Typography from around the world

I’ve always loved strange symbols and exotic writing systems. Although of course, exoticness is in the eye of the beholder… The exuberant and effervescent curves of Tamil look otherworldly to me, but to 66 million people (66 million! So help me, I saw it in the Wikipedia!) it’s just what they print in the newspaper. Same old same old.

For a script fancier like me, these are the best of times. It wasn’t so long ago I was thrilled to find a rare book like Akira Nakanishi’s Writing Systems of the World. I would linger over the pages of wandering ink, scratches and spots carrying civilization on their tiny backs, one particle at a time. Messages in bottles bound for people I could scarcely imagine.

The mystery is still there, but the rarity is gone. I used to work hard to find examples of unusual scripts, but those days are over. The web is ideal for this kind of thing. I can drink in the Wikipedia Tamil page in Tamil, or flip through the pages of Dinakaran (Number 1 Tamil daily, if you take their word for it). Lately I’ve been having fun with the Google Transliterator. You don’t have to understand a word of it to enjoy rolling around in the graphical otherness of 22 different languages.

Finally, I came across this excellent piece in Smashing Magazine. The Beauty Of Typography: Writing Systems And Calligraphy Of The World. The explanations and illustrations are top notch, and the level is perfect for a dilettante like me.

One thought on “Typography from around the world”

  1. Ned – thanks for sharing the Smashing Magazine website. You’re right – really well done, interesting and informative. I have always been intrigued by Davanagari – it looks more like art than writing. I had a student once from India who told me that when he first started learning how to write (Hindi) the teacher would have them do it in sand, with a stick. The idea was that if you could master it clearly that way, pen/pencil would be all the more easy and clear. I loved that anecdote.

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