armenian text

Toby Macklin's picture

Hi - This is the first time I've posted to this site. I have noticed some some discussions about Armenian, though, and some Armenian names, so I think this might be a good place to ask my question. I've been asked to typeset three versions of a short book, in English, Greek and Armenian (about Armenians in medieval Cyprus). The first two languages I can do, but Armenian is new to me.

The book wil be quite simple - mainly straight text, with maybe a couple of levels of heading, and some quotations.

I could do with some pointers to get started. I had a look at these fonts:

http://www.monotypeimaging.com/ProductsServices/wt_fontsample.aspx?type=...

First of all, are they any good? Would you recommend others? (For what it's worth I'll probably set the the other language versions in Garamond premier pro). I showed this page to an Armenian friend who thought Monotype Inclined looked good for a book text.

What's the relationship between upright and inclined? I had a look at some Armenian books and it seems you can set 'ordinary' text with the inclined. Is that right? And are there some basic conventions for setting, for example, the title of a book or something else that in an English text would go in italic?

That's probably enough for now...

Thanks very much

Toby

Si_Daniels's picture

If only we had an Armenian font expert on Typophile ;-)

Miguel Sousa's picture

> First of all, are they any good?

Nope, not at all, according to the current type design standards. These are quite old faces. Some are OK, but still. Anyways, I don't think they're available to the public either.

> Would you recommend others?

Sure!
Free (nevertheless good) ones: Matenadaran's Font Project
Cheap (and very good) ones: Paratype's Armenian Fonts

hrant's picture

Of the "classic" Monotype fonts:
Aramian and Barz have good readability, but the former is ugly while the latter is very old-fashioned (and has letterwise legibility issues). Nork is the most Latinized, and the least readable. The other two seem pretty bad.

In contrast, check out this beauty:
http://www.tdc.org/news/2006Results/Calouste.html _
Miguel is too modest to toot his own horn. Quite unlike me:
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/ad/CR.pdf _
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/ss_rome1.html

> Nope, not at all, according to the current type design standards.

But Miguel, those "current type design standards", at least when it comes to Armenian, are seriously flawed: Latinized, low-readability, uninspired (or rather, inspired from the wrong sources).

Of the Matenadaran fonts, only Aramian is useful for setting
a dignified Armenian book. As for the Paratype fonts: I used
to make stuff like that. Then I woke up. I had my personal
little "zartonk" as we say.

> Garamond

Interestingly, this was also the initial choice of Emily Artinian for her project (the "From Ararat to Angeltown" mentioned in that PDF). It's not a bad choice, especially considering its small x-height, which matches [good] Armenian type. But once she saw Nour&Patria, it was Game Over. But in this case finding a matching Greek might be tricky... Let me know if I can help: hpapazian_thatsymbol_gmail_dot_com

hhp

Toby Macklin's picture

Thanks Miguel and Hrant for your help. I'm following up the links now. Thanks Hrant for your address and I will be in touch. Toby

Miguel Sousa's picture

> Miguel is too modest to toot his own horn.

The only reason why I didn't mentioned Calouste was because it still isn't available. And that image on the TDC site does not do it any justice. Check these 2 PDFs instead: Specimen & TDC poster

> But Miguel, those “current type design standards”, at least when it comes to Armenian, are seriously flawed: Latinized, low-readability, uninspired (or rather, inspired from the wrong sources).

You're right, to some extent. But doesn't that happen with a lot of other non-Latin scripts? Latin typeface design has always been ahead of the rest since the dawn of printing*, and it's not uncommon to see non-native type designers setting milestones for non-Latins. With respect to Armenian, Robert Granjon (Rome 1579) and Christopher van Dyck (Amesterdam 1661) have definitely brought up the "standards". Even the highly regarded work of Henrik Mnatsakanyan (which I truly respect, and that served as one of my references) can be considered quite Latinised.
And when I said “current type design standards” I was thinking of how old Monotype's Armenians are: Monotype Armenian Upright and Inclined (formerly Armenian Series 638) were released in March 1962; Aramian, Barz and Nork can be found in a Compugraphic catalogue dated 1987.

* Regarding Armenian, compare, for example, the first Armenian printed book, by Yakob Mełapart (Venice 1512), with the works of Nicolas Jenson and Francesco Griffo a handful of decades before.

> Of the Matenadaran fonts, only Aramian is useful for setting a dignified Armenian book.

How can you possibly say this?!?! FMBF Aramian is essentially based on Monotype's Armenian Series 638 and Mergenthaler-Linotype's Armenisch (circa 1964). In addition, it contains "wrong" characters: f (U+0066) is used instead of ք (U+0584 ARMENIAN SMALL LETTER KEH).
From the fonts already available, FMBF Hanragitaran seems to be the best choice for book typesetting. It was created in 2004, by Ruben Tarumian, based on a design by Henrik Mnatsakanyan (circa 1969), and is the font used by the Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia.

On a similar note, I'd like to say that (the Amenian block of) Arial Unicode (available on WindowsXP) is no good option, since the characters were taken from Monotype Armenian Upright. And Mshtakan, MacOSX's Armenian font family, is simply dreadful (sorry Mr. Everson).

> I used to make stuff like that.

How painful is it to see Maral still around? Sorry, just giving you a bad time ;^)

hrant's picture

> But doesn’t that happen with a lot of other non-Latin scripts?

Sadly, it most certainly does. And it's very hard
to recover from. Greek is doing better than most.
In spite of the chauvinists, style-mongers, agents
of the status-quo, and/or draconian Modernists.

But Miguel, I didn't say that wasn't the standard,
what I said was that the standard is no good. :-)

> Latin typeface design has always been ahead of the rest

Wait: And we want to keep it that way?!

> Granjon, van Dijk

Two of my Armenian type heroes. The latter in fact I consider to
have made the best Armenian type in history (so far). But the key
to their success (and the key to Mnatsakanyan's... incompleteness,
I'm sorry to say) was that their work was NOT Latinized. You don't
have to be a "native" to make great type, even for text (but you do
need to be -or become- native if you're going to push).

> FMBF Aramian is essentially based on ...

When did I say it was original? I said it was readable.
I've made an "Aramian" too (it's called "Ardahan"), and
for the longest time it was my most readable Armenian font.

> FMBF Hanragitaran seems to be the best choice for book typesetting.

So I guess you would use ITC Garamond to set a book? Come on.
The x-height is too big for good readability (for Armenian).
And I actually have proof, or at least very good evidence.
Are you sitting down?... Hanragitaran and Maral are essentially
the same thing! And Maral was used for the lauch of AIM magazine
back when; but after a few issues we got enough explicit complaints
about readability from laymen (this, after people were salivating
over the look of the new type at the debut) that we had to dump it
(for text) and make an Aramian instead! It took me YEARS to figure
out why: the vertical proportions. So Maral/Hanragitaran failed in
magazine setting, not even a book!

Also, an obese x-height is much worse than an errant "keh".

Arial Unicode:
Its Armenian is beyond "no good" - it contains serious structural mistakes.

Mshtakan:
Everson tried his best (and I helped him a little bit), and it really could have been worse, but Apple should really have found a designer more qualified in Armenian. But first, they have to care about type...

> Maral ... just giving you a bad time

I deserve it (and in more ways than one).

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW, for the record, as much as I might be critical of a
lot of the work of fellow Armenian type designers, I want
people to know that I'm ecstatic and grateful that they
exist and they do this work: to me it's much more valuable
than having more Armenian lawyers, doctors and jewelers.

hhp

Miguel Sousa's picture

> Greek is doing better than most.

Alleluia! Thank Ζεύς :^D
Who knows, perhaps by the year 2027 we'll have Adobe's Mega Pro fonts that'll include Armenian.

> And we want to keep it that way?!

Certainly not. That's why some people work on things other than Latin. But these are probably less than 1% of the total, so we can't expect much. And then there's the argument of number of users, piracy, and so on. I'm telling you, once the Chinese rule the world, everything will be different. Just wait! (Or should I say, "Don't wait, start learning Chinese NOW!") ;^)

> The latter in fact I consider to have made the best Armenian type in history

I second that. Up until the mid-20th century, Armenian type designs were essentially based on his work, no major breakthroughs. (Where was everyone? Fighting invaders and infidels? And where's Matthew Carter Armenian?)

> So I guess you would use ITC Garamond to set a book?

I said, From the fonts already available, ...

> Hanragitaran and Maral are essentially the same thing!

Oh, that's true. I admit I hadn't noticed that. You know, it's hard to keep track of these things when more than one typeface is called Ararat, Erevan, Aramian, Arial Armenian, Grqi or Times Armenian. More so when the diferences between them are just slightly noticeable. BTW, Arasan and Nork are also the "same" thing, right?

> that we had to dump it (for text) and make an Aramian instead!

That's almost the same thing as saying that Word users can't read what they're typing if the default font is not Times. Can't we atribute part of that failure to the cliché "People read best what they read most"? I mean, that's why some things (and some people) are still stuck in time. Or am I completely wrong?

> an obese x-height is much worse than an errant “keh”

You must know better. Unfortunately I can't read the damn thing ;^P

> I deserve it (and in more ways than one).

You don't need to be so hard on yourself. Some times the only alternative we have is through trial and error. And that's acceptable, as long as we give the best of ourselves at each time. (Besides, I know that behind the hatred persona you nurture on-line, there's a good man that cares for his mother script) :^)

> fellow Armenian type designers [...] it’s much more valuable than having more Armenian lawyers, doctors and jewelers.

Rather than more valuable, I'd say that Armenian type designers are very necessary. But all in all I agree with you. Quantity does not mean quality, but the more people we have working for the same goal, the faster we'll get there.

hrant's picture

I tried to take a night class in Mandarin last year.
About halfway through the first class I realized that
the teacher had a lisp. You should've seen me sneak out
of the classroom, like a ninja. Oh wait, that's Japanese.

> Where was everyone?

Trying to regroup after the Genocide?...

> it’s hard to keep track of these things when
> more than one typeface is called Ararat, Erevan ...

You should hear what happened to Garamont. :-)

> Arasan and Nork are also the “same” thing, right?

You could say that Arasan is a sans version of Nork.
Or you could say that they both derive from Clarendon.
But Arasan's more relevant attributes are that: it looks
crystal onscreen; and it's free.

BTW, Hanragitaran is inspired quite strongly
from Cheltenham - at least I tend to think so.
And Cheltenham has been one of my earliest, and
continues to be one of my strongest, inspirations.
Some people say Patria's caps remind them of the
ones in Cheltenham, even though I actually made
no conscious effort in that direction. And quite
interestingly, Hanragitaran's caps I find really
very beautiful, if cold in their Latinized tameness,
although really, fully authentic Armenian caps
are too extravagant for typesetting.

> “People read best what they read most”?

There is of course a truth in that, but there are also
severe limits to it. In fact my opinion is that it's a
simplification to the point of being false. There are
realities to the human reading "firmware" that
clearly cause some fonts to be more readable than
others, almost no matter how familiar you are with
which one(s). But yes, almost.

In this case for example, people didn't notice/voice their
difficulty in reading Maral in long passages until issue #3.
You'd think that by that time they would've gained enough
familiarity with it, no? I think they did to an extent, just
not enough to overcome an inherent readability flaw, the
lop-sided vertical proportions. It's really a display face.

In contrast, Aramian's "keh", no matter how misguided it is,
can be learned, gotten familiar with as a structure - and since
it doesn't look like any other letter it can become a harmonious
part of the family (even if it's not really authentic). But some-
thing like Aramian's "ho" is both inauthentic and dysfunctional
in its severe similitude to other letters.

> You don’t need to be so hard on yourself.

But somehow I need to repay my debt to Mnatsakanyan
(even if others look the other way). I was getting ready
to do so at the ATypI conference in Rome - then he died.
Then I got marginally involved in the publication of his
comprehensive posthumous specimen book, and pledged
to donate $1000 to the effort - but that didn't fly either.
And now in my current position giving a lot of money to
something like that is decidedly reckless... But maybe I
can do something else.

hhp

Miguel Sousa's picture

> But Arasan’s more relevant attributes are that: it looks crystal onscreen

Indeed I know that. Well done! At one point, I even considered making a pixel font based on its bitmaps, to use in a Flash project that eventually got dropped.

> But somehow I need to repay my debt to Mnatsakanyan

What about doing a 200-copy facsimile edition of his ՀԱՅԿԱԿԱՆ ՏԱՌԱՏԵՍԱԿՆԵՐ – Armenian Typefaces (1979) for ATypI Lisbon? (Paperback, 160 pages, 1 colour, 7.8 × 10.2 in) How expensive can that be? I'm sure a few people would be interested to be introduced to Armenian type design. You'd be creating awareness towards the script, and spreading some seeds which could blossom in nice surprises. One could even wrap it in a paper with the warning: "Latinised content. Please proceed with care". Seriously, I could even try to see if the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation would be interested to sponsor it. Think about it.

Toby Macklin's picture

Thanks Miguel for the new PDF of Calouste. Very handsome, and the influence of Minion might mean that Minion Greek would be a good companion. A pity it's not available!

I'm enjoying piecing bits and pieces together from a conversation that in some ways goes over my head. A good way to learn I think. I'm still interested to hear how typesetting conventions might apply in Armenian - e.g. the relationship between upright and oblique (or italic?). Do these tend to be latinized too, or does Armenian retain its own conventions?

Hrant - I remember a Papazian's music shop in Cairo - I think I rented a piano from them and I certainly recall rooting through dusty piles of sheet music there.

Toby

Miguel Sousa's picture

You're welcome. Thanks! Yes, I think it'd work well with Minion. Sorry about that.

> I’m still interested to hear how typesetting conventions might apply in Armenian

I asked myself that question when I was designing the specimen booklet. As far as I can tell from the samples I have available (newspapers, magazines, pictures of old books' pages, paragraphs of text in catalogues), seems like the conventions are pretty much the same. One thing peculiar about Armenian is that guillemets ( « » ) are used instead of quotes ( “ ” ). Some of the samples use the oblique variant for the main body and upright for the rest (e.g. captions), but I don't know if that style still prevails nowadays. Hrant will know better.

One problem you might come across is hyphenation. The popular layout applications won't know where to breakup the words, so you either end up with an extreme ragged paragraph or a paragraph full of huge rivers, unless you break the words yourself. InDesign can't do it, and I can't read Armenian, so some of the typesetting in Calouste's specimen is not as good as it could be.

hrant's picture

Miguel, I think involving the Gulbenkian Foundation in the ATypI conference is a great idea of itself! Re-issuing the most-recent Mnatsakanyan specimen book might be interesting (was there ever a copyright agreement between the Soviet Block and Portugal?) but if I were them I'd actually focus on you instead! :-) Anyway, I was lucky to find a copy of that book during my trip to Armenia in 2000, and I'll take a closer look at it today.

> Minion Greek would be a good companion.

I think it would be a decent companion. But I would take the time to look around, like among the fonts of Haratzopoulos. Or you could get Miguel to customize Minion Greek (maybe as simple as changing the serifs/terminals) for you!

> the relationship between upright and oblique

There are a few things at play there. One is that, because of the classic manuscript hand and the ensuing crushing, centuries-long dominance of Barz, slanted text is naturally more culturally authentic for Armenian. This leaves less room for an "italic" (especially with the pronounced slant of Barz). Another factor is that Armenian letters look much better with semi-serifs rather than full serifs; the reason being that there are very many stems in Armenian (especially in the x-height) and full serifs everywhere (as much Latinizers love that...) ruin everything. And when you put semi-serifs (where people can be said to expect them) on upright forms, they look like they're falling backwards... And another thing is that Armenian needs italic far less than (almost all) Latin-based languages do, because we have a floating emphasis mark that can be placed on any vowel (even more than one in a word). Italics in Armenian is a bit like smallcaps in Latin: nice, but a luxury of sorts.

So I think the best approach is to: make the "roman" cut slightly slanted (sadly, any slant has been extremely rare for decades now - although Miguel has done it! :-) to leave room for an Italic; but not insist on having an Italic in every font. Actually, even in Latin I personally prefer a (good) demi weight for emphasis anyway!

* For example see how cluttered the Armenian subordinate of Patria is.

> a Papazian’s music shop in Cairo

Papazian is not an uncommon surname. I remember walking into a souvenir shop in Delphi, where -as usual- the salesman tried to soften me up: this one ferreted out a connection with me in the fact that his mother was Armenian. But when it turned out that her surname was Papazian, and I whipped out my passport to prove that mine was too, I was the one to get the upper hand in the de rigeur haggling. :-)

> Some of the samples use the oblique variant
> for the main body and upright for the rest

Which of course makes the upright parts look like they're falling backwards!
The English insert of tipoGrafica magazine has this problem too.

The Armenian typesetters of the past who did that were simply being expedient: they wanted to use a slanted face for body (because that was both stylistically and functionally desirable) but had no italic or bold available (and never letterspaced, like the Germans did, and rarely all-capsed). So the only good way left to mark contrast was using an upright font. These days though I think it's far less bad to use a mechanically bolder or even a further-slanted style for emphasis if you get stuck.

> hyphenation

There's actually a standing conundrum in Armenian hyphenation: when you break the line across a syllable that has an unmarked "eh" sound in it, you add an explicit "et" letter at the end of the syllable (before you break it).* On top of that if you end up removing the break, when you collapse the word back together it's extremely hard for a dumb computer to know if the "et" gets removed or left in place! :-/ There was a movement to do away with this particular hyphenation rule, but I for one am no fan of changing language simply to avoid writing smarter algorithms.

* As far as I know this rule was put in place because if the break were to happen at the first syllable, and that syllable had that issue, you'd end up with a single letter followed by a hyphen, which is quite ungainly.

hhp

hrant's picture

Miguel, I just checked: unlike some of my other Armenian type
specimen books, the 1979 Mnatsakanyan is actually in very good
shape. However, it does have a copyright declaration - which is
not very surprising of course, but I wonder if it applies here.

hhp

Miguel Sousa's picture

> the 1979 Mnatsakanyan is actually in very good shape

Good. I can get access to a copy too, if needed.

> was there ever a copyright agreement between the Soviet Block and Portugal?

I have no idea. Could we try to contact and enquire the publisher?

> Or you could get Miguel to customize Minion Greek

Right, and I could change my identity along the way :^/

dezcom's picture

"...Check these 2 PDFs instead..."

Miguel! That is some MAJOR gorgeous stuff!!! BRAVO!!!

ChrisL

hrant's picture

Miguel, I'm going to Armenia this summer. Maybe I can talk
to somebody. But first let's see if Gulbenkian is interested?

> I could change my identity along the way

What do you mean, that people would find that illegal or unethical?
I don't think it would be either.

hhp

Miguel Sousa's picture

Thanks Chris!

Hrant, I find it even insulting, so please make sure you end right there. :^(

As for Gulbenkian's hypothetical interest, first I'll need an outline of the project.

hrant's picture

Would you feel better if Toby asked Slimbach first and was turned down? :-/
(I'm assuming that's the issue. Even though the Adobe EULA allows mods.)

Don't get mad - everybody's different, and I don't know
too much about you - feel free to elaborate your position.

hhp

Miguel Sousa's picture

> and I don’t know too much about you

One more reason to show more respect. Have a good day.

hrant's picture

If I didn't respect you, I wouldn't be trying to understand.

hhp

Miguel Sousa's picture

> If I didn’t respect you, I wouldn’t be trying to understand.

How twisted is that?!?! If you did, you would have stopped the subject a couple of posts ago, like I asked you to.

Here's my position: You were quite disrespectful and I do not tolerate such thing. With that attitude you've also killed a thread that was rather interesting. In addition, if you're trying to turn this into a never-ending thread, don't count with me because I'm not going to embark in that.

Do I need to be more clear?

John Hudson's picture

Miguel, I must admit that I don't understand to what you have taken offence. And I say that as someone who has found Hrant offensive on numerous occassions, so I'm not insensitive to his manner.

hrant's picture

Nonetheless: Miguel, I'm sorry.

hhp

Miguel Sousa's picture

John, it all started here:

> Or you could get Miguel to customize Minion Greek (maybe as simple as changing the serifs/terminals) for you!

I feel that this phrase not only gives a distorted idea of what typeface design is all about (particularly for people with no experience in the field), but it also insinuates that I would be willing to vandalise a typeface designer's work. Hrant might not see a problem with that, but I do. (And if Hrant does not see a problem with that, why doesn't he do it himself in the first place, instead of assigning others to do it?)

So, I did get insulted but was willing to ignore it, and expressively asked Hrant to put an end to the subject. However, he failed to do so by challenging me with new questions. I find that rather offensive.

Miguel Sousa's picture

> Nonetheless: Miguel, I’m sorry.

Hrant, apologies accepted. Please proceed with care.

John Hudson's picture

Okay, I understand now.

I thought Hrant's comment re. Minion Greek was naïve -- I don't think modifying that type would be a good design solution for the project as described -- but I think you are taking the suggestion a bit beyond its context, and beyond its intent. I have done a couple of customisations of Adobe typefaces over the years, although these generally involved extension of existing designs rather than revisions. I've always asked for Adobe's permission, and they have always given it. Even when such projects do involve revision of the existing design, I wouldn't view them as vandalism unless they were poorly done. There are times when an existing typeface doesn't seem quite right for a project, but may be better than other available designs, and in that context I think modifying the design is a legitimate option. Ordinarily, I like to see such work offered first to the original designer, but Adobe is not in the business of making custom versions of its fonts for people, so they permit other people to do so. Is this really presenting 'a distorted idea of what typeface design is all about'? Type design is a varied activity and, so long as it is done with appropriate permissions, customisation of existing designs is a legitimate undertaking. At the end of the day, the typography is more important than the typeface, something we may forget as type designers, looking on our own work as an end product. Sometimes the typography calls out for something other than an out-of-the-box font, and then the question should be how can we best serve the text?

Miguel Sousa's picture

Thank you for stopping by, John. It's always a pleasure to read your posts.

It's all good between me and Hrant now, and I'm quite pleased with the way things turned out. We've also agreed to not take the discussion further.

Toby Macklin's picture

>There are a few things at play there. One is that, because of the classic manuscript hand and the ensuing crushing, centuries-long dominance of Barz, slanted text is naturally more culturally authentic for Armenian.

Thanks for the explanation that followed this snippet. Very satisfying!

I'll be in touch about Nour when my Armenian text turns up - needs translating yet.

Toby

vn's picture

>What about doing a 200-copy facsimile edition of his ՀԱՅԿԱԿԱՆ ՏԱՌԱՏԵՍԱԿՆԵՐ – Armenian Typefaces (1979) for ATypI Lisbon?

Hi there, I just do some research on Armenian type design and I wonder what has happened to this idea? Any chance to get a copy? Has this been realized?

Regards,
Viktor

hrant's picture

It's still a good idea... But hasn't happened yet.
Maybe in 2012... I've said too much. :-)

Now, if you want an old Armenian specimen book, let me know.
I recently bartered my last available one (that I picked up from
Armenia in July) but I can get more, with time.

hhp

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