August 2004 Archives

New Hebrew Computer Resources: keyboards and type tips

heb/eng sample from my Tu B'Shvat 'toolkit'I have added two new webpages to support the workshops I will be giving at KlezKanada.

If you haven't added Hebrew resources to your computer and you are running Windows NT or later; MacOS, or Unix, then take a look at my Hebrew Keyboard Layouts page. So far, this is most useful to Windows users, but there are resources for most platforms. Let me know if they are helpful, if you find errors, improvements, etc.

In as succinct and short manner as I was able, I have outlined a few very basic type tips: things you absolutely need to pay attention to if you are doing songsheets, CD notes, or whatever. These rules are going to be new to a lot of people, and they will result in texts that look "funny". That's because usability is generally ignored, and most of the multilingual materials being distributed are dreck—that's a technical term that means "opposite of usable". Still, this stuff is very simple. It follows rules that have been used for thousands of years. We're going to have a short workshop, I think, and that's fine. I like to teach the way O'Reilly used to do books: only for as long as it takes to cover a simple subject.

a favorite art nouveau coverWhen I went out the NYBC ( back in May, I got a lot of help from Associate Director Catherine Madsen who dashed all over the building fetching likely image-able posters, boxes of type, and books. She connected me with the Collections Manager, Aaron Rubinstein, and we agreed that I would come back in August, after he had come back from the Columbia U/YIVO Yiddish institute, and do a round of imaging of "interesting book covers."

Some last minute research at the Brandeis University Library

Sometimes I have a tendency to keep gathering data long after I should be writing and finishing a paper. This is certainly true for the Hebrew type lecture I'll be giving next week at KlezKanada. Today I stopped by the Brandeis University Library, which will be my penultimate bit of research - tomorrow I'm back at the National Yiddish Book Center. Then, it's write and digitize. Oh, and get together the disks with AbiWord and prepare the handout for the workshop folks—the ones who want to use Hebrew on their home computers. In the meantime, rather than focus on a coherent story about Hebrew typography, here are some more bits and pieces, as I encountered them.

Update on the German Hebrew Type Database

I have been confused by the shambles of the German Hebrew Type database website, as referenced by the 2001 paper on the project. To my delight, however, I got Dr. Tamari's new e-mail address and he assures me that the overall site is being redone, and that the database is alive and well at This is an amazing page. A wonderful for typophiles. I return to my earlier stated belief that this is the most exciting Hebrew type project currently ongoing.

Hebrew Type Bibliography

Well, I need one to hand out at KlezKanada, so I've put together a basic Hebrew Type bibliography. Feel free to send in suggestions, annotations, etc.

A visit with Lili Wronker

wronker page from Sixty Alphabets, GSA BriemAbout 15 years ago I was relatively new to Hebrew type. A local friend, Briem, suggested that I contact someone he knew in New York who was a wonderful calligrapher, and had even contributed a page to his book, "60 Alphabets".

Little did I know.

Page on Schonfield "New Hebrew Script"

sample of Schonfieldian scriptIn my correspondence with Rabbi Bruce Pfeffer, he happened to mentioned that Hugh Schonfield's book on "New Hebrew Typography" (London, 1932) was impossible to find. What he didn't know, and I didn't know until I went looking for it, is that there is a webpage devoted to this curiosity, in which "... Schonfield ranted about his dissatisfaction with the Hebrew writing system. His complaints included a limited selection of typefaces, the lack of a captial-lowercase distinction, and finding Hebrew type ugly. His solution was to revise how Hebrew was written...." Enjoy.

Gill Hebrew sampleSchonfield wasn't alone. In Eastern Europe, during the Hebrew Revival (late 19th century, early 20th) of the Eastern Haskalah (Enlightenment), my memory, from a book read during Young Judaea summer camp in Texas some 35 years ago, is that there were several. And I'll up the ante with this sample of the Hebrew face that Eric Gill designed. According to Moshe Spitzer, in his article, "The Development of Hebrew Lettering" (Ariel, No. 37, 1974), the type was originally cut in stone by Gill. It is actually used for display purposes in Israel today. Clearly, Gill was trying to do for Hebrew what that poor pair of Dutch typographers hired by Peter the Great did for Old Slavonic: Make it look more like Latin.

Looking at Prayer Books


In further preparation for the project mentioned a few minutes ago, I took a look at several prayerbooks and offered them to the client so that we could consense on the look and feel that would meet his need. It then occurred to me that it is worth posting the same scans here, with some accompanying discussion.

Quark blows it, again


Or, in my caustic way, I guess I could just say, "Quark blows, again." This isn't even a Hebrew issue.

Working on a new Siddur (prayerbook) project, I decided to create some quick samples of the proposed cover using Quark 4.whatever on my Mac, where most of my fonts reside. I have created a special Hebrew layout for many Hebrew fonts so that, by typing backwards and kerning the vowels into place, I can use them with XPress. What I forgot was that the program doesn't know how to handle OpenType fonts, so when I went to create a PDF to send to the client, I got printing errors. I mention this only because at the recent MacWorld I made a point of stopping by the Quark book and asking if this has been incorporated into the current version. No such luck.

But, I did have a demo of InDesign 2 on the Mac (usually I now use InDesign CS on my Windows machine) which I reinstalled and used to import the Quark file, then to create the desired PDF. Piece of cake.

I wish Quark would do something to make me regret moving on to InDesign and investing in the MiddleEast (i.e., knows how to handle Hebrew) version of same. Actually, maybe I don't wish that, except that I have loved to hate Quark for so many years that it is hard simply moving on with my life and not hassling with the same old issues any more.

New Hebrew Type Blog sponsor

FontWorld logoBack about 15 years ago, the genesis of this weblog was the E-HUG electronic mail newsletter. Originally sent out from my account on the WELL, E-HUG was offered a home at Dartmouth and about 20 issues were sent out around 1990. One of my favorite vendors at the time was FontWorld, run by Mark Seldowitz, who marketed the fonts created by his brother, Israel, who had studied in Israel, the country, with the creator of Hadassah, Henry Friedländer.

FontWorld still sells fonts for just about every world alphabet (including both Hebrew and Arabic fonts). They are also the US source for the Middle Eastern versions of Adobe software (e.g., that version of InDesign that knows from Hebrew and vowels). It is with great pleasure that I announce that they have agreed to sponsor these pages. Their sponsorship gives me an excuse to renew an old friendship, and helps me draw attention to their good work.

Many thanks.

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