The Journal

Typographia Polyglotta

In the interest of communicating effectively and well, we are pleased to present Typographia Polyglotta. This book is a tool to help those who want to set type in different script and language forms to do it with greater ease. It is also a device for imagining: consider how much we can do with a laptop with a polyglot set of fonts on it, safe in the knowledge that the expression of our ideas and visions can reach anyone at any time
— Mark Batty

When I was attending TypeCon14, I came across this small book called Typographia Polyglotta by George Sadek and Maxim Zhukov. It was undergoing the silent auction that was organized as part of the conference. Too bad, I couldn't win the bid, but I ordered it right after I got back home. The first edition of this book was published in 1991. It was a research project of the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at Cooper Union. The study is basically a comparative study in multilingual typesetting. The first edition of this book was concieved and esigned by George Sadek, and Frank Stanton. The book was republished by AtypI in 1997.

The authors basically took a sample text from the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is originally in English, and used its official translation to compare and contrast the typesetting between 22 different languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Swedish. On the spread, you would see that passage typesetting on right side, and informational page about the language characteristics, and its typesetting on the left page. 

I learned quite a bit from this read. First, At least for me, I think that it made me sure that learning by comparison is a good approach. In addition, I learned that the system of the language typesetting could affect the color/texture of the text a lot. Moreover, It was mentioned in the book that if someone is working on a bilingual design, its always better to start designing with the the language that has less fonts resources. I also learned that If we get the same text in English and translate it into Arabic, chances are that the text in Arabic will be relatively a bit shorter than the English.

This is too personal, but I always loved the Italian language, and I think that its the most beautiful spoken language. The following quote from the book made my day:

Our experiment proves Italian to be indisputably the ‘best-looking’ language of all those that were tested using latin script.

After reading this small book, I felt that there is a connection between this project, and Google Noto Fonts, which I will do further research on it in a later stage. 


For a while, I was wondering if I should start with designing a calligraphic (maybe Nasekh) based type face or Kufic. I was reading an interview with Pascal Zoghbi and found this sentence: 

For young Arabic typographers and non-Arab typographers, the Kufi will be the first choice to start understanding the Arabic script.
In the 21st century and Kufi script is making a big come back. Even though Kufi is one of the oldest Arabic calligraphic styles, the geometric construction of its letterforms and the low-contrast (or mono-linear) pen stoke makes it ideal for creating modern Arabic typefaces. There are several contemporary Arabic fonts in the market nowadays based on the kufi style. In brief, most of the Arabic calligraphic styles are high contrast unless the Kufi style. If compared to the Latin typefaces again, high contrast Arabic typefaces will be compared to classical serif Latin typefaces, while low contrast Arabic typefaces will be compared to Sans serif Latin typefaces.
— Pascal Zoghbi

Writing, lettering, and typography

I am currently reading "Arabic typography: a comprehensive source book" by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès. Its a great book. I haven't finished it yet, but yesterday I came across a paragraph about writing, lettering, and typography. Since its related to the previous post, I thought I should put it here before I forget it it. Huda said: 

In the professional field, often production of text is divided into three categories; writing, lettering and typography. The first, writing is described as the free-flowing and uncorrected manual production of text. The second, lettering is considered a meticulous method of producing carefully drawn letters, which allows for corrections during the text production process. The third, typography, is considered the industrialized method of text production-wether on the level of type design, or on the level of applying existing type to design applications. 

For my reference, I think, I would relate writing to script. So, now we have a comparison another between script writing, lettering, and typography. 

Ok, the last sentence was not correct I think. I got the quote wrong. Its probably because of the language barrier. After looking at it again, I think basically that writing is just taking the pen and write, without caring about the rules or the calligraphic style. But, lettering is writing carefully following certain aesthetics. Its more like drawing the letters, artistically. I think that lettering could follow a certain calligraphic rules, or it could be just drawing letters in an appealing way.*

At the end of the quote, I like the fact that she distinguished designing type from designing with type. I was just discussing those two school of thoughts with a friend yesterday. We were discussing how more studies, researches, and practices should be conducted on both of them as they are a bit related, but they are different practices as well.  

* This part was added to the original post afterwords.