Critique on Hebrew design wanted

I’d like to hear advice from colleagues who are more familiar with the hebrew script than I am.
This is my first (ever) attempt on that script.


  • Hi @Andreas Stötzner, I should preface this by making it clear I'm not particularly familiar with the Hebrew script, so it's possible things I see a potential inconsistencies are either intended or else rendering issues.
    • The shaped right sides of the /Qof and /Lamed are different with the /Qof appearing to terminate above the baseline.
    • The top right junctions of the /He and Chet have different forms
    • The straight vertical strokes terminate at the base in a variety of styles in different glyphs (compare, for example, the /Final Chaf with the /Resh
  • Uwe WaldmannUwe Waldmann Posts: 8
    edited January 11
    Hi @Steve Gardner, I have to start with the same disclaimer as you (I'm neither an expert on the Hebrew script nor a native speaker). That being said, I have the impression that different top right junctions for /He and /Chet are not uncommon. For example, they are different in David and in Narkis Block, and Adi Stern actually recommends to make them different in his MA dissertation.
  • thank you both for your thoughts. – I have (again) looked at several other typefaces with regard to the treatment of those parts which are equal/similar. I think in Hebrew this is a delicate matter, since a lot of details, or a lot of glyphs bear close resemblances. For the sake of consistency one leans towards making matching parts equal, on the other hand, in order to improve legibility, the differentiation of such parts may be desirable.
    As for Lamed vs. Qof, the downward length of the right part is deliberate, perhaps the difference may be more subtle. – I have also applied a number of alterations to other letters; please look at the new specimen.

  • This is a nice start, Andreas. The general impression I get is that the font is somewhat wobbly, with some letters being slightly right-leaning (alef, bet, zayin, tet, kaf, kaf sofit, mem sofit, nun sofit) and others being more straight for even slightly left-leaning. The design has many echoes of Frank-Ruehl (1910), which is an unfortunate resemblance, in my opinion, as that type has some perversely narrowed glyphs (hei, chet). Frank-Ruehl departed from the tradition of earlier metal-cast Hebrew type that was established in the early 16th century and remained more or less stable for over three hundred years. It’s difficult to explain why it became so popular, but I suspect that the gap in Hebrew typefounding in the 1930s-1940s had extended its shelf life long after the expiration date. 

    Because the 16th-century typefounders made their merubah (square) text types to be combined with the elaborate diacritics of Bible and liturgy, almost all set on separate lines above and below, they divided the em square into quarters, so that the alphabetic glyphs occupied 2, 3, and 4 quarters and the diacritics either 1 or 2 quarters. The letter shin was an exception, as it often occupied 5 quarters, but so too did the extended letterforms used for justification (these often went to six or even seven quarters). 

    Since your design is typographic (as opposed to calligraphic) and traditional in style, I think it would be a good idea to revise the design with the classical proportions and see where you want it to go after that. The restriction will allow you to become more confident in the letterforms. It would also be a good idea to start making words. If you do, you’ll see that some of your details will make it very difficult to achieve good spacing. For example, the upper arms of alef (which looks a little lost) and tsadi extend to the right beyond their feet below and this will cause you nothing but trouble.

    Good luck—I look forward to seeing where you go with it!

  • @Scott-Martin Kosofsky, thank you very much for your valuable insights. This is the sort of guidance I hoped for … ;)
    I was aware that the Frank-Rühl still has some kind of normative status for printed Hebrew, despite its more or less outdated characteristics which root in the 19th century. Therefore I also looked closely at some earlier manuscript samples where the script is more vivid and fluent. But I should definitely take earlier print samples more into account, as you recommend.
    Do you have particular works of reference in mind? I should be grateful if you could give me some hints about prints you’d recommend looking at.

    Right here I have one specimen of older lead type, it is from the Imprimerie Nationale (Paris). – What about it?

  • This is one of my Prague fonts, which I mentioned above. It’s an interpretation of types that appeared in several publications of Abraham Cohen, in 1530. The leftward slant was typical of the Ashkenazic script since the Middle Ages. The style is “spikier” than Le Bé’s, which reflects the different tools with which these letters were written by hand. The Sephardic and Middle Eastern scribes used reed pens, whereas the Ashkenazic scribes preferred the quill or stylus. 

    For years, I had wanted to make a font based on the Prague types. When Covid-19 struck, it became urgent—a now-or-never kind of thing, despite extra busy with other work. So I did, in two weights. (The text here, from the Book of Proverbs, is in the lighter version.)

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 883
    Not being a native speaker of Hebrew, the fact that I didn't see anything wrong with the original specimen was not really useful information. But there's something I will say to your second specimen.
    I think it's a mistake to make the currency symbol an exact stylistic match to the alphabet. Instead, ₪, the "new shekel" sign, is typically in a squared-off sans-serif style no matter what the style of the typeface is.

  • … What is the purpose of your type? …

    The intention is to incorporate the basic repertoire of Hebrew in Andron. I do not plan (at least not now) to provide the full programm of vocalisation and cantillation marks; I think for the purpose of special biblical and liturgical editions there is a sufficient number of high-profile fonts available already. And I’m fully aware that a full in-depth realisation requires a lot of further study and technical expertise (which I lack, in this case).
    Even though my goal in this project is rather limited I think it would be a desirable addition to the multi-script Andron suite. So, the target may be described as a) basic Hebrew for scholarly editing in which some Hebrew is required alongside e.g. Latin, Greek, Coptic; b) to cater for modern (simple) Hebrew in multiscript text scenarios. Andron is mainly used by scholars in linguistics and related subjects.

    Thanks for the references to Le Bé and your excellent font samples … it’ll take some time to digest all this!
  • Ahh, I understand. Andron is a great and vast work, so adding a basic Hebrew would make sense. Given Andron’s roots, you might do well to look at the types used by the Soncino family in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, some of which were cut by Francesco Griffo. They tend to be lighter than most of Le Bé's text fonts, making them a better match for Latin texts. I’d also recommend taking a look at Baruch Gorkin’s Venecia fonts, which are based on them, though in a rather original and engaging way.

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 883
    Looking for a Hebrew font cut by Francesco Griffo, I found this page
    which shows a page from the proof of the Polyglot Bible which Aldus attempted.

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