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>A couple of overnight thoughts on this subject:
>First, the set width and the curvature of the bowls (the rounded
>parts of a "b" or a "p" or similar letters) also contributes
>here. A narrow width or a tight, narrow bowl should make a letter
I'm not sure this is true, Bruce. Consider Times New Roman, which is a slightly condensed font (because it was designed for narrow newspaper columns). I think condensing a face gives it a more vertical appearance and therefore enhances the illlusion of larger size. On the other hand, extended faces always look smaller to me.
>Second, I've read that designers of digital fonts actually do
>make letterforms of different heights, leaving more or less white
>space for the point size. I'm not altogether certain that is
>true. However, I suspect that it might be true for the digital
>versions of Eric Gill's Joanna and many of Adrian Frutiger's
>fonts, including Apollo.
Yes, letterforms are different heights (in virtually all serif fonts and in a great many sans-serif fonts, too). The caps, for example, may reach higher than the lowercase ascenders--or vice versa. The top of an uppercase A or C is always a bit higher than the top of the corresponding uppercase B (to compensate for a well-understood optical illusion). For the same reason, in the lowercase alphabet, the bowl of the c, for example, extends both above the x-height and below the baseline. The descender of the y may not extend as far down as that of the p (or vice versa); the bowl of the g may be shorter still. Etc.
It could be that you are correct about digital faces now having built-in top and bottom bearings, although I have not heard of this practice. But given that the page designer can specify negative leading if desired, I'm not sure what the practical effect would be.