In typography, an all-encompassing term for typefaces based on the serif variations developed by the ancient Romans and further developed by Italian humanistic lettering. In current usage, roman is used to indicate the primary typeface in a type family; in other words, the main text face that is not bold or italic. On desktop publishing programs, "roman" is replaced by the word "plain." Although Roman should not be used to refer to sans serif typefaces, it occasionally is.
There were five historical influences of the development of the roman typeface, the first being the Roman capital, illustrated by the inscription on the Trajan column. Further developments included the uncial and black letter variations on the roman caps, the Caroline miniscules, the typefaces designed by Ventian designer Nicolaus Jenson (under the name Eusebius), and the typefaces of William Caslon, John Baskerville, and Giambattista Bodoni. These Trajan letter shapes, cut into the stone panel several feet above the ground in the pedestal of the column, are considered the perfect roman-proportioned form and still guide type designers. They are not all the same size, because they were taken from different lines, graduated in height to look the same to the ground-based viewer.
There are three varieties of roman typefaces worth considering:
'Old Roman'. A characteristic style of roman typefaces characterized by very little differentiation between thicks and thins, diagonal stress, capitals shorter than ascenders, and serifs that are small and graceful. The "feelings" evoked by Old Roman faces are warm, friendly, and traditional.
'Modern'. A characteristic style of roman typefaces characterized by vertical stress, hairline serifs, and maximum contrast between thicks and thins. Modern faces evoke formal, classic, and cold feelings.
'Transitional'. A characteristic style of roman typefaces between Old Roman and Modern, characterized by sharper thick/thin contrast, sharper and thinner endings to serifs, and vertical stress. These faces evoke the best of the Old Roman and Modern faces.