FROM PICTURES TO LETTERS Alphabets evolved from drawings

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FROM PICTURES TO LETTERS Alphabets evolved from drawings
FROM PICTURES TO LETTERS
MORNING
SKY
SUN
STARS
MOON
LUNAR MONTH
Alphabets evolved from drawings
into pictographs and ideagraphs
HIEROGLYPHICS
Papyrus Scroll
Fragment,
Hieroglyphic
script, Egypt,
circa 1500 BC
Hieroglyphics means ‘sacred
carvings.’ Until 1822, hieroglyphics
were thought to be pictographic.
THE ROSETTA STONE
Found in 1790 in Egypt,
the stone contains
three inscriptions of
a single text, a decree
of the priests of
Memphis in honor of
Ptolemy V. (196 BC).
The Rosetta Stone resides
in the British Museum
THE ROSETTA STONE
HIEROGLYPHICS
DEMOTICS
GREEK
The text appears in
hieroglyphs, Demotic
and Greek, allowing
Egyptologists in 1822
to decode
hieroglyphics.
THE ROSETTA STONE
French scholar Jean Francois Champollion
(1790-1832) realized the phonetic value of
hieroglyphs; they have more than symbolic
meaning and served as a ‘spoken language.’
ses tu baíu abta, hennu-nek baíu amenta
‘Follow thee, the souls of the east. Praise thee, the souls of the west.’
UNIVERSALITY IN LETTERS
To move from
pictures to letters
is to go from the
specific to the
universal. Letters can
express abstract ideas.
Cuneiform Tablet, Umma, Sumeria,
circa 2100 BC
Face
SPECIFIC
UNIVERSAL
THE FIRST ALPHABETS
■ Phoenicians developed first ‘Western’ al-
phabet in about 1100 B.C.
■ Used
language
commerce,
to express
ideas
Egyptian
3500 B.C.
Hebrew
1500 B.C.
Phoenician
1100 B.C.
Greek
600 B.C.
Roman
114 A.D.
SEEING TYPE AS LETTERS
Size, form and
shape of each letter became important as
letters became
pure symbols.
G, from alphabet by Fra Luca Pacioli,
with help from Leonardo da Vinci, for
a book called De Divina Proportione
(1509). An early application of the
Golden Section to type design
ROMAN TYPE
■ Romans used
alphabet
for ideas,
literature.
Trajan’s column, Rome 116 AD
■ Roman letters, derived from stone carv-
ings, are upright, with serifs and variation
of thick and thin strokes
ROMAN TYPE
■ Serifs: Chisel stroke
used to finish letter
■ Alphabet wasn’t
GgyQa&3
A
G
printable until 2,000
ABCDEFGHIJ
years after reaching
KLMNOPQR
‘modern’ form
STUVWXYZ&
1234567890$
The modern titling font Trajan was based on
the lettering on Trajan’s Column in Rome.
THE SCRIBES
During medieval times, language was
kept alive by religious scribes, who
copied sacred texts by hand.
Bible, Old
Testament,
Book of
Esther
(Hebrew). 8th
Century.
Their work influenced letter shapes.
INFLUENCE OF THE SCRIBES
Scribes
created
books by
hand in
‘black
letter,’ or
‘textura’
Detail from medieval manuscript, France, Early 13th Century
Latin text; early angular Gothic script
TEXTURA TODAY
We attach meaning to
type, to the shape of
the letters.Textura, because of its connection
with Nazi Germany,
carries sinister overtones today.
INFLUENCE OF THE SCRIBES
Uncial, a more open style, is the precursor
to lower-case letters.
Vellum leaf,
illuminated
Medieval
Manuscript
England, Early
13th Century
To keep quills sharp and strokes uniform
required skill and sensitivity
SEEING TYPE AS LETTERS
■ Gutenberg’s
contribution was
movable type
■ Gutenberg’s font had
more than 300
characters to imitate
textura style of the
scribes
MOVEABLE TYPE
■ Gutenberg’s
legacy: hot-metal
type setting
■ Because
characters were
carved in steel,
hot metal strongly influenced type
design for centuries to come
DRAWING
CARVING
MATRIX
PUNCH
PRINT
TYPE
MOVEABLE TYPE
■ Gutenberg’s
masterpiece
was the 42-line
bible
■ 1,286 pages
■ 48 survive out
of perhaps 180
■
■
THE EARLY TYPOGRAPHERS
Aldus Manutius
founded Aldine Press
in Venice
His artisans
advanced typeface
design beyond
imitating hand-drawn
characters
THE EARLY TYPOGRAPHERS
■ William Caxton
printed first book
in English; used the
textura style
■ By 1509, English
printers were using
Roman type,
influenced by French typsetters

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