I happened to look at a picture of an opened Hebrew book and noticed that the some of the letters were wider to fill out the space left to the end of the row. Similar to Arabic. Is this something that should be considered in modern designs? The book I looked at was pretty old and I have never seen a hyphen used in Hebrew texts.
Hebrew does not permit hyphenation, so the only method of justifying lines nicely is through the use of elongated letterforms. Early typefounders always included several varieties. While there are no set rules for which letters may be elongated, only certain letters were typically subjected to elongation in typographic form: alef, dalet, hei, lamed, final mem, resh, tav, and sometimes chet. Except for final mem, which may be used only at the end of a word, the others may be used in any position.
The use of elongated letters largely (though not altogether) disappeared as the 20th century progressed, and one can see many books, even important ones, in which gaping spaces appear in many lines. When I began setting Hebrew type and making Hebrew type, in the late 1980s, I decided to revive the elongated forms. I followed the example of Guillaume Le Bé (1525-1598), the most prolific (and, in my view, the greatest) Hebrew type designer of all time.
As principal consultant for Adobe Myriad Hebrew, I persuaded Robert Slimbach to include elongated forms. It is one of the few modern designs to do so.
Here is an example of the elongated forms in the Le Bé revival types I made with Matthew Carter. It shows the first 18 verses of the Book of Proverbs and a showing of the character set. They were completed in 2013. By the way, in a couple of his fonts, Le Bé also made special condensed characters, very useful for justifying narrow columns.
Are there any plans to release Trismégiste, or was this exclusive to Nextbook Press?
Like it or not, there's absolutely no use of elongated forms in modern Hebrew (the living language spoken in Israel today). You will never see them in Israel. No modern book will ever use them, no newspaper, no ad...
The only exception is religious texts and, very rarely, references to them (eg, a TV show about religious people could use a "biblical" font for its title, and maybe throw in some elongated forms, exactly so that you'd associate it with religious texts).
Moreover, you will most definitely see hyphenation in modern Hebrew. You will see it all the time. Here's an example from a few days old newspaper:
I'd say this: if your design is suitable for religious texts (in terms of the forms of the letters) and if you support cantillation, then you probably should include elongated forms as well. Otherwise, there's absolutely no reason to include them.
Outside of Israel, though, I suspect that the majority of printed hebrew materials will be either liturgical or pedagogical texts, so it makes sense for a text font to include these. (They're even included in the version of Arial Hebrew shipped with macOS, despite the fact that I doubt many people would choose Arial for setting biblical texts).
Exactly. And if anyone did choose Arial, that would be—I dare to say—a mistake. Arial would make a very poor choice for religious texts. Myriad Hebrew would make a poor choice too. I don't think the elongated forms of either of them are actually useful, inside or outside of Israel. The Le Bé revival Scott-Martin made with Matthew Carter, on the other hand, did a very good job to include them.
Btw, Scott-Martin, is this Le Bé revival available?
BTW there's no reason –except fear of rejection by the typographically conservative– to shun the elongated forms outside of religious texts.
Hyphenation is a poor man's solution, arising from Latin's vertical contrast making elongation ungainly. The horizontal contrast of Semitic scripts is much more harmonious with horizontally set lines.
Versatility is tricky business. I think it's very much possible to go too far, but it's also important to remember that the type designer cannot be despotic about what their font will be used for. So that "modern" doesn't mean as much as some might like, and for a text face I would say the long-s for one is a non-trivial inclusion.
If Vasil wants to lead a movement to unobsolete them by including them in his fonts, he's welcome to do so. He's welcome to do so even without such ambitious intentions, of course.
But if he just wants to serve the actual needs of modern Hebrew users—which is implied by the way he phrased his question, I think, or at least that's how it sounded to me—then leaving them outside would be a perfectly legitimate choice.
I should have begun by saying, “Traditional Hebrew does not permit hyphenation.” By “traditional” I mean not only biblical, liturgical, and rabbinic texts, but also the revival of literary Hebrew (Mendele Mocher Sforim through H. N. Bialik) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The use of hyphens crept into newspaper and magazines probably around 1920, but to this day there are few rules for its application. My Hebraic work is exclusively in religious literature, which is the principal—and largely exclusive—way Jews outside of Israel approach the language. They are about one half of the world’s Hebrew users.
There were many technical reasons to exclude elongated forms from early mechanical Hebrew typesetting, but there are no such restrictions today, in the OpenType era. One could think of them as alternate forms like swash letters, or some clever person could probably apply them through a VAR feature. Just because they’re not currently used in Israel, doesn’t mean that typographers wouldn’t want them, which is, I think, the perfectly valid point that Hrant made. Israeli type designers sometimes include some of the nikkud, the vocalization diacritics often referred to as “vowels.” They are not normally used in Israel, either, and as they invariably exclude at least one of the nikkud that Hebrew users outside of Israel consider essential (the meteg, which is the syllabic accent), I’ve often wondered why they bother.
Ori, to answer your question about the availability of the Le Bé types I made, the answer is no, not at this time. Most of the Hebrew types I make are for specific projects I design and compose, always very large projects. I make the fonts available only under restricted licenses. They are far more valuable that way.
What do you mean by "but to this day there are few rules for [hyphenation']s application"? If you mean it's restricted somehow, then that's not true, not for present day Israel at least. Hyphenation is common and widespread in Israel just as it is in the English speaking world. If you mean it's not well regulated, then maybe so, but we still do it all the time.
Also, while the limitations of technology probably did play role in elongated forms becoming obsolete, today they've become associated in Israel with religious texts, so Israeli typographers aren't likely to use them (outside the context of religious texts, that is). It would just look weird and out of place, like using long s outside some very specific contexts.
Isn't it fair to say that Jews outside of Israel only use "biblical" fonts? As I've already said, such fonts probably should offer elongated forms. But Vasil asked about "modern designs", which means to me non-religious use in Israel. As an Israeli Jew who pays great attention to Hebrew typography, I stand by what I said: such fonts do not need elongated forms.
Things change. Thankfully. And type designers offer the raw material for change in visual language. Let's keep making it more than it's been.
What you can't say is "Vasil, you should include elongated forms or your fonts will be incomplete or substandard as far as modern Hebrew is concerned."
Vasil, or anyone else who asks the same question due to lack of familiarity with the standard glyph set of modern Hebrew, is entitled to know that elongated forms are not part of the standard glyph set as far as modern Hebrew is concerned, even if personally you wish they were.
BTW I'm still curious what's wrong with Myriad Hebrew.
Hrant, I didn't say there was anything wrong with it, I said it would make a poor choice for biblical texts. Robert Slimbach and Scott-Martin must have felt the same way, given that they chose not to include cantillation marks. Or maybe they just didn't believe anyone would ever want to use it for biblical texts? Maybe, but that too says something, doesn't it? Anyway, I would also question setting the Bible in Myriad if it was English we were talking about (I guess you wouldn't?), but in Hebrew it's even more questionable, since Hebrew letters are very square and so "sans serif" (ie, low contrast, bumpless top strokes) Hebrew fonts are even more boring and tiresome than their Latin counterparts, when used for long texts. I'd advise against sans serif fonts for long texts in Hebrew altogether.
I think a problem here is what exactly is meant by “modern Hebrew font” — to me, this implies a modern design not necessarily based on an historical model rather than a font intended exclusively for modern Hebrew.
Obviously, it’s up to the designer to determine which characters they want to include. But there’s a big difference between claiming that because it’s a modern design certain characters will never be used and deciding that because one is designing primarily with modern Hebrew in mind that it may not be worth the time investment to include certain characters.
I personally don’t set much text in Hebrew, but I’m always happy to find contemporary latin designs which include a well-designed yogh (a character which I do frequently use, despite the fact that it is obsolete) though of course I don’t begrudge anyone who decides that this and other historical characters might not be worth their time — that is, after all, their decision.
Contradicting Ori Ben-Dor’s assertions that extended letters have no use in Modern Hebrew, a number of recent fonts made by prominent Israeli designers do, in fact, contain elongated letters. In addition to Dan Reynolds’s example, here are three others:The only extended letters included in these fonts are very wide ones, not the graded ones cut by Le Bé and others in the 16th and 17th centuries. These fonts were not designed for any religious use—at least not expressly so. Someone must be using them in a modern context . . .
Indeed, that is true. There are not, to the best of my knowledge, published rules about the use of hyphens in Israeli Hebrew. They are simply applied ad hoc. What strikes me as odd about the newspaper example Ori showed above is that the form of hyphen is not a hyphen at all, but rather a glyph called a maqaf (U-05BE), which, for over 1100 years, was used only as a connector of compound words, never as a divider of them. Note their top alignment. A mid-height hyphen (U-002D) would have to be drawn from a Latin set, which nearly all Hebrew fonts contain, though the minus sign is present in all Hebrew fonts and can be used as a hyphen.
André G. Isaak: The peh, qof, and bet sometimes appear in elongated form, though more frequently in calligraphy than in type. There are typographic examples of the extended peh and qof, though I cannot recall seeing an extended bet in type.
Torah Calligraphy has discrete ligature alef lamed, justification alternates for wide letters and stylistic set 02 for ultra wide letters.
To be fair, ad-hoc isn't necessarily bad. And even hyphenation can play a positive role in Hebrew.
An interesting parallel to Armenian! We have a hyphen (գծիկ) that's supposed to be used only for compound words... but (presumably due to limited keyboard space, if also the general human addiction to convenience) it has sadly subsumed the yentamna (ենթամնայ) which is meant to be used as a line-breaking dash. (Although when the former happens to hit the end of the line I think it should stay.)
FiraGO takes a maximalist approach in terms of the glyph set. It offers obsolete Latin letters as well:
If someone posted here a question: "I'm not very familiar with the Latin script, is turned delta something that should be considered in modern designs?", what would you say to them? Would you show them FiraGO, implying it maybe should? IMHO the only fair answer to such a question is "you can include it, of course, but you don't have to. Leaving it out won't make your font broken or substandard." It's exactly the same with Hebrew and elongated forms.
All three examples are of serif fonts suitable for long texts. The designers probably thought there's a chance they might be used for religious texts (and in the case of at least two of them, rightfully).
>> Someone must be using them in a modern context...
I live in Israel, I open my eyes, and I have never, not even once, seen any use of the elongated forms of any of those three fonts. That's just a fact.
>> What strikes me as odd about the newspaper example Ori showed above is that the form of hyphen is not a hyphen at all, but rather a glyph called a maqaf (U-05BE), which, for over 1100 years, was used only as a connector of compound words, never as a divider of them.
Hyphen too is a connector, what's the difference? Maqaf is just "the Hebrew hyphen"... Moreover, the role of the hyphen/maqaf in hyphenation is exactly to connect the two otherwise seemingly separate strings and indicate they're actually one word. It's a job for a connector, isn't it?