So where do fonts come from? Out of the head, out of a printing press.. My fonts have come out of a felt tipped pen with a round tip hence the line I drew was of constant width. I simply wrote Hebrew pieces (from poems or from the Bible) OVER AND OVER AND OVER until the result seemed satisfying. Then I pinned them on the wall next to my desk. Here’s an example.
Set me as a seal… casual calligraphy
I had difficulty in finding this as I wrote it on flimsy paper (not parchment) with no intention that it would last for the ages. The flimsy paper is practical for as soon as a page is finished it can be slipped underneath the next page then one can trace the work again but this time avoid mistakes and generally refining the style.
Some things to note: The Het is very different from the Hey. In some fonts they are almost identical except that the Hey has a little gap on the top left. This surely does not reflect the emphatic difference in sound! The Het sound is rough as in the Scottish word ‘loch’. Its a big sound so I have made the letter bigger than the Hey which is soft like an ‘h’. Another thing to note: The Lamed goes UP and it’s the only Hebrew letter to do that.
At last! Everything to do with computers takes so long… of course I have to admit that if I was cutting steel with a diamond to make each letter for a movable metal font it would have been SO SO SO LONG. We are so lucky to have the software to do it all for us.
For the new version see hebrew-font-shuneet.com
All the work was done with Font Creator software from high-logic.com
Hooray it done!
Since Western languages have Italic leaning towards the right and they are languages written from left to right, clearly as Hebrew is a language written isn the opposite direction, then..
or maybe not so clear. In text books the use of ‘clearly’ serves as a warning that what follow might not be in the least bit clear.
I started out with a font called Mike Hebrew which was not upright but leant towards the left as if to encourage one’s eye to travel in that direction. The flow of the fonts corresponded to the direction of reading. The same feeling as body leans forward in walking or running. My first font was Hebrew only but soon I felt the need to add a corresponding set of Latin (for English, French etc). This was going to be ugly if it lent the same way as the Hebrew it would be leaning backwards for English readers. This would be ok if only used for a few English words embedded in the Hebrew text. Still Mike Hebrew looked good especially if used for Hebrew poetry.
How do Israeli’s use the italic? Mostly they press Control-I and out it comes on the computer display leaning to the right. Many word processors simply took the regular Hebrew and made it lean to the right. In Israel one can see Hebrew leaning to the right and its impact is visually jagged, startling and maybe aggressive. So different from the italic of western texts,
‘Italic’ came from Italy as an elegant form of hand written text. In fonts today it usually has a softer look. In a page of regular text it stands out but not by any means in a strident manner. I would have liked to achieve a similar effect with an italic version of my Hebrew font. My efforts proved quite unsuccessful. The italic feeling just did not work for the Hebrew font.
I give up!
The next version of the Hebrew Font Shuneet (v3) will have an ‘italic’ the way Israelis expect. When you press the [I] button and type, the text that appears on the screen will lean to the RIGHT.
This font will be practical in multilingual texts as it will lean the same way as the corresponding italic in the English text.
The current ‘italic’ font (that leans to the left) will be freed from this burden of practicality and may have a future as a more decorative font. Maybe I will give it a more decorative or fanciful name!
One of my old calligraphy sessions would hardly serve as good start for designing a font. The letters had a size and shape created out of the whim of the moment. Some of them might look like insects. A handwritten text has elastic characters and the writer can make them fit together nicely. Converted directly into a font (and there are applications to do that) the result would not achieve such harmony. It might look as if scattered with dead insects.
Note: The above text is not directly generated by my font but is a jpg image. That’s why it’s a little blurred. Anyhow when checking a page generated from my font I may half close my eyes so as not to be distracted by the meaning of the words. Another technique is to read the Hebrew from left to right!
Notice that in in this page in no single letter or word stands out. Typographers seek a pleasing texture of grey so as not to distract the reader. To achieve this I spend time looking at pages of text such as this and if I see a letter or word that stands up above the rest – I take a hammer to it. I’m fairly happy with this result. Although the two languages are so very different they balance in weight (where ‘weight’ means how dark).
There is always a temptation to tinker for instance is the aleph a bit too dark? On this page the “44” looks too dark.
About the cats. Tel Aviv is home for thousands of cats that happily live out-of-doors especially along the sea front. It’s a sign of prosperity that they look so well fed.
How high can a lamed be? The top of a Lamed reaches up further than any other letter Hebrew letter in the aleph-bet.
Here in my extravagant hand script I just love that high ascender, but in a font?
To display such a shape might halve the number of lines one could get on a page. One of the first things to decide when laying down a font is how high and also how low.
The Final Kaf (and also Final Nun and Final Quf) are the Hebrew letters which extend downwards the most. Here are words that use both Lamed and final Kaf.
The box at the top reads “Lech-Lecha!” as in the order from God to Avraham and it means “go” or “Get thee”. The hight of the box determines the number of lines you can get on a page.
The box underneath determines the size of the body of all letters that don’t have ascenders or descender such as
In this ‘square’ font it is obvious where to draw the top and bottom guidelines but in more unruly fonts such as Shuneet it isn’t so obvious where these guidelines should be drawn as the strokes are sloping.
The only guide to all this is readability and aesthetics.
This example has more extreme calligraphy. You won’t find anything like this in a book on Hebrew calligraphy. There was no date on this sample but my guess is that I did it over ten years ago. The style of a particular character is variable . It would be hard to make a font from it. Notice how the shape of the lamed changes as I progress. At the beginning it is a little like the Dead Sea Scrolls style with a flamboyant ascender. As I developed the Hebrew Font Shuneet I had to leave such idiosyncrasies behind in the cause of practicality which in this case was getting more lines onto a page and increasing the ‘e-height’ of the font.
I have been rummaging around to find ‘early’ examples of my calligraphy to help in finding out how the Hebrew Font Shuneet came to be. Here is an example although it doesn’t have a date. Its a passage from the Song of Songs to which I have added an English translation.
Set me as a seal… casual calligraphy
Years ago, I had this pinned up by my desk. You may note there is some influence fro the calligraphy of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The letter forms are not quite ready for a font as each writing of a character can vary at whim, for instance in the first line the lamed is written in in two ways.