Friday, September 25, 2009

Linotype Bengali 1978

Linotype Bengali, which came to be the 'definitive' Bengali typeface, especially in the digital era, was developed by Linotype-Paul in the late 1970s at the request of Ananda Bazar Patrika Limited. The work began in 1978 and Ananda Bazar Patrika was first published in Linotype Bengali in digital typesetter Linotron 202 in 1981. Fiona GE Ross, who was then head of Non-Latin typography at Linotype, and the type designer Tim Holloway developed the font, aided by the consultant Dr Tarapada Mukherjee of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Ananda Bazar Patrika and the publications of the group still come out in Linotype Bengali. Ananda Bazar Patrika in its online version, which still uses Bitstream portable font resources that has stopped being developed for about five years now, employs three font files to hold all the characters in the repertoire.

A paragraph scanned from a book on the Bengali grammar published by Ananda Publishers Pvt Ltd in 1996.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Metafont: the grid

I decided to design the characters at 10pt, as is the norm in Metafont, and on a 10x10 grid, each of 1pt. The baseline rests at two units from the bottom, which leaves a 2pt space in the box for glyphs (signs and characters) hanging below the line. The headline, or headstroke, rests at 0.2 of the 8pt height from the top, leaving a 1.6pt space in the box for glyphs that rest on or go up the headline, even jutting out. After all this, 0.8 of the 8pt height, or 6.4pt, is left for the base form of characters, which might be called x-height in the Latin typography parlance.

The 10x10 unit character box.

The grid layout is partly based on works of other people and partly arbitrary. The height below the baseline, which is depth, is further divided into 10 equal grids and so is the height proper for calculation for glyph drawing. The first Bengali vowel placed on the grid is a blown-up scan from text printed in the nineteenth century.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Traditional modulated Bengali

The commonest of the Bengali typefaces, and arguably the most readable one, is called 'Bengali,' which has not been truly digitised in the computer era, in relation to typographic norms. Five characters in the font has allographs, depending on initial, medial or final position. It offers traditional ligatures for some conjunct characters. Most books in the Bengali script are set in old timer's pica (now 12pt) with 120-130 per cent leading, in most cases.

Pica Bengali, probably down from Vincent Figgins' design of the late 19th century and later modified by typecasters in India.

Two of the allographs are still maintained, especially in traditional modulated typefaces such as Bengali. This typeface, the upper block in pica (12pt) and the lower in 10pt, is scanned from the type specimen book of a foundry in Dhaka.

Metafont: my beginning

I started learning TeX and Metafont in 2001. Here is one of my first attempts at Metafont design, back then. Off and on, I wrote some proof-of-concept codes and kept cutting my teeth in other Metafont issues. Then I decided to design a Bengali font, did some letters and glyphs and soon lost interest in the endeavour.

This is my first attempt at Metafont, the pen travels wide off the character box.

I finally decided to work with Bengali typeface in Metafont in April 2008 and buckled down to work early June, thinking, planning and brushing up my experiences, both in Metafont, and in Fontographer in which I designed an IPA font towards the beginning of the 1990s which I used in my MA papers in linguistics.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bengali fonts designed in Metafont

A few Bengali metafont codes are available online. Noted of them are the one by Abhijit Das (Barda), a computer science graduate from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, now in Germany, and by Palash Baran Pal, a scientist at the Theory Division at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kolkata. One of the two more, developed by Muhammad Masroor Ali, is available online and the other, by Manidip Sengupta, is not.

The four available Bengali typefaces designed in Metafont.

The left above specimen is from Palash Baran Pal's work, to its right is from Abhijit Das's; the left specimen is from Manidip Sengupta's and the right is from Muhammad Masroor Ali's. Palash Baran has some books set in his metafont.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Raison d'ĂȘtre

I open this blog, Bangla Haraph, or Bengali letters, to chronicle the birth of a Bengali typeface, a good repertoire of letters as a single font, or fount, designed using (Donald E.) Knuth's Metafont for use with his TeX. I have a plan to write a book-length typographic material using the font I am designing.

I have also decided to start collecting samples of Bengali typeface. Here it goes...