Books on the subject of the Hebrew alphabet

adiron's picture


I'm looking for some literature on the subject. The development of the alphabet, different typographic (and calligraphic) styles and the likes.

Any "must have" books? Books you'd recommend in general?


hrant's picture

I have some articles, but the best person I can think of to ask is Oded Ezer. I don't know if he has a Typophile account, but let me alert him to this thread.


adiron's picture

Thanks hrant.

Also, forgot to mention - I can read Hebrew as well, so that's an option.

I found this one book online called על טיפוגרפיה ואותיות דפוס by one Gideon Stern. Is it any good?

William Berkson's picture

The article on the recent history of Hebrew type by Misha Beletsky in the book Language, Culture, Type is a must-read. Ada Yardeni's book The Book of Hebrew Script is a review of the whole scribal history of different hands. I'm sure there is a lot in Hebrew [Yardeni's book is originally in Hebrew], but my Hebrew is not good enough to have read that literature. There is a lot now on Pinterest also.

Oded Ezer's picture

Here you go:
The Work of Ismar David by Helen Brandshaft, RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press
Hebrew Letter: Calligraphic Variations by Ismar David, Jason Aronson Press
Berthold's 1924 Hebrew Type Catalogue
Typo Magazine, issue 25 – february 2007
Ezer, Oded. The Typographer‘s Guide to the Galaxy, Die Gestalten Verlag, 2009
Amram, David W. The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy. Holland Press:London, UK, 1963
Birnbaum, Soloman A. The Hebrew Scripts. Part 2 (plates). London, 1954–57. Part 1 (text), Leiden, 1971.
Friedländer, Henri. The Making of Hadassah Hebrew. Typophiles Keepsake. Jerusalem, 1975.
Naveh, Joseph. Early History of the Alphabet. Jerusalem, 1982 (Reprinted 1997: Magnes Press, Jerusalem).
אסופת כתבים עבריים מימי הביניים, מפעל הפליאוגרפיה העברית, האקדמיה הלאומית למדעים, 1988
ירדני, עדה, 1991, ספר הכתב העברי, כרטא ירושלים, תשנ"א

John Hudson's picture

Oded mentioned Solomon Birnbaum's classic work on Hebrew palaeography. If this is an area of interest, there is now a number of substantial works on the development of mediaeval Hebrew script. Searches on 'mediaeval hebrew manuscript' should come up with good resources.

Recently, I obtained a copy of Izzy Pludwinski's _Mastering Hebrew Calligraphy_, which seems to me a very good introduction, showing both norms and variations for the principal styles, and a good chapter on how to analyse historical styles.

gohebrew's picture

An essential book on Hebrew type and design is by Ismar David. Anyone who seeks great books on Hebrew type and design should get it. My copy belongs to Ari Davidoff (I lost my copy); Ari, you'll get back soon.

Another great collection is by his main "secretary", xxx xxx (I forget her name now), and type expert, Sol Malkoff. I will post it soon. The collection is like Ismar David's book: great Hebrew type samplers, some from wood type. Many of Hebrew wood designs have been lost. So, this collection is very important. Also, great articles by Malkoff.

gohebrew's picture

The book is called: "The Hebrew Letter".

See the section entitled: "A Master Designer: Ismar David"

Chris Dean's picture

Just noticed 20 spam posts in a row on this thread. For future reference, it would be of great assistance if when you see spam, to please contact me directly:

As hard as I try, I still can’t seem to be everywhere at once.

hrant's picture

And don't use "Hebrew". ;-)


brianskywalker's picture

Please note that, at least in America, some of these books are hard to get. I own many of them listed here, and I may have an addition to make. But, I left most of them at the office. Will see tomorrow.

brianskywalker's picture

My additions to the list:

L.F. Toby. The Art of Hebrew Lettering. (כתב אמנותי עברי.) , Rolf Schuster, Holon, Israel, 1973 (first ed. 1951).

Spitzer, Moshe. The Development of Hebrew Lettering. Offprint from Ariel, A Review of Arts and Letters in Israel. No. 37, 1974. (Printed for The Typophiles, New York.)

The Hebrew Book, Keter Publishing House Jerusalem Ltd. / Leon Amiel Publisher, 1975.

Marks, Kara. The Handbook of Hebrew Calligraphy. Jason Aronson Inc. 1990.

Berry, John D. (Ed.).Language Culture Type. ATypI / Graphis. 2002. See the article Ẓvi Nerkiss and Hebrew Type Design by Misha Beletsky.

I would recommend all of these highly. I have also read and would recommend most of what was posted by Oded Ezer.

You can also find other books about Hebrew calligraphy. This knowledge will come in handy in type design, giving you a deeper understanding of the letters. Also reading about type design for other languages (and practicing some of these) will help when you get back to Hebrew. Hope this helps!

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