Early forms of Cyrillic Р/р

John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,144
edited July 24 in Technique and Theory
[This is diverted from the capital eszett thread. I thought it deserved its own topic.]

John Savard wrote:
note that it is Poluustav of which Hrant was thinking when he suggests a Russian Er should have a rounded corner
It is also notable, however, that the rounded — or, in any case, serifless — corner form that recalls the Greek origin of this letter persists as an option in both upper- and lowercase in early civil schrift types following the Petrine alphabet reform. These images are from Abram Shitsgal's 1947 work Графическая основа Русского гражданского шрифта (Graphical basis of Russian civil schrift).













The last two illustrations are from 1748 and 1749 respectively. By this time, one also sees the uppercase form with serif at the upper left, and by the 1770s the serif has become common in the lowercase too.

None of which should imply that I'm actually agreeing with Hrant here, only noting that he is not reaching so far back in his assertion.

Comments

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 636
    edited July 24
    Thank you for the thread, and the samples.

    To me a notable thing is that –even in his zeal to Westernize– Peter The Great crossed out the serifed ones and not the rounded ones. It's certainly possible to read too much into that; it's also possible to surmise that the serifed form simply felt too foreign.

    It's not surprising that both forms are rather older than anybody's living memory. Whether one is historically inclined or not this creates an opportunity to either diverge Cyrillic from Latin influence (and not merely make it cloyingly old-fashioned) or the contrary, depending on the intention of the design on hand. The serifed form should not be seen as the only one with contemporary relevance, especially when Russians are so intent on asserting themselves in contra the West. The rounded form also has relevance in designing a Latin "P"/"R" with a Russian flavor, although that's harder to pull off without looking... naff.  :-)

    More: https://typography.guru/forums/topic/480-designing-the-cyrillic-er/
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,144
    To me a notable thing is that –even in his zeal to Westernize– Peter The Great crossed out the serifed ones and not the rounded ones.

    Yes, although it is possible that he was reacting to the rather ungainly form of the serif and to the descending uppercase.



    In the spacing tests of the new civil type, a more conventional Latin seriffed form is used:




  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 72
    As I've noted, I think that due to its tragic history of a long period of Turkish rule, the Greek script still has a serious issue with the integration of its upper and lower case, at least in serif forms.

    With Cyrillic, I think the basic letter forms are sufficiently well related to those of the Latin script that there's nothing really inappropriate, nothing really contradictory to Slavic culture or the genius of the script, to simply take any Western typeface and adapt it to Cyrillic and use it routinely.

    That is not, however, to say that it isn't desirable to go back to the roots of the Cyrillic script for inspiration in designing new typefaces, particularly for use by Slavic speakers.

    Given that Times Roman came out in modified forms for German and French, why couldn't typefaces be modified to round the Er when used for the Cyrillic script? Obviously, it wasn't done  because the typefaces in use in Russia (and Serbia, and Bulgaria, and so on) for the most part didn't have a rounded Er. I have to conclude from this that a rounded Er looks old-fashioned, and is acceptable when a typeface is to suggest a connection with the roots of the past, but is distracting in normal use.

    Since excessive nationalism can be harmful, a shift in Russia's outlook and priorities that would lead to a change in tastes in this area might be a bad thing. But it doesn't have to be, of course. Countries can focus on what is positive in their culture and traditions, but a focus on them naturally tends to lean towards exclusivity as well.

    And the world's traumatic experience in the Second World War has given culture and traditions a bad image, and other recent political developments seem to leave ideas of modernity and progress as the only positive alternative remaining. That, of course, is an illusion, because preserving what is of value in a cultural heritage isn't inherently bigoted or aggressive. But when dark forces are about, more caution is needed to avoid a traditionalist movement being co-opted, or for the innocent to avoid being confused with such forces.

    Thus, with Putin invading the Ukraine and co-opting the Orthodox church to encourage Russia's people to support him on his road to disaster, I would be inclined to let those aspiring to show themselves to be his most loyal supporters try to reintroduce the rounded Er, and help to make Putin laughable thereby. Giving the rounded Er a fair consideration... is a thing for happier times.

    I regret to have to drag politics into this, but while legibility is objective, aesthetics is not; people prefer different typefaces often because of their associations, and thus the merits of the possible associations are relevant.
  • Maxim ZhukovMaxim Zhukov Posts: 47
    edited July 24

    To me a notable thing is that –even in his zeal to Westernize– Peter The Great crossed out the serifed ones and not the rounded ones. It's certainly possible to read too much into that; it's also possible to surmise that the serifed form simply felt too foreign.
    This is very likely. Here (⬇︎) is the Latin part of the same Малой Канонъ (⬆︎) from Abram Shitsgal’s book of 1947, shown in John’s post. It comes from the same type specimen book of 1748

    It looks like forty years after Peter’s reform the seriffed Р (rtsy) still felt somewhat un-Russian…



    No wonder that when in 1911 the Russian branch of H.Berthold issued a typeface to commemorate the bicentennial of Peter’s reform (that was a special version of Sorbonne), they used that rho-like (ρ) form of the er



    The typeface was called Академический Исторический (Akademicheskii Istoricheskii).
  • Maxim ZhukovMaxim Zhukov Posts: 47

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 636
    edited July 24
    > I regret to have to drag politics into this

    I would regret not doing so.

    The question of how political a font should be is not clear-cut, and most of all depends on how political the designer is. On the one hand holding back a design option from users is a form of censorship, curtailing cultural progress; on the other hand one should try to make fonts that exhibit one's own political leanings. Anything else is hypocritical.

    Nationalism is harmful in proportion to sociopolitical dominance; in a threatened culture it can be a force for good. To me Russia remains on the back foot since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the national disaster that was Yeltsin. The inferiority complex is very real, and I believe something like a rounded Ruble symbol (at the very least) can help, if in a small way. It's like how the recently created Turkish Lira symbol allows Islam to make its mark (versus a very Western alternative). See second paragraph here: http://www.typophile.com/comment/497635#comment-497635

    It's not good to bottle up the desire for respect. It must out.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 72
    Referring to Yeltsin as a "national disaster" for Russia... I cannot agree with this. With Yeltsin, Russia was on the path to regaining the right kind of respect, just as Germany has now obtained respect as a responsible member of the family of nations. As far as I'm concerned, if I had the power to satisfy the desires of some nationalities for the kind of respect you seem to be talking about, I would start with the Finns, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Georgians, and the Chechens. And remove from Russia any means of acting up if its desire for respect is not satisfied - as is the case for Japan.
  • > It looks like forty years after Peter’s reform the seriffed Р (rtsy) still felt somewhat un-Russian…

    I wonder when that changed.
    Maybe after WW2? That's when French and German national styles also started taking a back seat.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 636
    edited July 24
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38289333

    I would not wish upon Russia what has happened to Japan. A hollowed nation since their surrender, which was fabricated merely to allow their royals to live. But one fine day...
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 72
    I would not wish the Russian people to have suffered after the fall of the Soviet Union as the German people suffered after the fall of the Third Reich. But it is no more admissible for Russians to harbor illusions about the Soviet Union or romanticize it, or support any military adventures by their nation in defiance of the world's democracies, than it would be for Germans to behave similarly.

    Yeltsin pointed Russia in the direction that made Russia a force for world peace and world freedom; that is not a disaster. Had he similar successors, the deaths of so many innocent people in Georgia and the Ukraine would not have happened.

    And, as to Japan, the discrimination suffered by the people there of Korean descent is a problem. Not a lack of national pride by the Japanese, who, astonishingly, enjoy a higher per capita income than, say, the people of South Korea and the Philippines.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,144
    I wonder when that changed. Maybe after WW2?
    Very much earlier than that, I think. I don't recall seeing the rounded р in any 19th Century Russian text faces — which is not to say that they don't exist, only that the seriffed form seems to have become the primary model well before the 20th Century. Indeed, I wonder if the rounded form made it until the end of the 18th?

  • I think we can all agree that the serifed /р is at least as old as the rounded /р, so rounding it won't make your font look more authentic. I would compare it to squeezing the umlauts into the bounding box of /A /O /U in a font you want to make more German. Yes, it's something German typographers did, yes, it's something that will make that German influence obvious in your font, no, it will not make a German designer choose your font over another unless they are actually in need of a font that does exactly that.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 72
    I thought it was clear that the rounded /p was older; the Greek uncial from which Cyrillic was derived had a rounded rho, and thus Slavonic ustav and poluustav both had the rounded /r. Which means that there was a time when only the rounded /p existed in Cyrillic writing.

    Of course, the Latinized P form is as old as the modern Russian alphabet as introduced by Peter the Great, so it's pretty old too, so I don't deny that a typeface with that form would not seem less authentically Cyrillic to people today.
  • @John Savard you're right, if ustav and poluustav are taken into account (I was thinking only about the civil type), then the rounded /р (or the eye-of-the-needle /р) is older. I checked "Apostol", the first printed book, and even the serifed vyaz titles there have a rounded /р.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 636
    edited July 25
    > it's something that will make that German influence obvious in your font, no, it will not make a German designer choose your font over another unless they are actually in need of a font that does exactly that.

    That "unless" kills your argument.
    Looking more Russian is exactly what some people will want sometimes (and increasingly). The real reasons most contemporary designers prefer the Latin form are that they are afraid of challenging the status quo, and they want to be Western. But their users don't necessarily have those problems.

    > a typeface with that form would not seem less authentically Cyrillic to people today.

    Definition comes from contrast. In contrast to the existence of the Latin P/p, the rounded form must necessarily feel more Russian.
  • Stefan PeevStefan Peev Posts: 23
    edited July 25
    Today we, Slavic people, write "р" like this




    Centuries ago we wrote it like that.




    The both ways of writing "р" are part of our cultural tradition and identity. Although the two approaches are different the both are truly authentic. And there is no such thing as more authentic and less authentic. I think that we, the Slavs, are doomed to historically live in two worlds - the Western world and the Eastern Orthodox (Greek) world. So we are cursed to live between these two worlds as mediators.

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,144
    edited July 25
    The real reasons most contemporary designers prefer the Latin form are that they are afraid of challenging the status quo, and they want to be Western.
    It seems kind of insulting to not only ascribe motivations to groups of other people but also motivations of which you clearly disapprove. I have been in Moscow talking with designers, and didn't get any impression that 'they want to be Western' or, indeed, that their motivations were any more uniform than those of designers elsewhere.

    As Samuil has pointed out, and as shown in the illustrations I posted — most notably in the little-reproduced spacing tests of the civil types — in the context of the civil schrift* the seriffed and rounded р were both there in the beginning. The former became the more common form gradually, over the course of the 18th Century. To use the rounded form today — as when it was used in the lettering for the cover of Shitsgal's book (first image in original post) — is to evoke that particular historical moment of the first half of the 18th Century in which this form was common.

    _____

    * I use the term 'civil schrift' to talk about the larger graphical context of the Petrine alphabet reform, rather than the specific civil types that he commissioned; that is, schrift in something like the broad German sense of the visual form of text regardless of media, rather than the Russian sense of 'font'.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 636
    edited July 25
    > And there is no such thing as more authentic and less authentic.

    Tell that to Cyrillic type designers who never use the round form. Also tell it to those who think a rounded Ruble symbol is ludicrous.

    Authenticity does partly arise from contrast; here, with Latin. You can't be truly Russian by denying the relevance of the West.

    > It seems kind of insulting to not only ascribe motivations to groups of other people but also motivations of which you clearly disapprove.

    Anything else would be hypocritical. Consider it a well-meaning slap in the face. Which is never welcomed, but often turns out to be fruitful. The inferiority complex is real. Fix it by outing it.

    > To use the rounded form today .... is to evoke that particular historical moment

    No, more to evoke history (laymen don't fret the details), but also to evoke Russianness (which interests me much more). In contrast I feel using the serifed form evokes not only Modernism, but sociocultural subservience (which erodes diversity). It is essentially Latinization (if much more mellow than we usually point out).
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 72
    [quoting John Hudson]
    > It seems kind of insulting to not only ascribe motivations to groups of other people but also motivations of which you clearly disapprove.

    Anything else would be hypocritical.

    Consider it a well-meaning slap in the face. Which is never welcomed, but often turns out to be fruitful.
    Well, the phrase "they want to be Western" can be interpreted in two ways.

    If one takes it as meaning that they have a conscious intent to be Western as opposed to another alternative, John Hudson is quite correct that you are assuming something not in evidence.

    However, one can also take it as including the case where they simply take the Westernized, Latinized version of the Russian script as the default, without seriously considering that any other alternative even exists.

    And that, although not an intentional act, is still a legitimate subject of criticism.

    I will admit that while I recognize the value of turning to one's cultural roots from time to time (in a responsible manner), I am, to put it mildly, having some difficulty in taking seriously the notion that the people of Russia should be craving to escape the oppressive yoke of the Petrine script reform.

    For one thing, they speak Russian, not old church Slavonic, and so the alphabet reform, at least, fits their language. For another, Cyrillic being based on Greek, and the Latin script being descended from the Greek... and, prior to the Greek uncial from which Cyrillic immediately derived, the Greek rho certainly was written with a sharp corner on the upper left... the Cyrillic letterforms overlap enough with the Greek and Latin ones that it is simply natural, and not a cultural abnegation, for Cyrillic script users to consider themselves (an extended) part of the same script community as users of the Latin and Greek scripts. (Well, in the case of Greek, for capital letters only.)

    Although the distinction is usually thought of as one of kind and not degree, to a certain extent the distinction between the Cyrillic and Greek scripts on the one hand and the Latin script on the other is not entirely unlike the distinction between the German script with the eszett, the French script with ae and oe ligatures and the C cedilla, the Dutch script with IJ, and so many scripts with accented letters... and the English script.

    Some of the letters have different shapes, others have the same shape, and the ones with different shapes are clearly related. Of course the Cyrillic alphabet can make use of just about any typeface design used with the Latin script.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,144
    Hrant, as someone who almost always disagrees with you but sometimes values your input, I hope you won't be offended if I point out that there's a steady decline in the quality of your discourse over the course of this thread, with your last post consisting of little more than a series of slogans. You can do better than this, and I'm afraid you'll have to if you want to continue a conversation. I find absolutely no value in talking to you when you're being like this.
  • Maxim ZhukovMaxim Zhukov Posts: 47
    edited July 26
    I wonder when that changed. Maybe after WW2?
    Very much earlier than that, I think. I don't recall seeing the rounded р in any 19th Century Russian text faces — which is not to say that they don't exist, only that the seriffed form seems to have become the primary model well before the 20th Century. Indeed, I wonder if the rounded form made it until the end of the 18th?
    The rho-like rtsy slowly fell out of general use by the late 18th century (the serifless capital version was dropped first). However, typographers and punchcutters outside Russia kept referring to it, and using it long after it was gone from the type cases of domestic composing rooms. The ‘bald P’ can be found in the typographic manuals and font specimens of Fournier (1766), Fry (1799), Bodoni (1782, 1806, 1818) et al.

    Here are some 19th-century examples:


    Notice sur les types étrangers. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1847; p.41 (cut by Jacquemin in 1816).




    Proben aus der Schriftgießerei von Karl Tauchnitz. Leipzig, 1925; s. 12.




    Handbuch der Buchdruckerkunst. Carlsruhe und Baden: D.R. Marx, 1835; s.104 (nota bene: the book is dedicated to the “Vater der teutschen Typographie Herrn Carl Tauchnitz”).

    The latest use of the rho-like rtsy before 1910–1 I have managed to find was Charles-Philippe Reiff’s Grammaire russe: précédée d’une introduction sur la langue slavonne. Saint-Pétersbourg, et, à Paris: Théophile Barrois, 1851; p. 3.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 72
    I was doing a little research. Although it hasn't prevented some imaginative reconstructions, there is no real evidence of the use of Runic writing, or some other system, in Russia prior to Cyrillic and Glagolitic. So there is no equivalent of Baybayin for truly nationalistic Russians.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 636
    edited July 26
    @John Hudson
    I'm not offended because I don't believe your criticism was made in malice. In fact your candor with me might parallel mine with Cyrillic...

    I've done all the explaining I can, so I guess things that sound like slogans must follow? That or silence, which to me is what would actually constitute offense.

    In turn I wonder whether you might be "allergic" to the politicization of scripts. While for me it's the field's biggest attraction.
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