New from H&FJ: Whitney Greek & Cyrillic

Typeface: Whitney Multiscript

We’re pleased to introduce Whitney® Greek, Cyrillic, and Multiscript, a new internationalization of our Whitney family for our friends in Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

We’ve taken the fonts that already serve more than 140 languages, and extended them into the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets to satisfy sixty more. Whitney Cyrillic features our new Cyrillic-X™ character set, designed to accommodate not only major Slavic languages such as Russian and Ukrainian, but other important populations less well served by digital typography, like the 65,000,000 people who speak Azeri, Kazakh and Uzbek. For designers whose projects have an international scope — including everyone who needs all three official scripts of the European Union (Latin, Greek, and Bulgarian Cyrillic) — the Whitney Multiscript package integrates these three alphabets into a single set of fonts, across Whitney’s complete range of styles.

The World’s Most Perfect Script

Typographically, the Republic of Korea has much to celebrate. The world’s first typefaces cast in metal were made in Korea: a fourteenth century book in the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris establishes Korean printing from movable type at least as far back as 1377, though Korean typefounding may date to 1234, some 221 years before Gutenberg. An impediment to early printing was the complexity of Chinese characters, then used to render the Korean language, which further stifled national literacy. But in 1446, an undertaking by King Sejong the Great addressed both problems, through what is surely one of the greatest inventions in the history of typography: the Hangul alphabet. On October 9, Korea celebrates this incredible innovation as Korean Alphabet Day, better known as Hangul Day.

The invention and reform of alphabets has a long tradition, though its efforts are rarely successful. Generally speaking, script systems with highly scientific foundations go completely unrecognized, the typographic equivalent of Esperanto. And among the world’s most successful script systems are some of its most arbitrary: nothing in the design of the Latin A suggests its sound or meaning, and even scripts with pictographic origins such as Chinese are usually abstracted to the point of unrecognizability. But Hangul, Korea’s “Great Script,” is perhaps history’s only effort at alphabet reform that is both scientifically rigorous and universally successful. As a result of careful planning, Hangul is easily learned, comfortably written, and infinitely flexible.

Hangul is comprised of 51 jamo, or phomenic units, whose shapes are highly organized. Simple consonants are linear (ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ), vowels are horizontal or vertical lines (ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅣ), glottalized letters are doubled (ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ), and so on. But more interestingly, Hangul’s characters are featural: their shapes are related to the sounds they symbolize, each representing a different position of the mouth and tongue. Pay attention to the curvature of your lower lip when you form the sounds buh and puh, and you’ll begin to see the logic of Hangul’s B (ㅂ) and P (ㅍ). Notice how your tongue interacts with the roof of your mouth when you say sss and juh, and you’ll understand the design of its S (ㅅ) and J (ㅈ). Hangul’s ability to represent an especially wide range of sounds makes it easy to render loan words from other languages, a challenge in many Asian scripts (but an entertaining hazard to reckless Westerners.) Typographically, I envy my Korean counterparts who get to work with Hangul, with its letterforms that always fit into a square, and can be read in any direction (horizontally or vertically.) And best of all: no kerning! —JH

The Living Glagolitic

Last month’s post about Cyrillic and Glagolitic Alphabet Day prompted some great responses from our Croatian colleagues, where the Glagolitic alphabet, a national treasure, lives on. Vjeran Andrašić wrote from the island of Krk, home to some of Croatia’s most significant Glagolitic inscriptions, and this morning I learned of this marvelous Glagolitic font, made by designer Nikola Djurek during his time at the Type & Media program at KABK in Den Haag.

Many of the world’s less common alphabets have been rendered digitally by enthusiastic philologists, but it’s refreshing to see one that’s been so expertly made by a trained professional. And kudos to Nikola not only for presenting his work in an intellectually substantial context, but for offering to share the font with interested scholars! —JH

Happy Typographic Holidays

This weekend, many of us celebrated a beloved national holiday. Perhaps you enjoyed a porterhouse steak off the grill, or played touch football with the kids; perhaps the local marching band led your town in a rousing patriotic medley. But amidst the fanfare and the bunting, did you take a moment to reflect on what this holiday was really about? Did you really pause to remember that May 24 was Cyrillic and Glagolitic Alphabet Day?

On Saturday, readers throughout the Slavic world celebrated Saints Cyril and Methodius Day, a bonafide public holiday in Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The holiday honors Cyril and Methodius, the Byzantine brothers whose missions to the Slavs, beginning in AD 862, culminated in the invention of the Glagolitic Alphabet, which was used to render Christian texts in the Old Church Slavonic language. Glagolitic’s sister script, Cyrillic, prevailed during the 13th century, and Peter the Great canonized Cyrillic in essentially its modern form in 1708. Cyrillic has survived largely intact, despite the orthographic reforms and political purges of the last century: among the reforms of 1918 were the deprecation of the yer (ъ), and removal of the yat (ѣ) and izhitsa (ѵ), this last letter rumored to have been used for only two words in the entire Russian language at the time of its expulsion (мѵро, сѵнодъ.) But the issues are deep, and with the dissolusion of the USSR, the story is by no means over: Wikipedia devotes an entire section to the burning issue of Yat-reform.

The celebration of the alphabet is by no means limited to the Slavic world: another nation with great typographic traditions celebrates its own Alphabet Day this fall, and I’m working on the blog post already. I promise to give you a little more notice next time — I know how hard it can be to get those Alphabet Day cards out on time. —JH

Fonts in Space

Our erstwhile language researcher and font developer Luke Joyner (not pictured) files this dispatch from the campus of the University of Chicago:

A recent late-show at U. Chicago’s Doc Films was Plan 10 from Outer Space, a stinker of a B-movie that’s somehow unrelated to Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood’s better-known cult classic. Plan 10 includes the standard staples of the genre: extraterrestrials with beehives for heads, musical numbers, an assassin in the employ of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and a major plot point involving typography.

Continues…

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