What style would you propose?

froo's picture

I am currently working on a trilingual typeface inspired by the circumstances of Polish Constitution of May 3.
I would like to make the arabic version which has some "revolutionary", "enlightment", "modern" flavour. I don't want to repeat any Bodoni or Didot forms - rather to find (as a base for further thinking) something originally grown in Osman empire, historically coincident (1790-1848).
Our native tradition is not the best starting point as it is a rural script.
Could you advice some search paths?

Thanks in advance.

John Hudson's picture

Take a look at this historical oddity:

This is a rare example of an attempt to write Arabic using the pointed, split nib steel pen that was the predominent writing implement of Europe from the mid-17th Century onwards (and which directly influenced the styles of type of the Romantic period in which you are interested). Arabic, like European scripts before this time, has mainly been written with a broad nib (traditionally a reed pen), and all the major styles of Arabic writing have been based on this tool.

Now, the example shown above -- from an engraved plate dated 1741 at the end of George Bickham's The Universal Penman, showing ‘the oriental languages’ -- has numerous problems and almost certainly was written by someone who did not know Arabic, but it is interesting nonetheless. It represents a genuine if faulty attempt to write something like the naskh style of Arabic using a new tool, and just because it hasn't really worked doesn't mean that it couldn't be made to work. Every time I look at this, I'm struck that there might just be a typeface in here somewhere. To pull this off, you would need to understand two things very well: the grammar of the naskh style, and the characteristics of the split nib.

This image also has an interesting if unclear history. Bickham's plate is dated 1741, which is when it was engraved and printed, but the actual writing on which it was based predates it by at least almost a century, appearing in Louis Barbedor's Les Ecritures financiere (Paris, 1647). Bickham's version is the better engraving, as to be expected from such a master, and he has rendered the forms more smoothly, but the content and even the size is identical. I've no idea whether Barbedor wrote the original himself, or if he too copied it from somewhere else. The 17th and 18th Centuries were periods of intense exchange of knowledge and ideas, not all of them properly credited.

froo's picture

I am surprised that my hazy question brought so accurate response. Thank you, John - this is exactly the kind of thing I needed!

Spacing and letterform mistakes aren't important here (some parts look like latin handwritting, don't they?). But it's the hand of crafted penman, his hard tool and its high contrast producing crisp details, what makes the example very useful for me. Thank you.

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