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Invisible hands: tracing the origins and development of the Linotype Devanagari digital fonts

Ross, F. ORCID: (2021) Invisible hands: tracing the origins and development of the Linotype Devanagari digital fonts. Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 3 (2). pp. 111-153. ISSN 0079-5321

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In the twenty-first century there is now greater recognition, at least in the field of textual communication, that scripts other than Latin are used by the majority of the world’s population. One such script is Devanagari, a Brahmi-derived script employed by some 400 million users for writing Hindi, Marathi, Rajasthani, Nepali as well as Sanskrit and other languages. Its typographical rendition in print through the use of movable metal type dates back to 1771 in Rome with the publication of the Alphabetum Brammhanicum whose rather crude letter-shapes were drawn by unnamed Indian converts. The true authorship of typographical letterforms that have affected and continue to affect the quotidian reading experience in different scripts for innumerable people has proved time and again to be inaccurate or elusive – either unwittingly or deliberately – even into the digital era. Yet historical enquiry has provided a deeper understanding of type-design and type-making processes and the realisation that the final visible result often relies on the concomitant activities of many hands. Such activities include the frequently overlooked role of type-drawing offices during the twentieth century, which were often staffed principally by women, and which operated in concert with the rarely recorded decisions and actions of key participants that affected the design outcomes. An insight into the multifarious contributions of seemingly invisible hands in the design process and the consequent impact on typographical history is afforded by tracing the origins and development of the Linotype Devanagari digital fonts that were published in the early 1980s, and whose presence continues to be familiar to many millions of readers in the twenty-first century.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Typography & Graphic Communication
ID Code:101230
Uncontrolled Keywords:Linotype Devanagari type design fonts
Publisher:Printing Historical Society


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