Intermediate texts

Here is a second list of references for students beginning to work on Greek. It is not exhaustive by any measure, but mobves beyond the very basic texts in the Beginners’ texts. It is good to combine reading the historical texts to build the necessary grounding in the development of the [typographic] script, with looking at typefaces that are good examples of practice. (For MATD/TDi students: all items exist in the University Library, or the Department Reading Room, and in my office.)

Manuscripts and writing

Books with manuscripts and images of rare books might be good; there are some truly comprehensive editions of Greek manuscripts (like Greek literary hands by C H Roberts, in two volumes, and Repertorium der griechishen Kopisten, in three volumes. It is important to get a feeling for Greek writing, as it is (and was) done on entirely different models than western writing. In short, the the arm rotates freely, and the nibs (when not round) are cut with an opposite bias. If the titles above are not available, look up sources on Byzantine scribes. (But note: if you do general searches online, you must focus on secular or less formal documents, rather than the very ornate manuscripts of the Empire.)

As with all unfamiliar scripts, doing some writing exercises is essential to understand the entry and exit strokes, and the structure of the letterforms. I have included two sheets for practice in a zipped archive; use a pencil or other “direction-agnostic” tool when starting with writing exercises.

Typographic history

Victor Scholderer’s Greek printing types 1465–1927 catalogue is a good historical introduction. It stops in 1927, and has a specific bias. Scholderer outlines helpfully the three early strands of Greek typeface “design”: the upright joined style of Zacharias Kalliergis, the eventually dominant Aldine style, and the short-lived Complutensian. (I put “design” in quotes since “typemaking” would be more appropriate term. Our current interpretation of “design” implies a level of deliberation an reflection that did not apply at the time.) There is a somewhat rare original (500 copies only, grab one if you find it on sale) and a reprint from 2004 or so, with new essays by John Bowman and Martin Davies added. (Oak Knoll sells it in the US, and independent booksellers elsewhere.) The original has some exceptional reproductions in collotype, worth the price of purchase alone.

If you read this you can safely skip Robert Proctor’s The printing of Greek in the fifteenth century (1900), the other key text for early Greek printing, which is also more limited in coverage. (If interested, you can get a free PDF of Proctor’s book.)

H. D. L. Vervliet had published significant texts on the history of Greek typefaces. The Journal of the Printing Historical Society has two relevant articles: “Greek printing types of the French Renaissance: the ‘grecs du roy’ and their successors” (in new series no 2, 2000) and “The Greek typefaces of the early French Renaissance” (in New Series no 4, 2002).

John Bowman’s Greek printing types in Britain: from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century is based on his PhD (Reading, 1988). It is interesting in its totality, but has an invaluable second chapter where forms from different typefaces are compared. It is published by Typofilia, and should be available to order via independent booksellers.

Michael Macrakis’s Greek Letters: from tablets to pixels has some articles that are very useful, and a few that are not very helpful, or under-researched. Some are out of date. But John Bowman and John Lane’s are essential reading.