Ethiopic typography   1 comment

By virtue of my work at HMML, I work most closely with manuscripts, and it’s not infrequent that I find myself well reminded of how important it is to stay closely familiar with manuscripts over against printed editions for one reason or other, but I nevertheless have no trouble finding both interest and beauty in printed texts (and unfortunately also ghastliness!). And there are times when a printed text is the only witness to a text one has access to!

There have been studies and discussions of the history of Arabic type and Arabic typography, and for Syriac there is J.F. Coakley’s excellent Typography of Syriac: A historical catalogue of printing types, 1537-1958 (New Castle, Delaware and London: 2006). As far as I know, there is nothing very extensive on Coptic or Georgian from this viewpoint, but I will happily be corrected. (See here for some sources on Armenian typography.)

We are, I believe, richer in these cases from the standpoint of paleography than of typography. So, too, with Gǝ`ǝz: we have Siegbert Uhlig’s Äthiopische Paläographie (Stuttgart, 1988), and its much slimmer English cousin, Introduction to Ethiopian Palaeography (Stuttgart, 1990), but there is no Ethiopic counterpart to Coakley’s book mentioned just above. There are, by my unscientific estimate, less printed data to go on for Gǝ`ǝz than for Syriac, but there is still plenty to be of interest. Here I only give a kind of mini-gallery of some printed texts, some from screen captures of digital images and some from photos of books at HMML, but a proper presentation would also naturally include the history of the type used in this or that printing. These examples go from 1654 to 1900. We could also look at texts published after this time period, such as in PO, CSCO, and Aethiopica, but the typography of these publications is not appreciably different from the examples below from Dillmann’s Chrestomathia and Budge’s Miracles.

Nissel and Petraeus, S. Johannis Apostoli & Evangelistae Epistolae Catholicae Tres, Arabicae & Aethiopicae (Leiden, 1654), p. 11

Robert Bellarmine, Dottrina Christiana (Rome, 1786), p. 3














J.J. Marcel, Jonas propheta, idiomata gheez (Paris, 1802), p. 2

A. Dillmann, Cat. Cod. Manu. Orient. qui in Mus. Brit., pt. III (London, 1847), p. 1






A. Dillmann, Chrestomathia Aethiopica (Leipzig, 1866), p. 43







Budge, Miracles of the B.V.M. (London, 1900), p. 11


Posted December 16, 2011 by adamcmccollum in Gǝ`ǝz, Typography

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One response to “Ethiopic typography

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  1. Its also interesting to see when paleography and typography intersect in the cases where oriental founts are based on manuscript hands, not least because this is a useful indicator of the aesthetic appreciation of the fount designer and because it shows the continuities between the two activities.

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