Egyptian hieroglyphics

xensen's picture

Has anyone here ever worked with Egyptian hieroglyphics? I am working with an author who has embedded hieroglyphs in Microsoft Word documents using a program called WinGlyph (which is no longer available). This is for a university press book. From what I've been able to determine the images made their way into Word via a wmf format, which I believe is too low quality for high-end printing. But the author says that he has submitted Word documents with such glyphs embedded in them to journals and they looked all right. The author also says of hieroglyphs in conventional font formats that "none of them is adequate for serious Egyptological work, insofar as they do not allow for 'stacking,' i.e. the placement of one glyph on top of one, two, three others. They are all just linear which is not how hieroglyphs were written." If I am looking at taking each instance of the glyphs and fixing it in Illustrator this would be a monumental project. Any thoughts?

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Welcome to the world of Microsoft. I quess you need a program to extract those images from the Word file. If it kept the original images. Have you contacted Microsoft?

xensen's picture

I can extract low-quality gif images by saving the Word document as a web page. Groan.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Have you tried hign definition pdf?

DTY's picture

If the author can send you the input text, which is presumably in Manuel de codage format, you can use one of the other Egyptian layout engines that is available. FWIW, there's one for Mac called MacScribe, which can output *.eps files for you. I don't know whether the Windows options (InScribe, Glyphotext) output vector art, but this might be worth looking into. There's also a TeX one called HieroTeX.

xensen's picture

Thanks, Tomi and archaica.

Theunis de Jong's picture

.. a wmf format, which I believe is too low quality for high-end printing. ..

Nah-- not if the images are vector-based. Sure, wmf lacks stuff like bezier curves and three-point gradient filling, but I presume you are talking about simple (in geometric terms!) black-and-white shapes.

Did you check the other files you get on Save as Web page? You are probably overlooking the .emz (or .wmz) files because you cannot open them with anything. Rename one of these to .gz, extract using just about any compression program except Windows' built-in one (7-Zip has no problems with gz), rename the result back to: emf (for an emz file) or wmf (for a wmz). Then open in Illustrator.

If that doesn't work, follow Tomi's advice and print to PDF.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

It may be worth noticing that Egyptian Hieroglyphs have been given official Unicode points about one year ago. Though that will hardly help with handling of older documents and specific file formats, the way is now open to implement Old Eyptian based on regular encoding. Of course, the variable stacking of glyphs renders a particular challenge for text composing. However, I imagine that some Opentype solutions may well provide remarkable possibilities to elegantly master even that. Given the sheer amount of characters (over 1000) this means a very great deal of intense work to master though.
Are Egyptologists aware of that perspective? Or will they lean back and wonder about others who “fail to handle” the matter, like they did for so long time? The encoding of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs was not a project of any academical institution, it was the effort of one single independent man.

Theunis de Jong's picture

Andreas, if Egyptologists are anything like the other language scientists I have had to deal with, they'd probably reluctantly submit their papers electronically. Because before that, they'd always sent in engraved stone slabs, and that worked just fine the past two hundred years.

If the Unicode coding only makes sense in combination with Opentype features, the task of producing the correct hieroglyphs is delegated to software developers ... in other words, you may expect the full range of 'totally not supported' via 'good-but-not-quite' to 'hey, in this program it works perfectly'. Granted, as soon as you found a program where it works, it's just a matter of writing a PDF and using that instead in the program of your choice.

Michel Boyer's picture

There is also JSesh whose input is in the manuel de codage format; it is free, and runs on many platforms. It comes with lots of egyptian texts ready to open and read (if you read the language). I just opened one of those files on my MacBook Pro, copied some text as pdf (the Edit menu allows "Copy as..." > "Copy as PDF") and pasted it in InDesign without a glitch.

Michel Boyer's picture

You can also export in a variety of formats including eps, encapsulated pdf, svg (for further processing in Illustrator for instance) but be careful: at least with encapsulated pdf, it is the selection that is exported, not the full text. If you select nothing, you get an empty file and an error when you try opening (or at least that is what I get on my MacBook Pro with OS X 10.5).

DTY's picture

Thanks, Michel. I hadn't known about JSesh (last time I had to deal with Egyptian was several years ago). It looks like it will be very useful if I have to work with Egyptian again.

xensen's picture

This is all very helpful. Thanks a lot.

oprion's picture

Jsesh is the one I used when I had a brief run-in with a need to typeset hieroglyphics.

Having said that, the glyph designs that come with the program aren't all that pretty, so I ended up redrawing most of them afterward.

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