The New Rabbinical Assembly Mahzor

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

At the urging of my dear friend and colleague Israel Seldowitz, I wish to share with the Typophile Hebrew group some news about Mahzor Lev Shalem, the new High Holidays Mahzor I designed and produced for the Rabbinical Assembly. It's a work of 944 pages, measuring 6.5" (16.5cm) x 9.1875" (28.34cm). The Hebrew type, inspired by Henri Friedlaender's Hadassah, was made by me and Israel.

You might be interested in reading this:
http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/the-rabbi-of-book-design-an-interview-wi...

You can see a sample of the mahzor here:
http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/Mahzor.KolNidrei.pdf

The first printing of 130,000 sold out before all the books were off the bindery line. A second printing of another 50,000 copies, which contains a number of small corrections, is now underway.

All the best,
Scott

William Berkson's picture

Eli, Raphael, are you looking at the most recent versions of Shlomo, above (Oct 11 and 13)? Do you think the most recent version is an improvement over the originally posted version?

david h's picture

Bill,

It is not the version or the improvement, but the whole concept. The shin, for example, is small/too small; the shape is too 'round' -- one solution: playing with the curve of the left arm (see the ayin -- the left arm)

William Berkson's picture

David, I don't know if the round bottom on the shin is the problem, because Zvi Narkis brought it off successfully. Did Narkis create the round-bottomed shin? I also saw the shin as too narrow, above.

I like your idea on the shin, but then it wouldn't be so consistent with the samech and tet, though more so with the ayin. Maybe there is a problem of consistency, as well as rhythm—which was my main concern above ...

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

I promised not to show Shlomo again until it's finished, but I will say that many of the things you've addressed have been changed quite dramatically, including the shapes of the shin, tet, samekh. The proportions of letters have been adjusted, as well. It's been quite transformed.

I don't much participate in blogs, nor do I attend type-centered events. I'm a designer, producer, typographer, editor, and sometimes author of books, not a full-time type designer by any means, though I've been involved with making type from well before the PostScript era. (I spent ten years working with metal.) I'm interested in how type performs for readers, not as an end in itself. A very large part of how type works depends on the skill of the compositor, how balance and clarity are brought to bear on the problems at hand. So I'm loathe to post large letters for fonts that will only be used small; or small letters at lo-res that inevitably look very poor. If someone can tell me how to post a PDF here (mine are always rejected), I'll post more.

Raphael, your comparison of Shlomo and Libi is invidious and irrelevant; it's apples and oranges. If you wish to compare Libi with the Le Bé that Matthew Carter and I are making, that's another matter. Ever since Mahzor Lev Shalem appeared, you've taken the opportunity to criticize my work, even if you had to stretch yourself into irrelevance. I find it rude, and I believe it only reflects poorly on you. It would have been nice to have in you a good colleague, as we work on similar things. I remain open to the possibility.

Eli, now I see what LIBI is--an "interpretation" of the larger Le Bé letters. I'm afraid the vigor of the original, and the wonderful sweep of the master punch-cutter, are lost. I don't understand the spacing at all; there's no discipline to the sidebearings.

William Berkson's picture

Thanks Scott-Martin for your willingness to post and your receptivity. I look forward to seeing the final.

The sometimes brutal comments here are a problem, and I wish folks would show more restraint all around.

david h's picture

Bill,

> David, I don't know if the round bottom on the shin is the problem, because Zvi Narkis brought it off successfully...

Let's see:

But I think that I'm done with this thread; the "being accused of heresy" is not for us; we don't have time for that stuff.

William Berkson's picture

David, the asymmetry of Narkis' shin is a good point. Also I like the way he lightened the interior by not connecting the middle stroke. I don't get what you are referring to by "heresy" in this thread, but maybe I'd better let it lay.

Scott-Martin, I haven't posted a PDF recently, but I know that at one time you could only attach it to the first post here, for some reason. Try that.

Also recently I figured out that if something is posted fairly big, but enough for multiple words and lines, you can see pretty well the effect small by slowly moving back from the screen.

david h's picture

Bill,

> I don't get what you are referring to by "heresy" in this thread...

The whole concept (again :)) -- you're rude, criticize my work, reflects poorly on you; 'ah, you're saying my work is all over... -- here's a literacy test...now you can't say anything, I'm working with my friend..."

Typograph's picture

Scott, Obvously we can't comment on some thing that is not shown.
however, i would believe that if you changed the face so dramatically, then we are talking about an entierly new typeface (not the one prevously shown).

raphaelfreeman's picture

I'm sorry if you found my comments rude. They weren't meant to be. You posted a font on a typography forum. I thought the point was to comment on the typography. I'm a little confused.

I simply stated that the font in my eyes was very hard to read. That's okay. People have commented on finding Koren hard to read. That's okay too. I think that if there is one place in the world that commenting on a font is okay, that is here. I really think that is okay.

However, since my comments have come across negatively, I will simply ask for your forgiveness and refrain on commenting. The last thing I want is for my comments to be miscontrued as being rude.

Shavua Tov.

Typograph's picture

Rephael, there is a huge differnce between the Koren Face and Shlomo Face.
Koren is what is. no one wants to make a better Koren a more ledgibale Koren.
Koren is a done deal for the good and the bad.

Shlomo however is a font in the making. not just another font, but a font that they are planing to produce with it MACHZORIM, which is going to cost.
so comment of this type face becomes more important.

Now lets forget the fact that i have designed some hebrew faces in the past.
the fact is, that i am an israeli, born in Israel, and hebrew is my native tongue.
and any israeli that has a slight understanding in hebrew typogrophy, will tell you the same.

I have seen bad fonts before, but who cares, so another horrible font exists.
but planning an entier production based on such a font, you should listen to the comments.

no one is here to be rude or insult anothers work.
but for now (before seeing the new shlomo) investing money on a production based on shlomo, is what we would call, "PUTING YOUR MONEY ON THE HORNES OF A GAZELLE"

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

Thank you. Raphael. I think you missed my point, but I am grateful for your apology all the same, and I accept it.

Eli, unless I’ve missed something terribly important, I don’t think living in Israel automatically bestows upon its residents the wisdom of the prophets. I would remind you that a native typographic culture in Israel goes back only to the 1950s. Moshe Spitzer’s Jerusalem Typefoundry (Otiot Y’rushalyim) issued its first catalogue in 1959. The types of Ismar David and Henri Friedlaender were cut in Europe and the United States. It was only with the advent of PostScript that the repertory of Hebrew types was able to expand to some size. Twenty+ years does not a culture make; it’s simply a beginning, perhaps only long enough for a trend to play out. The vast majority of the types made in Israel appear to be intended for advertising or corporate image work, not for long-haul reading.

In contrast, the Hebrew typographic culture of the Diaspora is, for all intents and purposes, as old as type itself. In the West, especially in England and America, our 20th-century type culture was dominated by historical revivals, beginning with William Morris’s interpretation of Jenson and most especially the program of types initiated in the 1920s by Stanley Morison at Monotype (I mean the Monotype that made casting machines, not the digital merchant foundry of today). The Arts & Crafts manner of printing came late to the Jewish world, achieving importance in Germany in the 1920s. Had it followed the West into a next step of historical revivals, it might have resulted in very different types dominating the scene today. But the time was lost—stolen, really. One can only speculate about what might have been. But one may wonder, too, whether a repertory of historically based Hebrew fonts would have been compatible with Zionist ideals, which rejected as much of European culture as it could, Jewish or not.

For those of us of a certain age--I’m 57--whose background is metal type (whether working with it or reading it during the formative years), our typographic sensibilities are governed by things you might not have considered: the design “ethic” of the counter-punch, the undesirability of over-regular forms, and, most importantly, the size-specific nature of type design. Your types, which are admirably made, suffer from a lack of these things; your forms are so mechanically regular that they look as if they came from a box of snap-on parts. Moreover, it’s hard to tell what their optimal size might be. Please don’t think for a minute that I’m saying this in defense of Shlomo, which is not yet a defensible product. Rather, I say this because I think you come from a cultural perspective (I have a feeling you’re a generation younger than I am) that’s really very limited. I see that, in your Vilna types, you tried to regularize everything there, too; I find the affect monotonous. Types that look nice and neat often become quite annoying over the long haul. I used to say that too few designers are dedicated readers; sadly, the same can be said today about type designers. You’d do well to look at (and READ) old types, from the time punches were cut by hand, and try to get a sense of how individual quirks of form add up to greater readability, and much less strain on the eyes. Bill Berkson, who’s made an admirable new version of Caslon, understands this well. We have a heritage that’s largely ignored: the types of the Soncinos and Foa and Bomberg, the types of the Le Bés, and the very important types of Solomon Proops, in the 17th century.

I remind you that we Diasporans are at least half of the world’s readers of Hebrew, even more if one includes the small number of Christian scholars and others who read the language regularly. Our tradition of Hebrew reading is some 2000 years old, through the time when there was no conversational Hebrew. Much, though by no means all, of our reading is not the same as yours; it is predominantly religious literature—Torah, siddur, Talmud, and so on. I also remind you that there is a kind of Hebrew reader in the Diaspora that doesn’t exist in Israel: adults who read Hebrew haltingly, as though they were young students. This is a common condition in the liberal congregations for whom I have been making prayer books. Unlike children in Israel, who grow up surrounded by Hebrew letterforms, these people have no such experience. It means that differentiations of letters have to be pronounced in ways you would never have to consider.

My advice to you, Eli: Tse’enah u-re’enah—“go out and look!” The world of Hebrew type did not begin in 1948. And one more thing: good manners are not merely chukkat hagoyim. If you’re unable to cultivate them, you might find the gazelle’s horns sticking into your behind someday.

Typograph's picture

Scott: I enjoyed reading your last post.
I agree and disagree on a few points.

I am 36 much younger than you, and believe that you have more experience than i in type design. however, as an israeli who lives in israel his intier life, has some expectations from what a hebrew letter should look like.

there is a huge difference between type being designed today and types designed before 1948. generations grew up on HADASSA or FRANKRUEL Ect' so they are used to it allthough they might have their problems. but types being designed today don't have that privilege. readers out side of israel who are surrounded mainly by english don't have these expectations and expect to have in the hebrew letter forms qualities that they meat in the english forms.
So there is for certain an israeli culture, 2 generations are enough to establish a colture. because a 20 yrold person that is all he knows.

Koren Type is a beautiful type face, although one might argue abot its legibility, Koren has become Classic and thats that.

Once again, I have no intention of being rude or insulting your work.
But "Tse’enah u-re’enah" Post Shlomo on israeli design forums Like TAPUZ "Tikshoret Chazutit", ZmanDigitali Or Prog, and see how a native israeli will react.

http://www.tapuz.co.il/tapuzforum/main/forumpage.asp?id=171
www.prog.co.il
http://forum.zmandigitali.co.il/forum/

Scott, My comments have nothing to do with manners.
I express my natural opinion on the type and destiny being questioned, not my opinion on the designer or person.
Unlike Rephael, I have no history with you and i don't even know you, so be sure that there is no politics involved.

So there is no reason to get insulted by my comments.

david h's picture

> It means that differentiations of letters have to be pronounced in ways you would never have to consider.

huh?

>...whose background is metal type (whether working with it or reading it during the formative years), our typographic sensibilities are governed by... and, most importantly, the size-specific nature of type design.

A free lesson about type design from the great type designer Jonathan Hoefler.

At a, the 6pt S of Pierre Wafflard, from the 1819 Didot specimen book.
At c, a display size S from the same specimen.

Jonathan Hoefler: "The challenge is deciding which characteristics of these vastly different letters should be preserved. In this case, I liked the thicks and thins of the larger size, but I preferred the proportion and curvature of the smaller original - the serifs starting further from the baseline and cap height, the lower bowel jutting out further, and so on"

(from the book by Cabarga; the rest... visit his website)

And again:
> It means that differentiations of letters have to be pronounced in ways you would never have to consider.

huh?

The age of metal type is over!

raphaelfreeman's picture

I think there is another very very important factor to realise when it comes to type and that is really how it is read.

Most people reading this forum are reading the English language. Now let's look at the different posts. In some of them, there are spelling mistakes (often due to it being a foreign language). We don't mind them. It doesn't prevent us from reading those posts. Why?

Sometimes there are typos. Again, it doesn't bother us.
Why?

Now let's look at how Hebrew is taught to kids to read. How to people read the Hebrew language? Now people from the diaspora, can you use a siddur without nikud?
And why not?

The shape of the word including nikud is very important for someone out of Israel who might have been reading Hebrew all their life in their siddur three times a day and out of their Tanakh. But interestingly enough, in my experience, Israelis look and read Hebrew completely differently to people outside of Israel and what they consider to be legible or not is very very different to what people from outside of Israel consider to be legible.

It is true that most faces are designed for advertising and that most books are set in Frankruehl and it takes a publisher with a lot of guts to publish a book set in another face. But one has to think carefully about the face to typeset a siddur.

When I was asked to typeset the new Singer's Prayer Book for Great Britain, we were looking at a number of faces. It seemed natural to try and find something close to the font that the original siddur had been set in. However, after trying many typefaces, the audience wanted the "Artscroll font". They had moved over to Artscroll and were used to it. We chose a typeface called FbHadasaNew which is a variation of Hadasa of course and they loved it.

When starting to work for Koren a couple of years later, we were concerned that in the USA, there was a whole generation of people whose only interaction with the Hebrew language was in fact Hadasa (or a slight variation). Was Koren going to be a difficult font to get used to? Was it more or less legible. Israelis agree that it's more, many American's will say less. Why?

Another interesting anecdote. In the UK, Koren has been approached to make a new children's siddur. Unfortunately we have got stuck because the alef and resh are different from... well Hadasa. And children are taught the letters in rather a strange way it seems. The resh in the siddur font is a real problem because it looks like a vav! I was dumbstruck. Davka I thought that the resh was better because in the Tanakh font the resh and dalet would be very similar to a child's eye. No, they said. The resh and dalet in the Tanakh font are completely different. Go figure!

All I'm saying is that one has to be very very aware of the target audience. It could be that Shlomo, in the eyes of a worshiper in the United States is a very readable font. And perhaps, people like Eli and I are no longer in the position to comment on this market particularly in light of the comments that I've posted.

This is an interesting area of type. Does the background and use of the typeface influence the legibility.

I'll finish with one final point. I always knew intuitively that to set a quantity of text in italics was a typographic "no no" because it's hard to read a large amount of text in italic. Yet, there was a period of time that books were set in italic or was this only scribes -- I don't recall. But the point is there. We are not used to seeing text in italic and therefore it's hard to read....

gohebrew's picture

Scott-Martin,

Wow!

What feedback?

This blog is barking with great excitement. Are you claiming that the shin of Shlomo has a divine origin?

There are two qualities to Shlomo, that in my opinion, are special.

Like Isamar David's David, Shlomo looks like a sans typeface (even though they are really not a pure sans), and its letter forms are wide like the classic square letters (Hadasa or Vilna).

A wide square-like letter is very important for readability.

Typograph's picture

> Are you claiming that the shin of Shlomo has a divine origin?
why would the SHIN of Shlomo be of devine origin????

> A wide square-like letter is very important for readability.
I can see that you are inloved with squer letters, but why do you thing that this factor is important for readability???

With Nikud And Taamim, A would agree with you on that, because the squere letters with all thats happening with nikud and taamim leave more white spaces, and keeps better balance of posetive and negitive spaces.

gohebrew's picture

Eli,

I was joking. Scott-Martin is of divine originality. Ask his mom!

gohebrew's picture

Eli,

>>>
> A wide square-like letter is very important for readability.
I can see that you are inloved with squer letters, but why do you thing that this factor is important for readability???
>>>

Square-like (there is no square letter, though the letter form in a Torah scroll uses a 3 x 3 grid) letters, ie those width are close to their height, allow the eye greater time to perceive the letter form.

Letters which are more rectangular do not.

Hence, readability is increased, but there can not be too much details.

Many scribes have reported this. They are true professionals who not only draw letters, but review them every day for hours when they inspect mezuzot etc.

I have heard repeatedly that the Romm Vilna design is most conducive to long bouts of reading/study, because its points are rounded off.

gohebrew's picture

In the Talmud, which features Romm Vilna, nikkud and taam don't appear.
Yet, much time is spent reading the text over and over.
Readability is essential.

Typograph's picture

>In the Talmud, which features Romm Vilna, nikkud and taam don't appear.
Yet, much time is spent reading the text over and over.
Readability is essential.

take a look at this thread
http://typophile.com/node/75773

----------------------------------
todays vilna is mor narrowed and fits in a rectangle

Typograph's picture

the take another look into the next link.
they discuss this issue

gohebrew's picture

I reviewed that link, and the other link at that blog, which took you to the BBC news:"Making ideas harder to read may make them easier to retain".

I very much disagree with this stupid statement.

This resembles Rav Shach zatzal's opposition to ArtScroll's translation of the Talmud by saying that such a translation takes away the challenge of deciphering the text. Hence, he was saying the same thing.

I think that the opposite is true.

If we remove or reduce the barriers to comprehending, then the real learning begins.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger zatzal endorsed the Romm Vilna edition of the Talmud specifically because it enhanced intensive study by offering the text to appear in clearer sparkling typefaces.

Learning is greater when reading is not hindered.

Typograph's picture

maybe your right.
I just pointed out the thread to your Attention.

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

Eli, this is becoming interesting. I may have been equally guilty taking for granted my cultural references as you have yours. What’s become clear is that we live in two very different Hebrew worlds. In mine, Hebrew appears only as the language of Bible, prayer, and religious study; it seldom appears without nikkud, or nikkud and taamim as the case may be; and it seldom appears without translation in the Latin alphabet, most often accompanied by annotations, and transliterations. Though Hebrew may be the minority of characters on the spread (my books are usually conceived in spreads, not individual pages), it has pride of place. Please take a look at the pages from my Mahzor Lev Shalem, a link for which can be found in the first entry on this blog. It is precisely the kind of work I refer to. http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/Mahzor.KolNidrei.pdf

The fit of fonts, and even some glyph designs are inevitably different when one designs primarily for nikkud and taamim. For example, the narrow letters—vav, zayin, yod, nun, and sometimes gimel, have to be a little wider and have broader sidebearings to accommodate the diacriticals without dybukkim, which, in turn, set the standards for the rest of the font. This precludes the kind of tight fit one would deploy for Modern Hebrew, or for a font used in Talmud or other classical texts that don’t use the diacriticals.

Width issues have led to problems adapting some modern fonts for use with nikkud and taamim. Neither Henri Friedlaender nor Ismar David designed their most famous fonts with diacriticals in mind. Ismar drew a set of nikkud for Interype David (I believe they were for filmsetting, never implemented), though some of these were very strange. From what I’ve seen produced at the Israeli typefoundries, diacriticals are an afterthought, when they exist at all. Nothing is done to refit the fonts to accommodate them, nor are size issues addressed. In the Koren Siddur, I find it disturbing and inadequate to see large types set from the text master. I also find it very strange to see the nikkud line set so far down from the baseline (as Koren had done for reasons of technical limitations), which makes tighter leading very difficult to achieve without creating high-decibel noise on the page. Why repeat what Eliyahu Koren felt he had to do, if there’s no longer a reason to do so? It’s not as if the design was handed down on Mount Sinai.

The typographic issues I face in my work are extremely elaborate, much more so than in any prayerbooks one would find in Israel, and even more so than in most Orthodox prayerbooks, such as Raphael’s Koren Siddur. The Artscroll siddurim can be elaborate, too, but typographic refinement and easy readability is not a concern of theirs. David Hamuel stated the obvious in saying that metal is dead. What he neglected to say was that its principals are not. It’s for that reason that the best Latin text types made today are created as multiple masters and packaged as separate fonts for size-specific application. Some examples include Adobe’s Premier Pro series, many of the types from DTL, Enschedé Font Foundry, Font Bureau (in its newspaper types), H&FJ (such as Mercury), and a number of serious independents (Feliciano, Storm, et al.) One cannot make a book like Mahzor Lev Shalem without them. What is dead is one-size-fits-all types for text. This was just an aberration that existed for a short time, as technologies were in transition. For types that have exaggerated thicks and thins, such as Vilna, you MUST have separate size masters. God doesn’t like lazy people.

A clarification for David Hamuel: I used the word “pronounced” in the sense of “emphasized,” not in the sense of “vocalization.

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

Raphael makes some valuable observations that I hadn’t read before my previous posting. Readability is a highly acculturated value that changes, sometimes dramatically, over time. Throughout the much of the 19th century and into the 20th, American books were chiefly set in various versions of the Scotch Roman, a kind of type one might think of as the Anglo-American Bodoni. These were the first kinds of type made available for machine setting because they were considered the standard. A change—a slow change—came when the highly influential printer Theodore Low De Vinne (1828-1914) introduced types of similar proportions that reduced the contrast of thick and thin. These types eased the way for the “Oldstyle Revival” of the 20th century, which still dominates book typography here. (We Americans are very conservative about discarding embedded traditions; there are things that originated in England that long since vanished there, but remain vital here.)

Today, people read Scotch and its derivatives with considerable discomfort, yet in the 19th century, when literacy expanded dramatically in this country, they were as mother’s milk. Our visual culture had changed. Except in the Hasidic world, the once dominant Frank-Ruehl has largely disappeared, too, especially in the liberal communities, where Hadassah and David (in one rotten version or another) took its place. When Artscroll began using a version of Hadassah, this pretty much marked the end of the Frank-Ruehl era—at least until it’s rediscovered as hip in another generation or two. Type in the West has always been a revolving door, moving century by century. To the eyes of my generation (I was born in 1953), types of the 16th and 18th centuries look “normal,” whereas types of the 19th and 17th centuries present readability problems. I generalize, of course, but I believe my central claims are valid. Raphael, this fits with your remarks about the extended use of italics. I would add, though, that the brief vogue for long italic texts, in the 16th century, used types that were made by geniuses such as Arrighi and Granjon, not ordinary men. The individuality of the forms (Eli might shriek that they’re not real fonts because they’re not mechanically consistent) is something very difficult to duplicate with our modern, perfect tools. Moreover, no fonts were ever so unequivocally size specific. Robert Slimbach, a man of very great skill and critical eye, has been trying to get there for years—and I am sure he will keep trying for many years to come. One thing’s for sure: the forms don’t lend themselves to good screen rendering, though that will change in time.

There are historical parallels throughout the Latin-alphabet world, and a situation that’s related, yet quite different, in Germany, which had gone in and out of blackletter and Latin for some time. (Interestingly, the Germans are unusually accepting of sans serifs for long texts.) When I mentioned that Israel’s (Eretz Israel’s) type culture is a very young one, I said it in the context of my own culture, where the trends have been historically very long. No doubt, rapid technological changes will shorten the cycles, and as every type manufacturer is spending a lot of time these days with screen types, it is very hard to predict how long the trends will be. If screen technology becomes even more sophisticated, as it has on hand-helds, we may be in for a Scotch revival yet!

When I began the design of Mahzor Lev Shalem, I was asked by the Rabbinical Assembly, the publisher, to use Hadassah, as that was what appeared in their more recent prayerbooks. I knew I was in for some trouble. I bought Masterfont’s version, and quickly discarded it. Then I bought Fb HadasaNew. The weight was a little closer to what I needed (a little too heavy), but I didn’t like the glyph designs, which I thought were too reduced and perfunctory. I contacted them and asked if they would work with me: I would redo the glyphs and sidebearings, they would do the rest. Lo tov—they didn’t understand what I wanted, or didn’t want to. It was then that I got in touch with Israel Seldowitz (I knew his brother, Mark, as the U.S. agent for AdobeME products). We were soon off and running. The resulting font, which I called Milon, is inspired by Hadassah, weighted somewhat like HadasaNew (though a little lighter), but something different and new. I still haven’t made a full titling version, as the only large type in the book is on the title page and cover; for those, I altered the small number of characters I needed in Illustrator. For the small Hebrew text in the commentaries, I used an available David, heavily adjusted, but still not fully satisfactory. Our time was very short; the entire 944-page book was produced by me alone, in 22 months, with much other work going on at the same time. The David--if it will still be David, which is not a type suited to diacriticals--will be redone for the next large printing, in the spring.

raphaelfreeman's picture

The position of the nikud and taamim in Koren had no technical limitation. It was done by hand using the equivalent of letraset.

William Berkson's picture

Scott-Martin and Raphael, I do not agree that readability is only a matter of familiarity. As I mentioned earlier, the period for doing all italic books was short, and never returned to. And the reaction against high contrast, such as Bodoni for text has not reverted in over a century.

In my view even rhythm and color help the eye-brain combination to easily decode the words, and having these uneven contributes to "noise" that makes reading less comfortable.

The question of how much this is a matter of human nature vs familiarity has been an on-going debate on Typophile. My own analysis of the issue will be shortly up on "iLoveTypography.com", so I won't repeat it here.

But, Scott-Martin, I do think that when you have three Israelis, who actually *read* Hebrew, as opposed to decoding it and reciting it, telling you that there is a problem reading your font, I think that should be ringing a lot of warning bells to you about rhythm and color.

It is true that reading Hebrew as a native speaker and what diaspora Jews do is a different process psychologically, but I doubt that it is so different that a more readable font with nikud for Israelis is a less readable one for diaspora Jews. I think you are probably right that a wider font is more compatible with nikud, and that is an interesting and insightful point. But I don't think that changes the need for even rhythm and color.

These were the issues on which I was commenting above, but with my "type design" hat on, and without the confidence of someone who knows the Hebrew language well. As I said earlier, I really like the visual idea of the terminals on your font, and I wish you well with it. But I do think it can fully succeed only if you get the relationship between characters to the point where Israelis also will find it a comfortably reading font.

gohebrew's picture

Rephael,

>> The position of the nikud and taamim in Koren had no technical limitation. It was done by hand using the equivalent of letraset.

Are you saying the alignment has no rhyme or reason? No logical consistancy - simply based upon E. Koren's eye, and occasional slip of the finger? So, how is Masterfont's Volt version 100%? Did he make a huge exception table of various strings, each with different alignmemt rules?

Come on!

raphaelfreeman's picture

of course there was rhyme and reason. He had drawings for the placement of each vowel and taam and rules for each one. The three people that worked on the pages, namely Shuki Friedman, Prof Ada Yardeni (she of course wasn't quite as famous in those days :-)) and one other (whose name I forget), then placed the nikud on the pages. Prof Yardeni relates that the first page of Bereshit took her a full day to do! She sped up after that :-)

There of course were many inconsistencies in how collisions were dealt with and this can be seen on the very first page of the Tanakh. However, with time, each of the people working on it, got better at it.

As I have mentioned many times on this forum, the Volt programming was done by Koren under my and Esther Be'er's strict supervision. The font wasn't programmed by Masterfont. I have also stated that the table isn't 100%. It can't be because VOLT couldn't compile so many collisions. I have already stated this on many occasions. However it's pretty much 95%, and each string of letter, nikud, taam combination is now consistent. The final corrections are done in a separate program programmed in flex for InDesign.

If you don't believe me, and your comment of "Come on!" suggests that you don't, then you are welcome to call up Prof Ada Yardeni and she can show you the process of how she stuck down the nikud and taamim. She still has the original stuff from over 50 years ago!

gohebrew's picture

>> As I have mentioned many times on this forum, the Volt programming was done by Koren under my and Esther Be'er's strict supervision. The font wasn't programmed by Masterfont.

>> I have also stated that the table isn't 100%. It can't be because VOLT couldn't compile so many collisions. I have already stated this on many occasions.

Rephael, this is not true. Volt is capable of handing an unlimited number of look-ups. My Volt programs contain more unused look-ups (some Christian scholars use a sequence where the meteg is placed between the nikkud and the taam) than all you could imagine.

I once experimented by copying and pasting all these unused look-ups, to see it Volt could produce such a font. Whalah, it worked. And InDesign CS/X ME didn't crash either.

The factor wasn't processing or crashing. It was gelt.

gohebrew's picture

>> If you don't believe me, and your comment of "Come on!" suggests that you don't, then you are welcome to call up Prof Ada Yardeni and she can show you the process of how she stuck down the nikud and taamim. She still has the original stuff from over 50 years ago!

The issue isn't the medium. It's the consistency of the system that Mr. Koren used. Were there specific rules of placement used in general, which were modified to avoid collisions?

If there were a set of logical rules:
eg. the nikkud is centered under these letters, justified right by these letters, the taamim are offset to the left of the nikkud, the meteg is offset to either the taam or the nikkud etc.

My quess that there is no unique system, and the workers erred now and them, as you intimidate.

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

Raphael, I was aware of the laborious method Koren deployed to apply the diacriticals to his Bible, using dry transfer over letterpress proofs of type cast by Deberny & Peignot at 36 pt Didot. Perhaps you can shed some light on a few things, for the historical record. What was in the full glyph set of the metal font? Did it comprise only alphabetic glyphs, or did it include dagesh characters, too, or vav-cholom combinations? What led to his decision to place the lower diacriticals so far from the baseline? Did he have a technical or practical reason for it, or was it an aesthetic decision? If it was the latter, on what precedent(s) did he base this very unusual decision? If it was for optical clarity, as he claimed, why then are the upper nikkud so close to the letters? And, though I am aware Koren wanted to accord the letters what he considered their “natural” form, why did he draw a lamed with a longer ascender than was necessary to achieve that, thereby creating visual and technical problems with the lower nikkud and taam on the previous line?

In my opinion, the Koren letters, per se, are not difficult to read as calligraphic types go, but the way they are composed with nikkud and taamim make for an unpleasant reading experience. This is an opinion I know is shared by some very highly regarded Bible scholars, one of whom had quoted, in regard to Koren’s Bible, Samuel Johnson’s famous quip about Milton’s epic poems, “I’d rather praise them than read them.” As one is today working in an entirely different medium than did Koren, himself, why not reinterpret his work for our time? I’m very involved with the reproduction in print of art photography, where the question of medium-appropriateness comes up all the time. Printing and photography are two different things; the chemistry of photo prints becomes part of the fabric of the paper, whereas the offset printing process merely deposits a small number of ink molecules on the surface of the paper. Digital prints are more like offset, but can look richer because the molecular density of the inks is much greater. To be successful and convincing in the reproduction of pictures, one must engage in a sensitive act of interpretation appropriate to each medium and each photographer's style. My earlier discussion of size-specific types is not so different from this, at least not philosophically. As it applies to Koren’s work, I always thought his Bible looked like something that had been reduced photographically, which it was. So much for his claims of purity. In fairness, though, he did what he had to do. The questions now is why perpetuate the exigencies of another time? Were Koren were around today, do you not think he would have tried to use the current technology to its fullest extent?

raphaelfreeman's picture

> eg. the nikkud is centered under these letters, justified right by these letters, the taamim are offset to the left of the nikkud, the meteg is offset to either the taam or the nikkud etc.

I think I misunderstood you to start with. Yes there was a system. The nikud is centered under the letter and the taamim are placed to the left of them. If there is no room, then different techniques were employed depending on the location of other letters. Since the Bible was already printed before the nikud was put in, then he took into account the text that was on the following line, something that when we digitised the font we couldn't do.

So there was a system, but yes, people weren't perfect and made mistakes.

>Rephael, this is not true. Volt is capable of handing an unlimited number of look-ups. My Volt programs contain more unused look-ups (some Christian scholars use a sequence where the meteg is placed between the nikkud and the taam) than all you could imagine.

Gohebrew: this is true.

Scott-Martin:
I believe that the metal font only had the alphabetical glyphs. I haven't seen them, but I do know the man that has them!

When you refer to the lower diacriticals, do you mean the taamim or the nikud in general. I have to say that I have never found them to be low. It's interesting that this has been brought up.

> In my opinion, the Koren letters, per se, are not difficult to read as calligraphic types go, but the way they are composed with nikkud and taamim make for an unpleasant reading experience.
Really? Again, this is very interesting. I happen to find it extremely easy to leyn from. Maybe it's because I'm used to it.

>So much for his claims of purity.
I wasn't aware of such claims.

>The questions now is why perpetuate the exigencies of another time? Were Koren were around today, do you not think he would have tried to use the current technology to its fullest extent?
Now that is a very interesting question. He probably would have wanted too, but the cost of doing so is rather exhorbitant!

gohebrew's picture

Rephael,

This is a radical approach that places the greater importance upon the nikkud, and secondary importance upon the taam, when they are combined.

When only a taam appears under the letter, I assume it is treated like nikkud. Is this correct?

When a meteg follows the nikkud, or just a taam, is then the meteg off center to the left?

This system has advantage in that the child understands the taam is in deed secondary and different from the nikkud.

This system though has a few major flaws, though, in that
a) it is not aesthetic,
b) it will never work by most narrow letters, and even some middle-width letters,
because this system produces left-dominant alignment.

In books and manuscripts that I have seen, this system used by Koren, and another more aesthetic and logical approach to alignment appear.

In the bits of the Aleppo Codex http://www.aleppocodex.org/newsite/index.html that we have, clearly this system used by Koren is seen. The difficulty here though is the obvious fact that the nikkud was drawn after the text. Hence, perhaps, the taam was drawn after the nikkud.

Furthermore, in the book, "Hebrew Manuscripts: A Treasured Legacy", by Binyamin Richler, published by the Ofeq Institute in 1990, there are two illuminated manuscripts that display the system not used by Koren.

Yet, the system used by Koren does have its roots also in traditional Jewish publishing.

gohebrew's picture

Rephael,

I have decided that my Crown will have the alignment system not used by Koren.

I have a few versions of FrankReuhl, so some will have his preferred system, and some will not.

In general, I prefer the alignment system which he scorned. Its inconsistency makes no sense, except to you. It enables you to reject anything different, even though I have shown you two ancient manuscripts which support this very system that he scorned. Plus, the Aleppo evidence can be interpreted either way.

Hence, unless you can bring supporting evidence, I respectfully think you're wrong. Let any intelligent human review the supporting documentation and rationale, and he or she will arrive at the same conclusion: Koren's method makes no sense.

raphaelfreeman's picture

>In general, I prefer the alignment system which he scorned.

I wasn't aware that he scorned anything.

You are very welcome to use any system that you see fit. You asked me what Koren's approach was, I told you. I happen to like his approach. You don't. That's okay. Do whatever you want.

Yes, the nikud is secondary and the taamim is tertiary. I never actually met Koren, but this is what his system seems to indicate. However, I did meet Tzvi Narkis and he told me that his (ie Narkis) system was also to make the nikud secondary and the taamim tertiary. Again, I don't know whether this was an aesthetic, historical, or halakhic decision, but rather that was his decision too.

There are very few Hebrew typographers in the world that have been recognised as being "great" in their field, and even fewer that designed fonts with taamey mikra. I think it's fair to say that Koren and Narkis were 2 of these people and it's interesting that they both came up with exactly the same system. I suspect it was therefore not random.

Do you have any other examples of great typographers that have come up with different systems?

BTW, you should know that revered Publishing House, Kol Menachem, also follows this exact same system. I'm not sure if you agree with them religiously, but I know that they are very fanatical about precision.

gohebrew's picture

Scorned simply means that he preferred to do it one way, and not to do it another.

You have claimed that the way he chose is authentic, and the other is not. My research shows that the method that you glorify may in deed have a basis in old manuscripts, but so does the other.

raphaelfreeman's picture

I never made such a claim. I claimed that it is consistent (well as consistent as can be with 3 people working by hand over a number of years).

gohebrew's picture

>>> There are very few Hebrew typographers in the world that have been recognised as being "great" in their field, and even fewer that designed fonts with taamey mikra. I think it's fair to say that Koren and Narkis were 2 of these people and it's interesting that they both came up with exactly the same system. I suspect it was therefore not random.

This is not a proof.

Obviously, they were aware of each other's work. Perhaps, they even influenced each other.

Another, even greater Hebrew type designer, who created nikkud and taam, was the late Isamar David. Did he follow in these footsteps?

Rabbi Chaim Miller of the Gutnick Chumash fame (Kol Menachem) is my very good friend, and a fellow Lubavitcher. Although a tremendous Torah scholar, his mastery of typesetting leaves much to be desired.

Finally, the story is told of very poor communities in Czarist Russia, which could not afford to hire both a Chassidic rabbi, and a Litvish rabbi. Instead, they hired only one, based on which segment was larger in the community.

In towns that hired a Litvish rabbi, the chassidic Jews asked their Rebbe what to do? He advised them: "Ask your question to the Litvish rabbi, and then do the very opposite."

raphaelfreeman's picture

I have Ismar's book. I wasn't aware that he made nikud or taamim.

Sorry you don't like the Kol Menachem typesetting. Funny how you think the Koren siddur is great and that is rubbish and they were both typeset by the same person :-)

gohebrew's picture

>> I have Ismar's book. I wasn't aware that he made nikud or taamim.

Yes, he drew a font for Tanach with nikkud and taam. He even set a page as an example.

Do you have the thin book called I think the Hebrew letter. It was sold in the early nineties, and had a pull-out section of cards. I believe that he wanted them created. I intend to do that.

>> Sorry you don't like the Kol Menachem typesetting. Funny how you think the Koren siddur is great and that is rubbish and they were both typeset by the same person :-)

I never said I liked the Koren siddur.

Rabbi Miller's genius is the content. I told Chaim to make it searchable, for in a few years most people will search PDFs. He hasn't listened.

His books are typeset by him. Did he typeset the Siddur? Or you typeset his English? His English stuff is now very attractive.

gohebrew's picture

I just reviewed ArtScroll's Stone Tanach.

They employ an alignment system that shifts the nikkud to the right to make place on its left the taam or meteg or both.

Perhaps, they are using the Tag software.

In any case, it is clear that Koren prefered a methodology for alignment that others do not.

raphaelfreeman's picture

I typeset the chumash part of the Kol Menachim Chumash.

The Artscroll Tanakh "system" was limited by the technology that they used. It wasn't Tag, the name escapes me, but I know that one of their software plugs died and they realised they would have to move to InDesign. They consulted with me at the time when I had my own typesetting firm.

The Kol Menachem system employs the same system as Koren (surprise, surprise) as does the Keter Tanakh. I have to check Mossad HaRav Kook and Chorev, but I'm fairly sure they also do the same system, but I don't remember.

gohebrew's picture

ArtScroll used the Bedford system. It has been replaced by using InDesign CS/x ME. It uses a non-Koren alignment system as you see in this sample from the first page of the book of Joshua.

Could ArtScroll afford a custom Hadasa that does it Koren-like?

gohebrew's picture

Is this your work? The alignment here is very poor.

Kol Menachem, Genesis 1:1

raphaelfreeman's picture

no, this is NOT my work, I have only typeset Shemot and Devarim. The example that you show is NOT my work. I also moved the patach gnuva.

"Could ArtScroll afford a custom Hadasa that does it Koren-like?"
I have no idea about their financials.

I think the positioning of Artscroll that you have shown isn't really the best positioning in the world. Look at the word VeChol or VeAta. The shva is too far to the left by all systems. The moment the basic nikud is poorly and inconsistently positioned, you can really use it as an example of taamey mikra.

gohebrew's picture

I thought so, Raphael. Your work is of a craftsman.

Chaim did this in Quark, with flipped text boxes, knock-off fonts, and Davka plug-in for taam. People complained, so he hired you.

I didn't think it was your work?

Why didn't you add shvah-na and kamatz-katan, too. Shai L'Morah did all the research already.

raphaelfreeman's picture

The decision to add shva na and kamatz katan is that of the publisher, not of the typesetter. However, clearly I can't just copy Shai L'Morah -- that would be theft of intellectual work.

gohebrew's picture

Raphael,

Please back up your statement that it is intellectual property to correctly place a shvah-na where it should appear in a verse?

Does Shai L'Mora play a royalty to Minchat Shai's descendants?

I think that this statement is incorrect, and not merely over zealous.

I have 8 kids, and many versions Bereshes and Shmos from their days in yeshiva katana, elementary school.

Most are typeset aesthetically (with the nikud and taam centered as one unit, and not with only the nikud centered, and the taam offset to the left), and without a patach kenuva. Tow fairly recent publications, Chorev from Feldheim, and HaMaor, both do feature a patach kenuva, but only Chorev/Feldheim follows the Koren-like alignment system.

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