April 2005 Archives

Judaica at the Library of Congress

A friend forwarded the URL for an interesting online Judaica encyclopedia, the Jewish Virtual Library. The information is broken into small chunks at times, and like all encyclopedias there is often just enough to whet your appetite, but not enough to answer questions. Still, take a look at the Library of Congress holdings detailed at the Jewish Virtual Library and enjoy. There is enough there to get a sense of Hebrew books and printing and want to learn more.

Updated Passover Haggadah Toolkit


Back in the '80s, the weeks before Passover consisted of reading dozens of haggadahs, talking with friends, and gradually cutting and pasting a text that felt right as that year's haggadah. When I first started playing with Acrobat, there were still no standards for Hebrew, but I figured that I could go better than ASCII by encoding the Hebrew as it was then done, and putting it into a form where anyone could download, print, cut and paste.

But, of course, no one wants to do that any more. And no one should have to: we have lots of tools for editing Hebrew, and Unicode fonts. So, this year, a bit late, as usual, I have redone that minimal Haggadah Toolkit and input the Hebrew using Unicode so that it =should= be possible to cut and paste into whatever tool works for you. Of course, by now, everyone has finished the Haggadah and just needs to print them up for the seder Saturday night, but just in case, the new version is now available. And better, it will still be there next year, maybe with a bit more Hebrew, as I have time.

Passover Haggadah Toolkit, v 0.2

How to design Hebrew fonts

While I was checking out the Typophile forums yesterday, I found a short, but very useful threat about designing multilingual fonts using FontLab 4.6 (still the current version—runs on Mac or Windows) and, for some features critical to Hebrew OpenType layout, VOLT (Windows-only still?). Tale a look at Typophile forums of multilingual type design tools.

A new siddur; a new Haggadah


Art Scroll siddur detailFor years I have been under the illusion that many people using word processors and informal tools to create prayer materials "get it", but that official book publishers don't. In fact, it has been a common source of depression for me as I get into discussions with customers, many of whom know Hebrew Typography the way I know davenning (kindly put: complementary ignorance). Customers want their publications to look like the others on the shelf. I can't imagine why. It's a situation that isn't helped by the vogue for "ArtScroll" publications. (I put the name in quotes because ArtScroll:Fine Traditional Hebrew Typography :: Korn:My idea of good rock music, which is to say, it's the sort of loud thing that kids like, but tend to outgrow.)

Hertz spreadWe all know what a typical, modern Hebrew-English siddur looks like. I covered this in an early >entry on siddurim. But, how did we get there? After all, there is no shortage of historical examples (a few are uploaded in my Polyglots Gallery) of how to mix Left-to-Right and Right-to-Left multilingual texts. I happen to be fond of pointing people to the Porro Polyglot, but there are many, many good examples of books made so that the Hebrew and English work together.

Unicode-based Hebrew type transliterator


Judith Pinnolis, of the Jewish Music Web Center located a nifty website that she uses to help her type Hebrew: a transliteration tool that creates text that can then be pasted into a standard Hebrew word processor: www.amhaaretz.org/translit.

I found that I cannot paste the text created by this page directly into Dagesh Pro, nor can I paste directly into my HTML editing software (I was hoping to see the Unicode-composed text for HTML purposes), but I =can= paste directly into the ME version of InDesign, and also directly into AbiWord or Hebrew-enabled MS Word. This fact, and the overall design of the transliteration page, lead me to believe that Unicode is being generated. If so, then hebrew text editors will gradually catch up.

In the meantime, the ???? ???? that one sees in some editors (after pasting in the text generated by the transliterator) is an artifact of the fact that Hebrew used to be encoded differently, and is a reminder that the conversion to Unicode, like the move (for Hebrew purposes) to OpenType fonts is eliminating a lot of the twitchy geekiness that has accompanied using Hebrew on computers in the past. And, in the short term, this means that if you are using an editor that doesn't understand Unicode, this tool isn't yet helpful.

Anyway, there is more explanation on the Am Ha-aretz pages, and a great link to David McCreedy's Gallery of Unicode Fonts - Hebrew, so a double bonus of good stuff from Am Ha-aretz' Ami Hertz.

Discussion of new Hebrew Typeface

Mike Thompson writes in to let me know that there is discussion of a new, and rather interesting Hebrew typeface on which he is working at the Typophile board. Although I'm not seeing deep discussion, the comments so far are useful to anyone considering a similar project, and I like the core design. Take a look at www.typophile.com.

In the meantime you can read more about the font, itself, and download it from Mike's own website, mikethompsonpaintings.com/font.

Dr. Berlin retires

I seem to have been too busy setting Hebrew to keep up this blog in recent months. Among the transitions I need to note, I have had to remove the link to Dr. Berlin's amazing font archive. As Roger Reid let me know back in January, he has retired. According to a posting on LiveJournal, the font archive was closed on 1/31/05 after nine years of service. The good Dr. does have a personal website at www.drberlin.com, but he has not continued his font activities there.

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