:

NEW Two new MUFI compliant fonts for Old Norse, Lapidaria and DejaVu (additions to existing free font) have been added (22 April 2014)


Medievist proposals to Unicode

Members of the MUFI group and other scholars have submitted a proposal to Unicode for the inclusion of over 100 medieval characters to the Unicode Standard, N3027. Another proposal, N3193, includes several punctuation marks of interest for medievalists:

Unicode proposals

Both proposals have been edited by Michael Everson, co-author of the Unicode Standard.


Keyboard layouts

Many Unicode fonts contain a large number of characters, and are only partially supported by existing keyboards. Although characters can be inserted with their hexadecimal values, this is a cumbersome process and not suited for any large pieces of text. Several specialised keyboards have now been published, for Mac as well as for Windows.

Mac & Windows keyboards. By Florian Grammel, Menota TVB. For Medieval Nordic characters. Mac OS 9 and OS X, Windows 2000 and XP. With advice on alternative input techniques (including entities in SGML/XML applications), installation procedures etc.

Windows keyboards. By Alec McAllister, Leeds. UK Enhanced and Cyrillic Enhanced.

Mac OS X keyboards. By Sorin Paliga, Bucharest. For phonetic characters, Etruscan, Old Italic etc.



Odd Einar Haugen, Bergen
Medieval Nordic Text Archive

Andreas Stötzner, Leipzig
(Deputy Chair)
SIGNA (Signographical research)
Andron (Unicode font)

Alec McAllister, Leeds
Home page (with the font LeedsUni)

Tarrin Wills, Sydney/Aberdeen
Home page
Skaldic poetry project

Smart font technology

David J. Perry has published a survey of present font technology, covering the smart fonts on Windows (OpenType), Mac (AAT) and Linux. The survey is a work-in-progress and comments are welcome:

Cutting-edge text processing

Follow the link under “recent updates”.

Other fonts & projects

Peter S. Baker, University of Virginia
Junicode (a Unicode font)
Home page

David J. Perry, Rye High School, New York
Fonts for scholars
Cardo (a Unicode font)

Deborah W. Anderson, University of California at Berkeley / Rick McGowan, Unicode
Script Encoding Initiative (project description)

Juan-José Marcos García, Plasencia, Cáceres, Spain
Alphabetum (web site)
Manual v. 11.0 (PDF file, 5 April 2014) NEW

Jost Gippert and colleagues, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, and collaborating institutions
Titus Cyberbit Font (Unicode 4.0 compliant)
Titus project

Sorin Paliga, University of Bucharest
Unicode keyboard layouts for Mac OS X

Sebastian Kempgen, University of Bamberg
Unicode fonts for slavists
Fonts with special emphasis on the needs of medievalists and philologists in general


Alan Wood's Unicode Resources
A wealth of information about Unicode on various platforms and browsers. Constantly updated and highly recommended. Includes e.g. list of fonts sorted by the languages that they can be used for, advice on web browsers etc.

Decode Unicode
This project headed by Johannes Bergerhausen, Mainz, will collect information about all characters in the Unicode Standard. The aim of this wikipedia-style project is to create a basis for fundamental typographic research and to facilitate a textual approach to the characters of the world for all computer users. Well worth a visit.

Medieval Nordic Text Archive
This is a digital archive with the aim of encoding Medieval Nordic texts, (in Latin as well as in the vernaculars) according to the standards developed by TEI (XML). Have a look at the catalogue of texts!

The Menota handbook discusses the practicalities of encoding manuscript texts. Now published in version 2 (16 May 2008), TEI P5 compatible.

Michael Everson, Ireland, is one of the authors and editors of the Unicode Standard, has produced several fonts and maintains a large web site on various languages. The site includes an exhaustive list of the languages, alphabets and writing systems of Europe.

Andreas Stötzner, Leipzig, is editor of the journal SIGNA, and has published (so far) 9 in-depth volumes on typographical and signographical issues. Andreas is also the designer of Andron Scriptor Web, one of the MUFI compatible fonts.

Created 2 August 2001 by OEH. Last update 22 April 2014.