Why Roman typography is the most developed typography between other writing system?

Gunarta's picture

Hi People!

Why Roman typography is the most developed typography between other writing system? The alphabetic writing system that we use today,
i started asking that for my self days ago and i got no answer. Thank you.

JanekZ's picture

PS Proper name of the town where Jonah ben Jacob Ashkenazi was born is: Załoźce (Podole voivodship)

John Hudson's picture

Thank you very much, David!

Tom, there's an entry on Jonah ben Jacob Ashkenazi in Brill's Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, which perhaps gives a detailed account of his collaboration with Müteferrika?

quadibloc's picture

@oldnick:
Ex nihilo, nihil fit.

ergo

the statement

"...somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good"

must have been true of the future Maria von Trapp.

Of course, vacuum fluctuations have somewhat weakened this as an argument for the existence of God...

david h's picture

re. collaboration with Müteferrika.

John,

Dissertation by Prof. Wayne H. Osborn --The Type of Calligraphy: Writing, Print, and Technologies of the Arabic Alphabet. University of CA, San Diego (2008) -- currently Georgetown University

"Ibrahim employed a number of local jewish printers....The chief typesetter was Yonah ben Yakov Ashkenazi and he remained employed by the press until Ibrahim's death in 1746....

"Working with Yonah, Ibrahim produced a typeface that more carefully reflected the contemporary naskh style of Ottoman scribes.... The full set of type employes over 500 glyphs."

quadibloc's picture

@Thomas Milo:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lJsfUQ-qqw

I was surprised to see the English word "role" spelled "rôle" in the title of the video.

I had seen the preservation of the accent from the original French word in English... in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, from the early part of the twentieth century.

Thomas Milo's picture

Jonah ben Jacob Ashkenazi was a printer and publisher who helped to make Istanbul a center of Hebrew printing in the Ottoman Empire. He was born in Zalosce, Poland (now Zaliztsi, Ukraine), to an Ashkenazi family, and later emigrated to Istanbul. In 1710, Ashkenazi engraved movable-type settings in Hebrew and decorations for title pages, and with these founded a printing press in the city. During his first two years in Istanbul, he worked in partnership with a Jew from Vienna, Naphtali ben Azriel. Ashkenazi later moved his press north of the city, to Ortaköy.

Source:
Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky. " Ashkenazi, Jonah ben Jacob." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. August 2012
http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-th...

froo's picture

a Jew from Vienna, Naphtali ben Azriel
From Vilna (Vilnius), the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, an important cultural centre of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a kind of a second Basel in 16th century, called sometimes, until the World War II - "Jerusalem of the North".

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Maybe "Roman" was best adapted to technology, i.e. lead, trashing all ligatures, abbreviations, embellishments, inventing new characters where necessary. Adapting quite well to "art" or style periods. Maybe "Roman" was just "most dynamic"?

Thomas Milo's picture

It's of course the other way around: the technology emerged in a Roman world and primarily adapted for Latin script.

quadibloc's picture

@Thomas Milo:
It's of course the other way around: the technology emerged in a Roman world and primarily adapted for Latin script.

It certainly is true that the technology was developed in areas that used the Latin script. However, except for Georgian, which avoids the need for lower case, you can't get much simpler than the version of the Latin script used in the English-speaking world.

Arabic, Devanagari, Korean, Chinese - they all require more flexibility or more glyphs. So I don't think it's possible to say that had typewriters or Monotype casters been invented first in those parts of the world, they would have served those languages well, at the same cost and complexity as the Latin alphabet was served - which would have to be true if the apparent claim, that the difficulties experienced with those scripts are solely the result of the technology being developed in a provincial manner, and not at all the result of intrinsic characteristics of the scripts themselves.

However, while that was true in the past, our present-day difficulties with those languages are, I have to admit, primarily due to provincialism. Painting characters on a screen or a laser printer is inherently very flexible, and so if such things as the OpenType spec are designed in a way that some of these languages are awkward to handle properly, if the simplest way to handle them involves redundant glyphs, and so on... then that is correctable, and would not have arisen if people knowledgeable about those scripts were involved from the beginning.

So I think that you seem to be making a point that is only valid if a very important qualification is added.

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Technology never emerges "by accident". What strikes me e.g. is that Unicode or indeed Thomas' typesetting system for Arabic, or Hrant's reading theory are created in the West, as offshoots of roman type development, and not as a critique from people with different writing systems. Maybe even a keyboard as an interface is linked to roman type development?

John Hudson's picture

Peter, while the three examples you give were created in the West, I think it is a mistake to characterise them all as 'offshoots of roman type development'. In the case of Tom Milo's Arabic system, this is a technology based on close analysis of Ottoman Arabic manuscripts made by people who have no background or interest in 'roman type development'. One of the reasons it is such an innovative system is that it does not rely on any paradigms from Latin script technologies, for the simple reason that Tom and his partners have never worked within those paradigms.

quadibloc's picture

@Peter VanLancker:
Technology never emerges "by accident".

I'm going to assume this is intended as a criticism of my latest response to Thomas Milo in this thread.

It certainly is true that Johann Gutenberg had the intention of typesetting texts in Latin and German, not texts in Arabic or Chinese. Hence, how dare I assume that had the latter been his intention instead, he might not have found some way to do that which would be equally easy to achieve?

Some guy named Pi Sheng seems to be pulling at my sleeve at this point...

Movable type was first invented in China, after all, but it didn't succeed quite as well there because of the large number of characters the language had.

Yes, technologies are invented by people, with the intention of obtaining specific results. But that it is simpler to deal with a limited number of glyphs that combine in a trivial fashion, rather than the other cases, when not using modern electronic technology is not a cultural construct; it is a fact of life.

In fairness, though, I should note that I remember reading, long ago in Datamation, about how someone, by applying a little ingenuity, managed to make a computer line printer (not dot-matrix, but formed character, like a daisywheel or a typewriter) print in the Korean script.

froo's picture

It seems to me that we do not appreciate importance of one factor, mentioned here by Peter. This factor is the lead. There would be no technology nor culture arising from the technology, without the material. And Europe is rich in reserves of it's minerals, comparing to other regions.

Peter Van Lancker's picture

I want to express my deepest respect for the work of Mr Milo or Mr Papazian. Sorry if it felt otherwise. I am not a specialist in the matter, I just meant to ask some questions. I was notified offline that Thomas is well aware of the problem that Unicode encodes characters and not graphemes.

On the technology aspect, of course there is the aspect of lead, and oil based paint or ink. There is also the need for motivation to find something new, etc. Of course the Chinese and the Koreans were centuries earlier and maybe Europeans just copied the technique. Until quite recently, many countries in Europe claimed the invention of the printing press before Gutenberg, and decades before printing, "handwritten" books were mass produced - so if it had not been for Gutenberg, it would surely have been somebody else. If we consider Mesopotamian clay tablets, printing was about as early as writing.

But I was more thinking about non technological elements: the rapid growth of internal and external markets, of a new and sometimes rebellious middle class, the necessity of propaganda, the need for a workforce that could read. And then later the economic need for adding design to products and the birth of art in the modern sense of the word.

I also fail to see the problem with a Western writing system surpressing non Western systems, on the condition that it is not combined with personal alienation or discrimination. But maybe that is an even more difficult discussion.

hrant's picture

In my case I think my desire/work to foundationally improve the Latin alphabet comes from having grown up in a scriptorially varied environment, and one which was about half Eastern.

hhp

dberlow's picture

I wonder how long it took from the first commercial Linotype machine for American English, to the first Linotype machine for, say... Germany.

Peter Van Lancker's picture

That is a very complex matter: the spread of Linotype technology was hindered by trade union activity in countries like Belgium, where they were only introduced in the fifties, just before the patent expired so they were accompanied by Intertype, Delitype (a local clone), and even a Russian model. Another interesting question would be how much "hand matrices" were used for ligatures, big kerning pairs, etc. Most Linotypists I know would answer: "very few".

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Maybe the strength of Roman typography comes from the fact that it was based on a writing system used for a foreign language - Latin - in the first place. Unlike most other writing systems if I understand well that are more or less language specific?

oldnick's picture

Peter—

Latin was foreign to where? Rome wasn't built in a day, and the Roman Empire didn't expand beyond the Italian peninsula overnight, either. OTOH, who the hell speaks Phoenician anymore?

quadibloc's picture

@Old Nick:
OK, I'm puzzled.

The Roman Empire expanded beyond Italy, and then disappeared, long before Gutenberg came around.

But then, it is true that Germans wouldn't have found the Latin alphabet to be "foreign" by then... just as the Israelis don't find their 22-letter alphabet foreign. Perhaps that was your point.

oldnick's picture

John—

Long before Gutenberg, "Romance" languages were born. German is not one such language but, because of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire, Germany eventually fell prey to the Latin-based language consortium—as did "Norman French" and its heirs and assigns, albeit at a later date…

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Latin was a foreign language in Europe at least after the Roman classical period: it was used as vehicular language for European (religious) intellectuals until modern times. The separation between Latin or "Popular Latin" and e.g. French or Italian is indeed a complex story, but in most parts of Europe, it was never anybody's mother tongue. This—I suppose—could have been a factor in the evolution of the Roman Cursive into e.g. Carolingian.
In the 16th century, Roman was in some areas typically used for Latin, while Fractura or Italic or Civilité were used for popular language.
Please correct me if I am wrong.

oldnick's picture

Peter—

Latin IS still used as a "vehicular language" for both Holy Mother the Church, the legal profession, the scientific community, wag schoolboys of many stripes, and other professions and avocations which do not immediately come to mind. Also, do not forget English court hands.

The more scholarly among us will eventually correct any broad-stroke generalizations I may have made.

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Sure, but the difference between now and then is that there were no or very few texts in any other language. First known text in "Dutch" e.g. is from about 1100. Hence my point that writing was done basically in a foreign language. Literacy of course was very low in those days – we have all seen Monty Python – and maybe this could have had an influence on how a writing system and later typography developed. Maybe the fact that Roman was less language specific made it more suitable as an export product for other languages – Indonesian not to be the least.

Peter Van Lancker's picture

I completely fail to see the link between Romance language and the development of Roman type, as the origins of broken or Gothic script are probably in the North of France. And even less between the "Holy Roman Empire" and a Latin-based language consortium, as shortly after Gutenberg "Germany" became largely Protestant?

oldnick's picture

Well, Peter—

You're right and I'm wrong. Happy now?

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Any idea when the w in roman or in fraktur appeared for the first time, indicating a w sound, and not a Latin uu?

oldnick's picture

Any idea when the w in roman or in fraktur appeared for the first time, indicating a w sound, and not a Latin uu?

As far as I know (which isn't very far), there was neither a k nor a w in the Roman alphabet and, therefore by extension, nor do they appear in "native" words in Italian. Germans do what Germans want to do, as my German grandparents (my Mom's mother AND father) will attest.

Why is an English double-u double-v in French? Why is there an ij ligature in Dutch, and not a y? Y, indeed?

quadibloc's picture

Your question is not well posed, since when w first appeared, it was used to replace uu which had been used to spell a w sound; not to represent some kind of long or doubled u sound.

This was in 7th century Germany or thereabouts, according to Wikipedia. Maybe England, maybe 8th century.

EDIT: Since w replaced uu, that's why it's called double-u, even though it's pointy at the bottom. What it looks like is two v's side by side, so, naturally, that's what the French would call it, not having the history with uu.

oldnick's picture

What it looks like is two v's side by side, so, naturally, that's what the French would call it

Yeah? Well, the French think that Jerry Lewis is a comic genius, so what the hell do they know?

Wait a minute: I used to think the same thing when I was thirteen. I had no idea I had such deep and venerable French roots…

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Yes, I can read the Wikipedia, thank you. But in Latin, u was pronounced as w when it had the function of a consonant … In England it is called double u, in Germany Doppel V.
Are there any concrete text samples you know of? The "Dutch" ij btw was more or less standardized only after the 16th century: I would consider it rater a ligature, that was also used in Latin texts.

oldnick's picture

Peter—

I don't really care about the subject at all. Your continuing to prattle on about specious nonsense has been and continues to be a waste of my time. Find someone else to torment with your poorly-thought-out mind-farts, if you please.

hrant's picture

Actually Nick, Peter happens to be among a rare breed of thinking designer, which everybody should value. If I were you I would apologize.

hhp

oldnick's picture

Well, Hrant,

You aren't me: not even close. And, quite frankly, anyone who fails to see an historical connection between Romance languages and Roman type doesn't strike me as very thoughty, either…

Té Rowan's picture

I'm beginning to think that the Englischer are the only Yurpians that call the 'w' a double-u. Also the only lot I know of that use the 'y' as a consonant.

quadibloc's picture

@Té Rowan:
I'm beginning to think that the Englischer are the only Yurpians that call the 'w' a double-u.

Nein.

Té Rowan's picture

Nah. That's German phonetics for the English names. IIRC, 'w' is called vi in German.

quadibloc's picture

Oh, dear; you are right about that page.

Nick Shinn's picture

Traditional cockney pronunciation is barse-ackwards: Werry for Very, and KVeen for Queen.

Check out the 1843 Punch article on page 3 of this PDF:
http://www.shinntype.com/Writing/Punch_Cuts.pdf

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