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February 21, 2011 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Reviving a Masterpiece of 16th-Century Type Design. The Polyglot Bible published by Christopher Plantin form 1569-1572 was the one of the greatest typographical achievements of the 16th century, and features a Hebrew typeface specially designed for the work by Guillaume Le Bé. More than 300 years later, type designers Scott-Martin Kosofsky and Matthew Carter have recreated Le Bé's design for use in a new ebook of the poems of Yehuda Halevi.
posted by Horace Rumpole (11 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
...and you can still visit the 16th century press and publishing house Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp. Pretty much in the original state.
posted by joost de vries at 10:24 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


A reproduction of The Polyglot Bible would be infinitely more interesting and valuable than a reproduction of one of its typefaces.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:50 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a gem. Cantillation tropes - now those would be a lovely addition to Latin punctuation. Would make writing a lot more fun.
posted by Devonian at 12:52 PM on February 21, 2011


Jon_Evil A reproduction of The Polyglot Bible would be infinitely more interesting and valuable than a reproduction of one of its typefaces.

Well, yes, and all that would really be needed to do that is for someone who owns a copy to have it scanned, but the best (ie, most space-efficient and broadly useful) way to achieve that particular objective is to firstly re-create the relevant fonts in digital form, then to recreate the text and the layout in those fonts as an e-book. The alternative is to scan the book as an image, and the limitation of that is that scanned images in decent resolution are huge. TTF vector is an enormously more efficient format for storing fonts than bitmap.

There are plenty of secondary benefits, for example excerpts are very easy to cut and paste, you can scale up the text in the viewing area for small screens or poor eyesight easily, etc. With a vector version, you can do far more things - for example if you wanted, for an art project, to excerpt a passage from this book and display it somewhere in gold foil letters made with a vinyl cutter, that'd be easy. In bitmap format that would be all but impossible and you'd never get the same quality.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


aeschenkarnos: There are plenty of secondary benefits, for example excerpts are very easy to cut and paste, you can scale up the text in the viewing area for small screens or poor eyesight easily, etc.

Wouldn't that break the pagination and page layout, including the marginalia? Seems like zooming a high-resolution bitmap would be preferable to that extent. You could include a transcription underneath as PDF Plus journal articles do (albeit not very well) for searchability and cut-and-paste.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:29 PM on February 21, 2011


I don't know from Hebrew, but I prefer the original characters to this guy's "improvements" on a purely aesthetic level--not to mention in terms historical accuracy. Besides, it seems profoundly arrogant to hail something as a masterpiece, only to then turn around and fudge with it.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:46 PM on February 21, 2011


A reproduction of The Polyglot Bible would be infinitely more interesting and valuable

I looked very hard for one before posting this without any success, but my colleagues on the ExLibris Listserv were able to turn up a digitized copy of v.1 from the Universidad Complutense Madrid. (FYI, you have to get through a ton of pages of Praefatio before you get to the multilingual main text.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:34 PM on February 21, 2011


Also I just noticed that I said "more than 300 years later" when I meant to say 400, but I guess 442 is more than 300, so I'm not wrong, strictly speaking.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:40 PM on February 21, 2011


Cut and paste is a major aspect. Also, having it nicely printed and bound, with artwork, etc... Interestingly, I could not FIND the Aramaic texts in electronic format, but I tried to do something exactly like the polyglot with the "Tetrapla". http://loveandtruth.net/tetrapla.html
posted by Ted Walther at 5:43 PM on February 21, 2011


Thanks for the link to the digitized copy. I notice that the scan resolution, 100 pages in, once it actually gets to the text of the Bible, is very poor. For the Greek, unreadable.

Also, I think the polyglot author had the same problem as I; finding Aramaic editions of the Old Testament isn't easy. He didn't print the Aramaic, at least not for Genesis; he paraphrased it in Latin (and Latin letters).

I'm still working on the Tetrapla. I've been having some custom fonts made. I'm gonna kick the polyglots ass. Won't be cheap though. It will be one of those books designed to last more than 500 years, and have people writing births, deaths, marriages, etc on the blank pages inside the cover.
posted by Ted Walther at 5:54 PM on February 21, 2011


Finding Aramaic editions of the Jewish scriptures should be easy: a Targum is printed in almost every edition made for the Jewish markets. Anyway, how could he have transliterated it if he didn't have an original?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:19 PM on February 21, 2011


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