[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.
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. :-)
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:
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.
It looks like forty years after Peter’s reform the seriffed Р (rtsy) still felt somewhat un-Russian…
The typeface was called Академический Исторический (Akademicheskii Istoricheskii).
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.
I wonder when that changed.
Maybe after WW2? That's when French and German national styles also started taking a back seat.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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).
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.
Here are some 19th-century examples:
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.
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.