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Arabic Typography: A Comprehensive…
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Arabic Typography: A Comprehensive Sourcebook

by Huda Smitshuijzen Abifares

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I review this book reservedly; the author was one of my teachers, and I am among those who believe she had no business writing about a topic she is not specialized in, especially seeing she made up by her lack of expertise by plagiarizing the life work of two other of our teachers. The book is the first tot ackle the subject of Arabic typography, but it's not as good as it could have been if written by proper authorities, and it also contains historical inaccuracies. While we wait for a better alternative, though, it is a much-needed reference for designers who have to deal with Arabic type. Just don't take the contents as gospel.

Beginning with the distinction between calligraphy and typography, the book then presents a (summarily) illustrated timeline of the evolution of writing and the different Arabic scripts. There follows the timeline of Arabic type since the earliest attempts, and of reform projects for it. Curiously there is no discussion of the charactristics of Arabic that make it so difficult to adapt to printing types, a serious failing.
The chapter for which I bought the book, Aspects of Arabic Type, turned out to be a disappointment. I was hoping for a detailed study of letterforms based on which it would be possible to create or modify Arabic fonts in line witht he rules of the script. Instead these rules are merely evoked. Like the rest of the book, the chapter is just a survey. The vocalization marks are described, but the letters themselves are skimmed over. There is a feeble attempt at describing the proportions of letterforms, but as that varies with the style, and is not where the essence of the characters lay, it just looks like an attempt to make the chapter look more substantital and useful than it really is. The chapter on non-alphabetic symbols is so irrelevant I believe she just wanted the book to be structured like Robert Bringhurst's excellent Essence of Typographic Style, which I reviewed previously (I am not imagining things either. She uses a quote form his book as an opening to hers – but she misspelled his name).

No less than 80 pages are then dedicated to type design in general, from production tools to type style classifications, reprinting what you can find in any book on type, a fact camouflaged by throwing in illustrations of Arabic type here and there. 80 pages wasted, that could have been used to give us some meat about Arabic type design in particular, which I thought is what the book is about. Only a few pages at the end of this chapter deign give us some clues as to how design considerations for an Arabic font differ from those for a Latin one.

Finally, in a way again remarkably reminiscent of Bringhurst's volume, a number of Arabic typefaces are presented and summarily described.

In conclusion, I don't know if I want to recommend this book – flipping through it to review it made me aware of failings I hadn't noticed when I first read it as a fresh graduate. So consider this more as a warning that the "comprehensive sourcebook" is not so comprehensive, nor so much of a sourcebook. ( )
  joumanamedlej | Sep 26, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0863563473, Paperback)

In the twenty-first century, the widespread integration of computer technologies has brought text-based information into many facets of everyday life. This has caused an ever-growing interest in typography across many fields of visual communication, where text and letterform play a central role in disseminating social trends and reflecting the spirit of the times.

Arabic Typography takes the reader through a comprehensive study of Arabic letterforms, starting with a concise historical overview of their development and styles, and proceeding to the latest design and technological advances. It attempts to establish the foundations for Arabic type-design by drawing lessons from past practices and aesthetic conventions, in order to retain the enduring traits that are of relevance for improvement and innovation in future type-design creations.

Going beyond the historical facts to discuss current design issues pertaining to the creation and production of letterforms, it presents Arabic typographic design as an essential communication tool that should marry functionality and legibility to aesthetic delight.

This book will serve as a valuable reference on Arabic typography, and as an educational guide for design students, professionals and anyone who uses Arabic type and enjoys the visual appearance of this language and its letterforms.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:13 -0400)

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