During a student’s first lesson with an Ottoman master calligrapher, he or she was traditionally handed an inscription and asked to copy it. Invariably, the text would be a prayer in Arabic: “Make it easy, Lord, make it not hard. Lord, help me bring it to an auspicious end.” In failing miserably, the student would come to appreciate the magnitude of the task he or she had just undertaken. The wealth of forms, the perfection of individual letters, the multifarious ligatures, all added to the difficulty of mastering this extraordinary art.
The challenges presented by Arabic typography have been no less arduous. Setting aside early xylographic printing, Arabic incunabula were European products that left much to be desired aesthetically. That the earliest efforts in the Muslim world were not much to look at either may be one of the reasons why early Ottoman printing failed to gain momentum. It was only in the nineteenth century that calligraphy-based Arabic types made it possible to produce printed books that could hope to rival manuscripts.
The papers presented at ISType 2022 span the discipline both geographically and chronologically. Scholars and practitioners from all over the world discuss diverse Arabic types cast in Europe as well as in the Muslim world, giving examples ranging from İbrahim Müteferrika’s pioneering efforts, through fruitless attempts to construct disconnected Arabic letters, to contemporary digital font design. These papers provide a much-needed corrective to the rather parochial viewpoint taken by certain past publications on the subject.
İrvin Cemil Schick
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, 2022
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Sans: Halyard by Darden Studio
Serif: Garamond Pro by Adobe
Arabic: Markazi Text by Google Fonts