Cyrillic questionary booth

kateliev's picture

Sorry to delete this but I must really say that all written by me was really shxx.
My apologies to all of you.

andreas's picture

Nick, the brave. :-) Hm, I'm not sure if Cyrilliza should be the official English name for it. Its sounds quite nice. At this point, we need some typophile Bulgarians! This is the homepage of the National Academy of Arts: Maybe, Nick you should ask someone form the book & printed graphics department.

I would make a stylistic set and would use the local feature too.

paul d hunt's picture

CYRILLIZA is not a special form of Cyrillic, as he mentioned it - its an own alphabet and now the third official alphabet of the the European union.

This is very confusing. I should like to see the official EU documentation on this. cyrilliza is just a different way of transliterating кириллица (pronounced kiɾiliʦə), which in English we translate as Cyrillic.

andreas's picture

Paul, you see the cultural source of your information? This is the one source of the "problem"? Even EU government institutions use the "common" fonts - Arial & Co. :-) So you can image how Mr. Vadjiev and his colleges feel if they see such typefaces each day. :-)
I think this can and should be best judged by Bulgarian type designers.

paul d hunt's picture

Bulgarian: кирилица.

There, is that better?

Maxim Zhukov's picture
  • Cyrilliza. So this is the correct name for this branch of the Cyrillic alphabet? Will people know what I'm talking about if I refer to my fonts as "supporting the Cyrilliza alphabet" ― or would it also be good to add "(Bulgarian)"?

Nick, in many Slavic languages, including Russian, Кириллица (reads ‘Kirillitsa’) stands for 'Cyrillic alphabet'. Likewise, Глаголица (‘Glagolitsa’) means 'Glagolitic', and Латиница (‘Latinitsa’) ― ‘Latin’ [alphabet, or script].

Among non-Bulgarian designers the subject of this discussion is sometimes referred to, for lack of a better term, as Болгарица (‘Bolgaritsa’). However, by no means should it be mistaken for an official definition: it's a type designers' slang. There are a few nicknames of this kind, like Armyanitsa, Gruzinitsa, Evreitsa, Arabitsa, &c.

Sure enough, this is not a branch of the Cyrillic alphabet. It is a special pattern, an inflection of the l.c. glyph construction. The alphabet, or more correctly, the script, is still the same, Cyrillic. The character set is Bulgarian, of course.

Maxim Zhukov's picture
  • Bulgarian: кирилица.
    There, is that better?

It is. I stand corrected. The spelling of the word word 'Cyrillic' varies among most Slavic languages using that script:

  • Belarusian: кірыліца;
  • Bulgarian: кирилица;
  • Macedonian: кирилица;
  • Russian: кириллица;
  • Serbian: ћирилица;
  • Ukrainian: кирилиця.
Jongseong's picture

Brian, if you're still reading this thread --any luck with the italic lower case little yus reference?

I'm sorry I've kept you waiting. I went scouring all over the Internet for samples of early modern Bulgarian printed works that include italics—how I miss having access to a large university library!—and after some frustrating 'almost' finds, Google Books bailed me out:

A grammar of the Bulgarian language with exercises and English and Bulgarian vocabularies (1859) includes a table of the letters that include italic forms. Perhaps because it reflects a chaotic situation in terms of orthography at the time, it also includes a variety of iotified forms including the iotified yus. It includes some interesting information, such as that the fact that most of the books then in use were printed in Russia, where some of the letters not available were substituted, including yus with 'y' (p. 10).

The italic yus, as far as I can tell from the low-resolution scan, simply looks like a slanted yus.

That's all I could find so far, and I hope the Bulgarians here can provide more help on the italic forms of obsolete letters.

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks Brian.
I love the exercise phrases in that 1859 book.

I'll post images of some yus's soon.

Jongseong's picture

I love the exercise phrases in that 1859 book.

Charming, aren't they?

What kind of needles has he brought from Hamburg? (p. 62)
When we were rich we also wore fine clothes. (p. 89)
From whom do you come? I come from the shoemakers. (p. 98)
Where are you going in this rain, in this bad weather, in this cold, in this dust? (p. 98)

When I saw that you were doing a 19th-century revival, I thought it would be nice to have the additional Bulgarian letters appropriate for the period. After looking at the low-resolution samples online of Bulgarian printed texts from the period, I'm only more convinced that those letters would be excellent additions to your project.

The typographic component of the Bulgarian revival seems to have owed a lot to the Cyrillic types produced in the Russian Empire, and the Adolf Darre typeface you chose is as good a representative as any. I confess I'm not really a fan of moderns for Latin type, but for Cyrillic this period style seems to work perfectly, with the vertical stress and prominent bulbs. I'm sure a quality digital revival will serve as a welcome source of inspiration for today's cyrillic type designers.

Nick Shinn's picture

it would be nice to have the additional Bulgarian letters appropriate for the period.

In this little section, there are a couple of iotified forms, so those, and possibly others, would have to be added too.
The accents could be done by the typographer.

But who would use such a font?
For comparison, it would be like setting Shakespeare in English with long s's -- sure, it would be nice, and very authentic, but consider how little demand there would be for that -- despite the huge readership of Shakespeare -- and compare that with the number of readers of old Bulgarian!

One would be better employed, as Adobe has recently done, extending Cyrillic support to cover further tens of millions of present-day readers/writers -- and is still criticized (on the Phinney blog) for its discretionary cut off-line that leaves out several languages.

Nick Shinn's picture

And here is an iotified little yus.

So for 1859 Bulgarian I need to add:

little yus
iotified little yus
iotified a
iotifed e

Any more?

Considering that each weight has roman and italic, caps, small caps, and lower case, that's six different glyphs for each character, and at the moment I have a family of "only" three weights/styles, so that's 72 extra glyphs required to implement the feature...

speter's picture

So, I just got back from a trip to Vladimir (180km outside of Moscow), and I was amazed at how many shop signs there use "Bulgarian" glyphs (k and zhe with ascenders, "italic" d, t, etc. in upright use, etc.). I can post a picture or two if people want.

Maxim Zhukov's picture
  • any luck with the italic lower case little yus reference?

Nick, I've got you one, although cursive, not italic. However, it's not a little yus, but a big one that was part of the Bulgarian alphabet until 1945. I believe, its iotated cousin was also used in Bulgaria, until 1910s. There were attempts of using the iotated e in Bulgarian writing in mid-19th century (those are highlighted in red in the picture I refer to). Also, there are some claims to the occasional use of the iotated a in the second half of 19th century. You're sure you want to go there?

twardoch's picture


regarding this image:

I really don't think you should include both "b" variants (the ones in top right corner). The first form (with very little space between the bowl and the foxtail) is just poorly proportioned, and the second form is simply good, and works for Russian much better than the first one.


Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks for your concern Adam, but my face is a revival, and that "b" is the way it was made in this genre of typeface in the late 19th century.

Here are examples from four different books (one of which is a type specimen) of that era.

I was tempted to give my face a plumb-line, vertically-stemmed "y" tail, but decided that consistency with the latin over-rode that, and not all Cyrillic y's of that era had vertical tails, although from a design point it makes sense, avoiding bumping into the teeth (descenders) of preceding characters such as "de".

Nick Shinn's picture

You're sure you want to go there?

Well, I let you talk me into making Fita, Yat, and Izhitsa :-)
Actually, I have decided against backwards compatability with 19th century Bulgarian.
It's one thing to do a type revival, but language revival is a horse of a different colour.
Thanks for the sample, though.

But seriously, let's talk about the yat. Pushkin, the great early-19th century author, used it, so the theory goes that it would be good to set his work that way (and a Scotch Modern would be the authentic type style) -- but what is the demand or inclination for that kind of thing? Wouldn't one employ one's time better making, for instance, schwa --to support present day Khazak users, etc?

froo's picture

Dear Nick,
I think that yat was a linguistic ballast in Pushkin's times. But...
He probably used it as tool of poetry; for various technical, or aesthetic, romantic reasons.
Including yat in the font could be a great hommage to his poetry. I suppose the poems ("modernised", written with e instead of Ѣ), loose the melody and probably some rhymes.

quadibloc's picture

It is true that Church Slavonic is sometimes called Old Bulgarian, and that Russia and Bulgaria have had their own independent historical development of the Cyrillic letterforms.

But to go from there to criticizing Russian influence on Bulgarian type design as somehow inauthentic seems to be lacking something. Do people complain when Optima is used to set English texts as well as German ones, or when Bodoni is used to set French texts as well as Italian ones? No; it is recognized that from Poland to Spain, people are all using the same Latin alphabet, even if with slightly different sets of accented letters, and so of course they have the same pool of typefaces to choose from - even if different letter frequencies might make some typefaces more aesthetic in conjunction with some languages.

Bulgaria, Serbia, the Ukraine, Belarus, and so on share the Cyrillic alphabet with Russia. Here, some of the languages actually have additional letters, so the diversity is somewhat greater. But it is still not a question of trying to shoehorn one alphabet into the typefaces made for another - i.e., to take an Armenian typeface, and try to use those exact forms and styling for Amharic or Gujarati or Greek or Cyrillic or Latin.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Dear Marcin,

I am not sure what you mean by ‘linguistic ballast’. In early 19th-century Russia using yat’—and also the decimal i, the fita, the izhitsa, the terminal yer, all abolished in 1918—was not an option. For sure, Pushkin did not use the yat’ ‘as a tool of poetry’; b.t.w., he also used it in his prose, his essays, his correspondence, his notes, his diaries, etc. He simply followed the standard spelling rules used in his times.

F.y.i., the pre-1918 spelling is still used—in Russia and world-wide—in clerical literature, scholarly print, even general publishing. This is why the letters whose use was officially discontinued in 1918 are often included in the digital Cyrillic fonts.

froo's picture

I introduced confusion. I know, that Lomonosov stated that the difference between sounds of Ѣ and e was barely unrecognisable. For me it looked like the evolving language started to throw the ballast away. But the rest of my post was overinterpretation. Old spelling rules were ubiquitous at the time (and they come back as we've seen), so yat' should be included in good Cyrillic font.

Let me quote this photo as my self-ironic dedication to you, Mr. Maxim. Thank you.

Nick Shinn's picture

the pre-1918 spelling is still used—in Russia and world-wide—in clerical literature, scholarly print, even general publishing.

Yes, it is considered spelling, according to the Unicode distinction between character and glyph.
By the same token, the long s (used by all English authors prior to 1800) should be considered different spelling.
It was not abolished by government decree, but fell from usage.

I'm pretty sure, however, that nobody really considers the long s to be a different spelling, any more than changing from two-bowl "g" to single bowl.

froo's picture

To use yat', you need to hear it or know spelling rules. Without learning them, I, as a Pole, could only guess where to put it into Russian text, observing flexion of my language.

nina's picture

Nick – at the risk of pointing out the obvious (and offtopic too), the long s is not just a stylistic variant of the "s"; its use does (did) follow spelling rules. The comparison to one-story or two-story "g" does not make much sense to me, as those are purely variations in style, without roots in orthography.

Maxim Zhukov's picture
  • To use yat', you need to hear it or know spelling rules.

What’s wrong with knowing spelling rules? Of your own, or a foreign language? Yes, in almost all languages there are many spelling conventions one could declare ‘a linguistic ballast‘… Say, why shouldn’t one spell physics as fiziks? That could work much better, right?

Marcin, it looks like you know Russian. If you do, check that excellent essay on yer (the hard sign) written by Professor Albert Baiburin. It is very well written. I loved his quoting Leon Trotsky’s passionate rejection of yat’:

  • The letter yat’, as well as the hard sign, the fita and the izhitsa belong to that nobility class in our alphabet which has been eliminated by the October Revolution. Those were unnecessary, redundant letters, of the parasitic-gentility kind. They’ve been done away with […]. As to the other letters, which are truly necessary—they have no noble, parasitic lineage, but are indeed hard-toiling, working letters.’

Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira. Tous les signes durs on les pendra!

paul d hunt's picture

Maxim, I prefer 'fizix'.

Michel Boyer's picture

Tous les signes durs on les pendra!

I thought it was only those in final position.

Maxim Zhukov's picture
  • I thought it was only those in final position.

In actuality those revolutionary sailors came and trashed all yers—both upper and lower case, from all compositors’ cases, and all matrices from all single-letter- and line-casting machines, from all composing rooms—nation-wide. When they recovered themselves it was too late: all yers were gone, and even if some have been left, no one would have dared using them. So they started using single or double apostrophe for the separating hard sign (e.g., под’ем instead of подъем); that felt both space-saving and politically correct. Here is a fragment of an old memorial plaque I photographed in downtown Moscow two years ago:

quadibloc's picture

The long s certainly did follow regular rules for its appearance. Essentially, the long s was used everywhere, with two exceptions: short s was used at the end of a word, and if s occurred twice in a row, the second one was a short s.

However, since both the long and short s were forms of the letter S, and because the long/short s rules were regular, use of long and short s would be thought of, I would suspect, as part of "how you wrote" a word, not "how you spelled" a word, since how you spell a word is the sequence of letters of which it is composed. Thus, "princess" is spelled P - R - I - N - C - E - S - S even if when you write it in lowercase it looks like princefs.

Michel Boyer's picture

You can write a substitution table for English that gives on the output the long s in the right places if the input file contains everywhere the letter "s" instead of 017F LATIN SMALL LETTER LONG S. Could you produce a unicode font good for Russian that would put the yat in the right positions if the input contains everywhere the letter "е" instead of 0463 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER YAT?

nina's picture

Sorry* – I realize now I should've said I was thinking of German. AFAIK you can't do correct s -> longs substitution automatically in German; except maybe with a huge dictionary.
(* For any confusion; and also for sidetracking the thread.)

Michel Boyer's picture

And I meant "opentype", not "unicode".

froo's picture

...and I would never write that knowing spelling rules. I just wanted to say, that the appearance of yat' is based on much more complicated rules than those of the long s.

froo's picture

OFFTOPIC: excellent essay. I don't remember when I read something so joyful and pleasant in Internet!

Maxim Zhukov's picture
  • if s occurred twice in a row, the second one was a short s

Not necessarily. Even in Fraktur typography where the use of the long ſ is not a stylistic option, not every s in the beginning and the middle of the word should be made tall, and not every second s short. On the other hand, historically, the ſſ combination was not entirely out of question:

Please note those néceſſité, commiſſionnaire, ſageſſe. The ſſ ligature is part of the glyph sets of some popular digital fonts (shown here are Arno, Garamond Premier, and Adobe Caslon):

jeff11's picture

Cyrillic types from Bulgaria are more than calligraphy. It's art. I came across it while at the phoenix web design about a year ago.

tourdeforce's picture

All this just for spelling issue?
Hm... whatever anyone said, I'd always call it Ћирилица like we were taught and generations before us.
For English version of this word... I really don't care so much cause probably big % of English spoken population couldn't said Ћирилица on proper way like we said in Serbia... so if you ask me, I think no one should be offended by this.

Slavenskoj's picture

You can’t write a substitution table, because some cases where ‘е’ is to be substituted by ‘ѣ’ results in multiple options, the choice amongst which is non-trivial and requires grammatical analysis of the sentence. The same can be said for other letters which appear in classical texts: ‘і’, ‘ѵ’, ‘ѳ’. Not only that, but the reforms of 1918 changed Russian grammar rules as well as spelling rules.

That said, I've created an online services that inserts ‘ѣ’ and other letters, including Bulgarian ‘ѫ’, where they should be in Russian and Bulgarian texts using a combination of algorithmic substitutions and dictionary lookups. Where multiple options are available for one modern word, all choices are presented.

You can access the Bulgarian interface at: бъл.славеница.com
Select Бъгларски - нови правопис and convert to Български - иванчевски правопис.

ръкописна книга → рѫкописна книга

For Russian, рус.славеница.com
Select Русский - новое правописание and convert to Русскій - петровское правописание.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Just tried the „блѣдно-сѣрый бѣдный бѣсъ убѣжалъ, бѣдняга, въ лѣсъ“. Works fine. Thank you very much, Danslav.

Slavenskoj's picture

Yat' apears mostly where Polish uses ia: biały → бѣлый.
For Czech speakers, yat' appears where ě appears, and sometimes í: dílo, dělo → дѣло, v Prazě → в Прагѣ.

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