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In the documentation of biblatex and csquotes packages, number 1 is replaced by a small cap i in the main text. I tried to find how in the source files but could not target any relevant piece of code. It looks like one way would be to define a \DeclareTextCommand{\is}{T1}{\textsc{i}{}} and then use \is978 in the source but in the mentioned documents, 1 is directly redefined as the new character (looking like) \textsc{i}.

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It's not a small caps "i"; it's how the Charter font renders the 1. – egreg Apr 14 '12 at 23:19
haaaa, too bad. Still, for other fonts, is there an easy way to get what I am asking for? – pluton Apr 14 '12 at 23:23
You could replace every 1 by a smallcaps i by making it active. For instance \catcode`1\active\def1{\textsc{i}} would do that. This could cause issues though, if some packages uses a 1 in a command sequence or something like that. So you have to consider that. – Roelof Spijker Apr 14 '12 at 23:35
@RoelofSpijker Now that's just mean. ;-) – Alan Munn Apr 14 '12 at 23:37
@RoelofSpijker You could do that, but it's a 'Do Not Do This' answer :-) – Joseph Wright Apr 15 '12 at 6:53
up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is not a small caps i, it is an old-style number 1. One way to get this is by using XeLaTeX and setting the main font to use old style numbers.

Most fonts (in my limited experience) do not have an old-style numeral 1 that looks like what you want. I think that the font used in the biblatex package documentation that gives the character you want is called Charter.

example output

Here is a MWE:

\usepackage{xltxtra, fontspec}
\setmainfont[Mapping=tex-text, Numbers={OldStyle}]{Charter} %this is where you select the font

Old style: 0123456789\\

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