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Arabic types in Europe and the Middle East, 1514-1924: challenges in the adaptation of the Arabic script from written to printed form

Conidi, E. (2018) Arabic types in Europe and the Middle East, 1514-1924: challenges in the adaptation of the Arabic script from written to printed form. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00080437


This thesis investigates the transition of the Arabic script from written to printed form and the influence that this process had on the evolution of Arabic typeforms. This study aims to acknowledge and interrogate the factors that influenced the typographic shaping of the script in response to typemaking and typesetting technology, and the cultural environment in which these developments took place. The historical scope of the research covers the pre-industrial production of Arabic founts, focusing on letterpress printing and types for hand composition, beginning with the first Arabic movable types in Italy in 1514. The thesis covers developments to 1924, when the Biilaq printing house in Cairo produced the first typographically composed Qur'an to be approved by a Muslim authority. The Biilaq edition marked what could be arguably considered the highpoint of composing Arabic with foundry type and its typeface supplied the model for the development a hot-metal fount, formally bridging hand-set and mechanical technologies for the typesetting of the Qur'an. The research investigates the relationship between the manuscript models and the typographic representation of the Arabic script; and outlines significant developments in Arabic typographic history with selected case studies, chosen to high¬light various aspects of the design and manufacturing processes, as well as discuss approaches of different type-makers and printers. This study draws on primary sources that have not been examined as a set before, employing a methodology of visual documentation that supports detailed comparative analysis. This approach enables a focus on the critical assessment and qualitative appraisal of the Arabic types according to specific parameters. The research aims to shed light on the reasons for the discontinuity between manuscript and print forms, and reveal relationships between the visual forms of letters and the skills, knowledge and resources available to the people involved in the type-making process. It also aims to trace the establishment of typographic conventions for the Arabic script that either originated or departed from manuscript practice. In conclusion, this research extends and deepens the historical narrative of Arabic type history, and provides a valuable source for scholars, students and practitioners in the field.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Ross, F. and Leonidas, G.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Typography & Graphic Communication
ID Code:80437
Additional Information:All figures have been redacted


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